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Slant

GMA News TV bannered the headline: Arroyo says it’s hard to govern RP if media is free. And just like a good marionette, my initial reaction was outrage. OUTRAGE! I tell you. 

And then I read the article.

 

” I know for a fact from being around my father who incidentally was a protege of President Quirino… I learned from him how challenging it is to govern our nation, especially with a media that is the freest in the whole world, as it was during my father’s presidency,”she said.

“But a president governs for the benefit of all the Filipinos and should not be focused on public relations,”she added.

And I’m, “Ahh. SO that’s what she meant.” Isn’t slant a wonderful thing?

Look up the word ‘slant’ in the wikipedia and you’re taken to a disambiguation page. Apparently, the word is used in several different contexts:

  • Bias or other non-objectivity in journalism, politics, academia or other fields
  • Slant (route), an American football play pattern.
  • slant (handwriting), an attribute of Western handwriting
  • Slant (journal), a Catholic journal
  • / (or Slant), a book by science fiction writer Greg Bear
  • Slant Magazine, a film, TV, and music review website
  • Slant (fanzine), a fanzine by Walt Willis, winner of the 1954 Retrospective Hugo Award for Best Fanzine
  • A racial slur for people of Asian descent, in reference to the shape of their eyes.
  • The Slant, a student humor magazine at Vanderbilt University
Of course, it’s the first one that interests me, having been freshly victimized.
By phrasing its headline the way it did, GMANews successfully planted in my head the initial idea that the President was being an idiot once more. I mean, who in their right mind would say something like that? It’s belligerent, it’s arrogant, and it’s a clear-as-day expression of willingness to muzzle the freedom of speech. 
Fortunately, I had the opportunity – and the inclination – to read the whole article and still remain open to the possibility that things were not all as they seemed. There are many many others, however, who would not think twice about repeating that scurrilous headline as though it was a self-contained absolute truth; there are any others who would never have the chance to read the whole article and so come away with the impression that the President has added yet another offense to the charge sheet waiting for her on the 1st of July 2010; and there are countless who, already convinced that the President is Lucifer’s midget mistress, will go on and read the article but never even consider that the headline was misleading. 
For one thing, ‘challenging’ does not necessarily equate with ‘hard.’ GMANews should really be careful with its synonyms, because not all synonyms are appropriate. Context is crucial, as well as nuance, in deciding which of Roget’s synonyms to use.
Context, first of all, tells us that when the President was talking about how challenging it was, she was just reflecting the sentiment that living in a fish bowl makes governance less effective. It might also be said that, with her reference to ‘public relations,’ the President was bewailing her inability to push tough-but-necessary measures – an indirect dig at media-savvy populist politics (which is surpassingly ironic, considering her dole-out programs). Some might say that these are anachronistic sentiments, but hey, that’s her opinion. 
The word ‘challenging,’ in turn, carries a more positive sense – in that the difficulties being posed are not considered hindrances but provide motivation to do better – than the word ‘hard’ – which carries with the sense of intractableness. The one should not have been synonymized for the other, if accuracy were a consideration. Of course, if the attractiveness of the headline were the only criterion, well, then the synonym use worked like a charm.
And that’s the bitch, really. Now, even NEWS reporting dips into the realm of Advocacy Journalism. Call me old-school, but I really think that hard news should be as objective as possible, steering clear of these clever headlines that insinuate a non-objective viewpoint while pretending to still be fair. If I want my opinion shaped for me, if I want my reporting slanted, I’ll go look through the OpEd pages, thank you very much.
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Filed under: journalism, musings, , , ,

8 Responses

  1. Jen says:

    Hi Rom, speaking of slant, they did the same thing with the story of this woman killing her children and then committing suicide after. Media comes out and says she did that out of poverty. wtf?! For all we know, she could’ve just been loony….or a druggie

  2. rom says:

    Jen: yeah, I read that too. they did the same thing with that girl with the diary, right?

  3. niki says:

    Does the media even still know what objectivity is about these days? I could only cringe every time I see a reporter put his own little “spin” on a story on live TV. In a country where most people forget, have no time, or don’t bother to know the rest of the story that’s just, well, totally fail.

  4. rom says:

    niki: LOL, sistah. Fail on so many levels!!!

  5. cvjugo says:

    From my limited experience in dealing with the press, i’ve learned to be wary. The Company i was working for in the Philippines once hosted a lunch with reporters where we talked about our CRM offerings. Then the resulting article that came out is one that bannered something along the lines of ‘XXX Company says that the Philippines’ CRM Industry is immature’. I was thinking ‘wtf’, that was not even our central message. In fact, i remember that the mention of the immaturity of the local Call Center industry at that time (eight years ago) was just part of some background info.

  6. Jen says:

    Rom: Yeah. That girl from Davao with the diary. Turns out, she was a rape victim pala.

  7. Bencard says:

    rom, i’ve always thought that a free media could only work in an intelligent, discerning society with a curious, questioning mind that generally looks at things from both sides. your experience illustrates that. a gullible, ignorant and presumptuous people is an easy prey to the mind-manipulators of an irresponsible media.

  8. Bencard says:

    btw, chris matthews, keith oberman and the snickering rachel maddow, all of of msnbc, among others, have created a “backlash” against the leftist-liberal media for their consistently vituperative “reporting” on the mccain/palin ticket, especially against sarah palin. from the looks of it, the journalists cum spinmasters are succeeding in only one thing – galvanizing not only the republican base and the female voters but the entire nation to take a favorable second look on the team. obama is now trailing in the polls and the democrats are still in stupor, not quite knowing what hit them.

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