FOR those who are prolific and write regularly, I think so. But what matters is whether you’re being read, whether you’re writing for the “corporate press” (the definition of an American mainstream media court) or simply writing from your lonely bedroom, independent of any publisher or editor.
I think bloggers RJ Nieto and Sass Rogando Sasot are read by more Filipinos than me (at least judging by the number of subscribers they have) and regularly write what we define as journalistic products, articles that collect relevant data about things and events. interesting to people and present them in a readable form.
There is, however, a spectrum of what are claimed to be journalistic products ranging from simple shorthand reporting (which I think characterizes the Filipino media) to opinion pieces, to extended propaganda narratives (as are now many articles from the red-controlled Philippine Collegian).
The issue, however, became relevant with the proposal by the new head of the Presidential Office of Communications Operations, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, to accredit bloggers to cover Malacañang press briefings. Indeed, if the bloggers Nieto, Sasot, Darwin Canete or Cruz-Angeles (also a blogger previously) had been accredited to Malacañang as journalists under the administration of President Aquino III, we would have had more interesting and enlightening press conferences at this era.
The most vocal opposition to the Cruz-Angeles proposal comes from my former editor of the Manila Chronicle in the late 1980s, Vergel Santos, administrator of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, who received a total of 52 million pesos from the CIA- linked National Endowment for Democracy since 2009.
Santos wrote: “A blogger decides for himself. A journalist does not. A journalist, in addition to being subjected to rigorous training in discipline and skills, the work of a journalist is subjected to a control system to ensure that the information disseminated is truthful, well contextualized and not malicious. Bloggers do not understand these things.” I wonder who checks his articles, Melinda Quintos-de Jesus, the forever yellow head of CMFR, or the anonymous articles of the so biased “CMFR staff” on their website, and in the important Journalism Review – the representatives of the NED?
Santos, now believed to be over 80, lives in the past, when newspapers were newspapers, when Santos’ high-pitched voice was often heard in the newsroom, berating a reporter for writing what he thought was “untrue information.” Legendary among the reporters of my time was that editor—I forget his name—who had this sadistic penchant for ripping up a reporter’s copy in the face and throwing it in the trash.
But that was in ancient times. Even the editors of the highest paid newspapers in the United States do not bother to check the accuracy of journalists’ copies, a fact that journalists like Sheila Coronel and Maria Ressa have taken advantage of to write outright lies, disinformation and non-contextualized information. and malicious articles about their own country. Their editors don’t really bother to check the news and analysis they write, assuming that since they’re Filipinos, they know more about the Philippines than anyone else in the newspaper or magazine.
The sad truth is that since reporters were no longer required to report to their offices, write their stories on typewriters and have the copyist deliver them to the nearby news desk, and expect the OK-you-can-from an editor. -now there is virtually no “monitoring system to ensure that the information disseminated by print journalists is truthful, well-contextualized and non-malicious”.
Contrary to Santos’ old view, journalists now practically decide for themselves what to write or what angle to take.
Now journalists simply email (or even Viber) their stories. He would only hear from his editor when he wrote something so patently false. Reporters, sad to say, rely on their “packs” (their fellow reporters in their beat) to validate whether their information is accurate, checking whether or not it deviates from that written by their colleagues.
Sorry to say, but due to the very low pay scale in the industry (mainly due to skyrocketing paper costs), the quality of editors – with the exception of course of my editor who is from the old days – has also gone down, or they think that dealing with a journalist’s copy is not worth his salary.
Reporters are “subjected to rigorous training in discipline and skills”. Yes indeed. So many newspaper editors have recruited UP Mass Communications graduates, most of whom have been so brainwashed if not in Mao Zedong thought, then in this school of journalism, made popular by the Woodward team -Bernstein of Watergate fame, that a journalist’s job is to oppose governments.
Publishers provide checks? Well, if that yellow copy editor at the Manila Times last year was the editor, he would have spiked an article I (and even editor emeritus) wrote about an anti-Duterte conspiracy, which was based on intelligence documents.
In short, the journalistic quality of many bloggers (not all of course) is better than that of many in the mainstream media. In fact, when the owner of this newspaper, my old friend Dante Ang, asked for my help in 2013 to bolster the editorial page of the Manila Times (which innovatively thought would put it ahead of its competitors), the only people I could think of recruiting as columnists were bloggers, including Sasot (who quit for some reason though), Antonio Contreras, Malou Tiquia, Ben Kritz and several others.
The line between media writers in the “corporate press” (the American term for “mainstream media”) and bloggers – the successful and prolific ones – has become exceedingly blurred. Many bloggers, here and abroad, have many more readers than columnists. Pure reporters (meaning those who only report facts or, he says, stories) would even disappear soon, when a good news service emerges, aided by artificial intelligence.
There are of course differences between bloggers and print journalists. One of them is obvious. Writers like me depend on my columnist fees for their livelihood. Bloggers don’t, although increasingly, advertising in successful blogs generates more revenue than columnist fees.
Secondly, I have an editor, whose job, however, is limited to ensuring that my copy is free from typographical and grammatical errors, or an obvious lack of reason and truth. Gone are the days when editors, especially the editor, would ask a reporter to follow this or that story. Bloggers don’t have editors, but there’s no inherent barrier to hiring editors — at their expense.
For all time
The third and most important difference that bloggers should give us respect for is that what we write “forever”. This journal, along with our columns, will be preserved in the archives of libraries here and around the world. An error, a stupid column will exist until the end of time, so to speak. This makes us in the print media more careful and circumspect in writing our stories. I wouldn’t want one of my great-great-grandsons doing research in a library and reading some nonsensical article written by me.
This is not the case for bloggers. While they may rejoice in the fact that they can instantly delete a mistake, blogs can disappear overnight – when the blogger can no longer maintain their website and when Facebook or Twitter deletes or bury their blogs.
What really matters is that a blogger or corporate writer gets read, to justify their written (or paid for by the journal) efforts. It’s a kind of free market in the cultural field: sooner or later, if nobody reads a blogger or a columnist, he will realize that it is not worth his mental efforts.
There is, however, a practical matter for the PCOO to decide who to accredit to the Malacañang press conferences. In the case of the written and audiovisual press, the journalists assigned to cover the presidency obviously receive this accreditation. What criteria would the PCCO use to decide who would be accredited? Number of subscribers? A qualitative assessment that this blogger is reporting or discussing governance and not celebrity gossip? I suggest that an independent committee do this, to avoid accusations of political bias from the PCOO.
Technology has fundamentally changed the world, Vergel, even journalism.
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