Creating ‘news’

JEERS TO the Philippine Daily Inquirer for a banner story which erroneously declared Mary Jane Veloso, a migrant worker in death row in Indonesia, dead.

PDI_April 29 2015 PDI_April 30 2015
April 29, 2015 April 30, 2015

In a Twitter post, the Inquirer released a statement saying “In our April 29, 2015 issue, the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran an erroneous headline. We deeply regret the aggravation this may have caused Mary Jane Veloso’s family.

“Our mobile, radio, social, and web platforms were able to report Mary Jane’s last-minute reprieve. Nevertheless, we promise our readers to do a better job. We are revamping newsroom processes to better inform and serve our readers and stakeholders.

“We share in the nation’s joy: Mary Jane lives!”

The Inquirer’s April 29 banner story headline read “Death came before dawn.” The story contained almost the same details other newspapers released the same day: the last meeting of the convicts with their families, the Indonesian government’s preparations for the execution, and appeals to stop the execution. The Inquirer’s lead was “Only a miracle could have saved her.”

Veloso was sentenced to death for being caught with illegal drugs in Yogyakarta Airport in 2010. She and eight others were scheduled for execution around midnight of April 29.

The Indonesian government went through with the execution of the eight but granted Veloso temporary reprieve which the Philippine government confirmed in the early morning of April 29.

Inquirer.net, however, published a story “Veloso execution stopped” on April 29 with a time stamp of 1:43 a.m.

Although the Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR) recognizes the news cycle of newspapers, to publish an article about an event that has yet to happen violates the professional and ethical standards of journalism. Not only was the Inquirer’s story inaccurate, it was also sensational and insensitive.

Among the national broadsheets only the Inquirer reported Veloso’s “death.” But the other newspapers also played to the emotions of readers: The Philippine Star’s banner story headline was “‘Screaming for mercy,'” The Standard’s – “‘PNoy is to blame,'” The Manila Times‘ – “All hopes fade,” Malaya’s – “Veloso’s last wish: Simple dress and make-up for wake.”

The Standard and The Manila Times also incorrectly reported that Veloso was arrested in 2009.

“Veloso, now 30, was sentenced to death after she was arrested in 2009 with 2.6 kilos of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase.” (“Critics blame Aquino for Many Jane’s fate,” April 29, 2015, the Standard)

“She was arrested in 2009 with 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase.” (“Who’s who in death row” [sidebar], April 29, 2015, the Times)