SIDEBAR: Media Technology on Election Day 2010: Showdown or Showtime?
Published on May-June 2010 issue of PJR Reports
Technological tools were on full show on election day, adding more to talk about than just the election itself. Sure, the display of high-tech gizmos captured audience attention. But did they really help provide more information to help the public understand what was happening?
ABS-CBN 2 marked a milestone in media history when it reported election updates in real time with the help of new media and featured their reporters from different places using “virtual presence,” a feature of “augmented reality” from ORAD Hi Tec Systems. The network’s 103-inch touch screen monitor showed graphics that accompanied news as well as updates from social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Multiply, and Youtube. They also had a “war room” filled with “Boto Mo, Ipatrol Mo” volunteers, staff from ABS-CBN.com, and a team from Systems and Technology Institute (STI) which did a parallel count.
GMA-7 flaunted several high-tech resources for its special election coverage for this year, “Eleksyon 2010. (Election 2010)” Special reports and poll updates were delivered via touch screen monitors, and two-dimensional and three-dimensional images, which were also used by CNN in its coverage of the 2008 US presidential elections. “If the network earned a lot from the political ads, it also spent a lot for the election coverage,” Jessica Soho, the network’s news director, told BusinessWorld (“GMA goes hi-tech for election coverage” May 6).
Rivalry goes hi-tech
The competition for a greater audience share through hi-tech presentations proved to be so heated that a news program of ABS-CBN 2, TV Patrol World, criticized GMA 7 for using the term “hologram.” The program interviewed experts who explained that GMA-7 only used a green screen or chroma setup, in which there is only one camera and the green background surrounding the person in focus is removed. In using the green screen, TV Patrol said that only a two-dimensional image would be produced. The program said that a three-dimensional image of the person should be seen in the set before it can be called a “hologram.” TV Patrol added that CNN had been flooded with online criticisms when it also used the term “hologram” when it was only augmented reality. ABS-CBN 2 then told viewers that GMA 7 had refused to comment on the matter.
On the other hand, in an article by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, GMA 7 was said to have reported that the technology it used created only a “hologram effect.” The local network giant admitted that it indeed used the technique called “chroma key”. Soho, said that “the term ‘hologram’ was used by their supplier to describe the special effect” and that they qualified it as a “hologram effect” when the supplier said it was “not strictly a hologram.” (“Battle of networks shifts to holograms”, May 15)
In the same article, Soho and ABS-CBN 2’s News and Current Affairs chief Maria Ressa agreed that while the technology “helps explain the context using visual aids like tables, graphs, maps” what was important was that the network “still practiced good journalism.”
Ressa said in an interview with TV Patrol World that “The main idea here is (to) make our viewers look at things in a new light. Seventy-five percent of what they remember is going to be the video that they see. And if it’s presented to them in a way that peaks their interest, they’ll remember it.”
Indeed, the touch screens helped do more quickly some reports presented in summary form or in quick readings of headlines. GMA 7’s veteran anchor Mel Tianco showed the areas where the presidential candidates voted through their network’s touch screen. Both networks put to good use the quickness of headline reporting.
However, it takes more effort to go beyond the headlines. And the networks were not as quick to add the substance when necessary. For example, there were reports on areas the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) or the Philippine National Police (PNP) had placed under their control, but there was no explanation on how an area comes under COMELEC or PNP control. Viewers’ complaints (such as faulty PCOS machines or allegations of vote-buying) were broadcast using touch screens, but there was no additional information corroborating such complaints or why they happened.
The missing background information in these reports left audiences to look for the additional information themselves. The experience showed that more technology at play really poses a greater challenge to the networks: to, among others, beef up the research capacity and the quickness with which reporters can get the information than can help supplement their reports.
Moreover, as the networks focused on the presentation of visuals, the reports that lacked substance made high-tech entertainment out of the news instead. GMA-7 news anchor Mike Enriquez even asked reporter Howie Severino how he was feeling when he was being aired via “hologram technology,” as the anchor called it. Severino then replied, “Hello from cyberspace, Mike.”
To be fair to them, the TV networks also used social networking sites Twitter and Facebook in posting news updates and fielding reports from correspondents. The networks also encouraged feedback viewers to post their insights and comments on these websites. Videos of reports were also uploaded by all four networks in their respective online sites as well as in the video-sharing site Youtube.
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