Going the extra mile: Will media efforts pay off?

Written on April 30, 2010 – 5:20 am | by mediaandelections |

Published in the March-April 2010 issue of the PJR Reports

by Hector Bryant L. Macale

Although there is still room for improvement, the press has clearly shown a determined emphasis to cover this year’s elections. In the past few months, these efforts can be seen in the in-depth stories, special election programs and segments, commentaries, and online resources devoted to election coverage.

Issues, issues

Noteworthy was the publication and airing of in-depth stories about this year’s elections and candidates.

In a three-part series published from April 12 to 14, abs-cbnNEWS and Newsbreak detailed how the real estate business operations of presidential candidate, Manuel “Manny” Villar, were riddled with “fraud and manipulative layering schemes.” The series, which also looked into the controversial C-5 road extension project, mainly relied on a former Villar lawyer  and various documents. (“How Villar built business empire with deceit, corruption: ex-lawyer”,Villar firm faked titles through ‘layering’: ex-lawyer”,Villar firm’s high-end project sits on land for poor)

MindaNews published a series of interviews with some of the presidential candidates on the most  urgent concerns in Mindanao (“The Presidentiables” [sic]). As of this writing, five reports in the series are already available on the site: “Their Mindanao”, “On the Bangsamoro peace processes”, “The Bakwits, the NPA the Abu Sayyaf”, “On loose firearms and warlords”, and “Logging, Mining”.

VERA Files had a three-part series on the complex problems of the party-list system which, while of utmost importance, have rarely been discussed or explained by the rest of the media. It examined the party-list elections, particularly how the system is prone to abuse; the vague constitutional and legal provisions defining which groups or sectors should be considered as party-list groups; and the perks of a party-list representative (“Will the real party-list group please stand up?, March 29; “Marginalized who, March 30; “Like district congressmen, party-list reps enjoy perks”, March 31)

In its front-page “Think Issues” series, The Philippine Daily Inquirer highlighted some of the country’s biggest problems the candidates need to address. These include corruption, poverty, lack of agrarian development, and problems in the agrarian, urban land, ancestral land, and fisheries reform programs of the government.

PinoyWeekly published a five-part series that discussed what issues the presidential candidates need to address along with their initial stand on the said issues.

Online site Bulatlat outlined 12 “people’s criteria” to help  voters  choose the next President. These criteria include addressing corruption and defending human rights, protecting the national patrimony, commitment to agrarian reform and agricultural development, implementing nationalist economic policies, forging and independent foreign policy, and reviving the peace process. (12 “People’s Criteria” to Help Filipino Voters Choose Next President”, March 29)

The Philippine Online Chronicles also devoted a special series on the problems facing party-list elections and provided information on some of the party-list groups running in this year’s elections.

Among some of the broadsheets, there were also special reports and sections on the elections and the candidates in the inside pages. In its “Vote 2010” special section, the Star not only provided basic information about the presidential candidates but also their positions on various issues. The Inquirer devoted a special section last March 1 to the elections on possible problems such as voter disenfranchisement. The paper’s “Talk of the Town” last March 7 also provided readers with the candidates’ stands on population.

Commentaries

Some columnists provided analyses that should help raise the public’s critical awareness of the issues in  the elections. For example, columnists such as Solita Collas-Monsod (Inquirer), Lito Banayo (Malaya), and William Esposo (Star) relied on various documents and interviews that debunked the claims of presidential candidate Manuel “Manny” Villar in his advertisements that he was poor. But journalists say they received the same documents by email, suggesting that the material came from a biased anti-Villar source.

Debates and fora

Leading news organizations organized several debates and fora where presidential, vice-presidential, and senatorial candidates discussed policy issues as well as various controversies. Some, such as those organized by ANC, were organized months before the start of the official national campaign.

ABS-CBN 2’s “Harapan (Face-Off)” and GMA-7’s “Isang Tanong (One Question)” series, for example, gathered presidential and vice-presidential candidates to debate development/policy issues as well as controversies hounding the candidates. Aside from covering the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, GMA-7’s early morning news and public affairs program “Unang Hirit (First Salvo)” also gathered senatorial candidates in their “Unang Hiritan” segment last April 6 to discuss platforms and issues.

Some news organizations deserve applause for their efforts in raising public awareness about the elections and candidates. However, the airtime limit given to candidates to answer issues or provide a stand on a policy discussion during the debates and fora prevented them from substantively addressing the issues and elaborating on their positions or opinions. More often that not, the candidates during these events ended up making motherhood statements or media-sexy sound bites rather than presenting their positions coherently within the time allotted them.  In some instances, however, some candidates just did not know what they were talking about, and not all the time in the world could have helped them.

One-on-one interviews

Instead of doing  debate-type of shows, some programs such as ANC’s “Strictly Politics” and GMA-7’s “Kandidato (Candidate)” devoted entire episodes interviewing one candidate about his/her background, positions on issues, platforms, and reactions to various controversies. ABS-CBN 2’s Bandila also interviewed candidates in its “Hot Seat” segment. ABS-CBN 2’s “Umagang kay Ganda (Beautiful Morning)” also had a segment in which candidates were asked about various issues and their platforms.

The government-run NBN-4 has its “Hatol ng Bayan (Nation’s Judgment)”, a one-hour daily primetime public affairs program where candidates are asked to explain why the public should vote for them. One drawback however is that the interviewers in the program seldom ask the hard questions their counterparts ask in similar programs aired in other networks. To be fair, however, “Hatol” was one of the few programs that featured party-list candidates as guests.

Radio stations such as dzBB also provided substantial airtime interviewing presidential and vice-presidential candidates (“Ikaw na ba?” or “Are you the One?”).

Public affairs programs

Several public affairs programs, such as those aired over ABS-CBN, GMA, TV5, and more particularly ANC, discussed issues related to the elections and candidates.

Programs such as TV5’s “Timbangan (Weighing Scale)” and ANC’s “The Platform” gathered political and social analysts, thinktank experts, and former government officials in discussing the platforms or advocacies of the presidential candidates. The press, however, failed to offer similar programs for those running in the vice-presidential, senatorial, and party-list elections. Except in some cases, much of the coverage on non-presidential candidates are often reduced to mentioning them in passing, usually in connection with their respective standard bearers.

Microsites

Another notable difference in this year’s coverage of elections compared with previous years is the mainstream media outlets’ active and immense use of online and social media tools to enrich their reporting.

Various media organizations also created special or microsites for this year’s elections. In these sites are posted articles, in-depth stories, the backgrounds and advocacies of candidates, videos, podcasts, infographics, reader-generated stories, and other special items about the elections.  Among such sites  are  abs-cbnNEWS, Bulletin, GMANews.TV, Inquirer, NBN-4, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Star, Sun.Star Network Online, and VERA Files.

Some of these sites should be helpful in educating the voters. “The Journey of the Vote, for example, showed in animation the voting process from beginning to end, the problems that voters may encounter in the first nationwide automated elections in the country and the solutions to them, and explanations from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).  On the other hand, the abs-cbnNEWS election microsite featured animated and interactive graphics and infographics on the PCOS machine, the ballot, the voting process, and the counting/transmission of votes.

The proliferation of blogs, social media networking sites, and citizen journalism sites reporting and analyzing the elections should also be noted in this year’s elections—the country’s first nationwide automated polls ever. Among the valuable election-related online resources put up by citizen journalists, bloggers, and social media netizens are Blogwatch.ph, 100ARAW.com, Vote Report Philippines 2010, and Kontra Daya (Againt Cheating) 2010.

These efforts should hopefully pay off in terms of developing a discerning electorate, and insuring glitch-free elections come May 10.

CMFR Monitor of the News Media Coverage of 2013 Elections

Given the special nature of the 2013 campaign and elections, the media’s role as credible and critical sources of information and analysis during the election season bears watching. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) is monitoring the news media coverage of the 2013 campaign and elections in the context of both the special circumstances in which they were taking place, and the opportunity for improved and meaningful reporting and analysis the exercise offered to the Philippine media. 

CMFR has been monitoring media coverage of Philippine elections since 1992, and in every instance has made recommendations towards the improvement of media coverage. These efforts have not been unrewarded. Changes in media coverage incorporating some of the recommendations of the CMFR monitor in 2004 were evident, for example, in the media coverage of the 2007 elections.


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