Sunday, November 27, 2011

Manipulation: Black PR, Sensational Journalism, Propaganda in Social Media

Are these still familiar with you? Big Bad Blogger. Davao Judge Shoots the Sheriff. Yes to Life, No to Mining. Lopez Group on DBP Loans. What these articles or titles have in common? They are all discussed in the media and / or blogosphere where the presentation sometimes gets skewed to the point it confuses the reader.

Correcting mistakes online
I think media people and bloggers have a greater accountability, more than ever, on what they publish online as it gets subjected to public scrutiny where people can react.

My experience on the "Davao Judge Shoots the Sheriff" piece made me realize the following:
  1. Inquirer takes online reaction seriously and responds respectfully to their readers. The resolution, even though took a bit longer than expected, was still at its best, rather than no reaction at all.
  2. News can be corrected online. However, as the error is in the article title and sub-title, Inquirer deleted the original article and replaced with the new one.
  3. Inquirer also agreed with the request of having the url address of the old article point to the new one.
The news section of Inquirer gave far better response in comparison to handling of the irresponsible column piece - Big Bad Blogger.

Black PR: Do they manipulate media?

This I asked myself when I read the Lopez Group reaction to two Inquirer newspaper columnist who cited the issue of the Lopez Group on getting preferential treatment in relation to the DBP loans.

The situation of the Lopez Group came to mind especially after reading this blog post of Oscar Lopez where I like to quote this part:

"Paying our debts in the Lopez Group is something like religious dogma… no two ways about it. So it was so absurd that this accusation was leveled at us without any warning. Of course we are in truth just collateral damage. Whoever caused that story to be published by two unwitting columnists really wanted to change the direction of a Senate hearing on more recent loans granted by DBP. It was unfair of them to include us in their mudslinging, but I guess that is how it is in our country’s political scene today."

I think it is tough to be a conglomerate especially if you have diversified interest cutting across various sectors. 

When I first read of the reaction posted in Inquirer, I had a flashback about a conglomerate CEO in relation to the anti-phone metering scheme. Several noteworthy columnist from various newspapers said exactly the same thing at a same period of time (like a column feed was used), including one columnist / lawyer who became a Senator. As that personality was also moderating an online discussion group, I recall asking about it, the piece he has written and how come several others said the same thing (copy-paste). No reply was given.

I am no stranger to political column feeds. Recalled receiving one back in 1999 whose objective is to merit the support for a politician who aspires to become a Department of Science and Technology Secretary. I decided to use it in my online site but added a last paragraph on his controversial business issues. The discussion group reaction was chaotic. To the point the PR firm had to request for it to be taken down.

Crossing the Line

As the lines have blurred among bloggers, activist, pundits, and journalists, I think we are entering a phase where conflict of interest becomes inevitable and should not stop one from expressing their views no matter how contradicting sometimes it will get (based on their disposition).

In fact, that "conflict" can be harnessed to garner more attention. For people to ask questions and discuss the issues further. Who will put those conflicts aside and focus on the issue at hand? Who will question the "real" agenda behind it? 

Resulting to polarization that can lead to action - as concerned players will eventually had to choose a side and take a stand. I think the "Yes to Life. No to Mining in Palawan" campaign is an interesting test on this one.

Fair journalism

Sometimes, I can't help but worry on how public communication is evolving. Whether rules and ethics are becoming simple buzzwords. Then come election time (which is 2013), our social media culture will be transformed again as more of our country's issues will be brought closer to us as our online friends brings it to our attention. More anonymous identities revealing controversial information.

As bloggers, online activists, and pundits are expected to be opinionated, our online media space will be chaotic. 

However, I still hope that journalists, editors, and news organization in the country will remain strong in upholding their code. React fast enough correcting inaccurate news and take action when unfair play seems to be evident. Even by their columnists who own their opinions (not of the newspaper) as the space they get to publish their perspective is a "privileged" space - that merits a higher-level of responsibility and accountability.

Where a published news or column piece should result to reaction about the subject matter at hand - not on whether the journalist sensationalize it or black PR tainted the column and newspaper.