I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Spoiled Brats

Over at Filipino Voices, butch insightfully discusses the kind of pressure journalists are under to provide ‘compelling content.’

‘Compelling’ of course, especially in the context of Philippine media in general, I pronounce as ‘sen-say-sho-na-listic.’ In less charitable moments, I might be given to pronouncing it as ‘pro-pa-gan-dis-tic.’

Leaving that aside, butch also pulls this quote:

“The rest of the world knows how to get attention,” Scherer says. “Targeting a journalist will get attention because journalists give attention to each other.”

And that’s what really got my attention. Shenanigans like the kidnapping Ces Drilon are quite obviously about getting attention. Like spoiled brats will sometimes break a vase for no reason other than to get noticed, various groups will often do something outrageous when they feel they’re being ignored by the limelight – or when someone else is hogging center stage. We all know this and understand this to be a fair conclusion.

Which makes me wonder why serious journalists even bother.

I get how most journalists have a kind of messianic complex when it comes to “the search for truth.” You can ennoble that complex by simply ignoring the fact that maintaining it requires a certain level of egotism to imagine that the whole ‘truth’ infrastructure will collapse without your contributions; in fact, we often do. It is practically blasphemy to say that some journalists are just glory hounds; they all have to be knights errant in pursuit of an obfuscated truth.

But even if we were to take for granted that ‘truth’ is the holy grail, one cannot help but wonder what sort of ‘truth’ do we need from fringe terrorists like those that nabbed Ces? Other armed groups at least still maintain the separatist line – and work along parallel and non-violent tracks for the accomplishment of that goal. But the terrorists? What redeeming social value does their reign of terror represent? More to the point, what could they have possibly told Ces that would have justified her risking her life like that?

Journalists should learn to distinguish between the pursuit of truth and plain reportage of facts. The truth is indispensable, and should be sought out with fervor and all that. But mere facts are less noble. Some facts we the public can even can do without, especially if they do not materially contribute to our understanding of things (I mean, what more do we need to know about the Abu Sayyaf anyway?) and most especially when they come at too high a cost – not just to ourselves but to our family, our industry, and even our nation. Take Ces’ abduction, f’rinstance. It doesn’t just endanger her. It makes her entire family suffer; it has put her industry in an unflattering light because of that news blackout, and – by emboldening and giving her abductor’s renewed bragging rights – it has empowered enemies of the state.

At the end of the day, that’s the worst consequence of this entire sorry episode. Once again, the abductors have proven that they can do these things with near impunity. Word will already have reached the ears of their international sympathizers and donations must be on the uptick. Hell, even if they didn’t get any more board and lodging fees, they will probably come out of this awash in cash once again.

What will have Ces Drilon’s sacrifice gained then? Everything for those blaggards, and nothing but heartache for the rest of us. Like pacifying a spoiled brat, it just isn’t worth it.


Filed under: journalism, ,

3 Responses

  1. Bencard says:

    my u.s. born and raised daughter often asks me (about filipino t.v newscasters): why are they shouting all the time? my classic answer is that they probably think their audience would not be as attentive if they don’t sound excited or hysterical.

    with very few exception, they all have the same style of news reading. try watching t.v.patrol, korina sanchez, and others too many to mention. ‘compelling”? there you go.

  2. rom says:

    bencard: that’s a very valid question. I once asked one of those shouty newsreaders once, why they delivered the news that way (hehe – you should have seen the dagger looks that person threw me), and that person answered: “that style projects dynamism.” I rolled my eyes for about twenty years, but it did get me thinking.

    Is there really an established aesthetic for how newsreaders deliver the news? Do we need an established aesthetic at all?

    Remember in some European countries, newsreaders actually strip while delivering the news.

  3. Jen says:

    amen rom…amen

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