ABS-CBN’s Conflict of Interest in Journalism (again)

ethics –plural noun 1. ( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles-http://dictionary.reference.com/

It is very interesting to tackle ethical issues concerning a crucial entity in the society- the media. When we talk about journalism (although I’m not a BA Journalism student), it is always connected to democracy and freedom of expression/speech. But when we try to go deeper in analyzing the journalism in the Philippines, a lot of observations can be cited. These observations can be summarized in the book called “From Loren To Marimar (The Philippine Media in the 1990’s).” I finished reading this book and I found out why journalism in the country is very free. Well I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be free. What I’m saying is that the journalism that is found in the country is very different from what it should be based on what’s written in books and those taught in workshops/seminars. Totally free means, some of the essential traits that a journalist should have are sometimes neglected and instead doing the other way around. In the end, it goes to the journalist’s freedom as well.

I have attended several journalism workshops/seminars (because I was part of the university school paper) and a news is defined as something current that has an interesting story occurring in a specific place for a relevant audience. But unfortunately, TV networks have interpreted it in a one-sided manner. What these giant networks banner in their news are tabloid news- a 2-year old child stabbed by her mother, an 8-year old girl raped by her 80-year old grandpa etc. Although there are highlights on national events as well, there are still more important issues that could have been focused more. And it’s funny because even Kris Aquino’s parting ways with James Yap is always part of the news. The news shown are probably equalized with the definition of the word “news” mentioned. But is this the real essence of giving out the truth? Is it just giving out the truth no matter how boring it may be? Or considering other unimportant news but will bring higher ratings for the network?

Anyway, so much for that. The mentioned issues have been attacked by other journalists and sectors as well. But I’m still pointing out the implications of it and how it affects journalism ethics. But there is a new ethical dilemma that needs to be pointed out. The striking point now here is another ethical issue that ABS-CBN did. This is putting Noli De Castro and Korina Sanchez back as news anchors in TV Patrol together with Ted Failon (see news article about it here). At first you have to congratulate ABS-CBN for having successful turn-to-be-politician journalists. Probably, the network has helped these journalists in giving fame in order to win a political post. But after that, why is it that the network puts back politicians into a very sensitive position. According to Jonathan Donley, and I quote, “For a journalist, a conflict of interest occurs when he has a connection to the story subject or issue that might influence how he writes the story, or might cause people to distrust the writer or the news organization.” Choosing the people who will make and deliver the news is very crucial in developing credibility with the audience. Putting a politician in the post of a journalist will make the news different. And that’s true. Noli De Castro might be “Kabayan” whose goal is to help and seek out to people (that’s why he also ran for a political position) but what about his controversy in the 2004 Presidential elections? True or not that he’s involved directly, he is still involved in essence. What if there’s a news about the latest updates/investigations in the “Hello Garci” scandal and it showed that the votes for the vice president were also tampered with evidence. Can he deliver the news himself when TV Patrol is aired? How about Korina Sanchez? Will she be able to deliver a news stating that VP Binay says insulting words to Mar Roxas and calling the latter a sour grape? The news organization through the people in it can influence the outcome of a news in a way they want it. So it is possible that some news that are conflicting maybe removed. And if that happens, where is the truth now?

Ted Failon was even a former congressman sometime in 2001. Can he deliver an objective news about his opponent when he ran for congress? Maybe yes. But will it be treated with credibility? It’s questionable. The motive why people like them want to go back to becoming journalists maybe good and there’s no question about that. But they made choices already that dictate who they are right now and they need to face its consequences. What they are doing is a conflict of interest. Maki Pulido and Alex Tinsay (if I remember them correctly) were both reporters from GMA and decided to run for a position. In one interview, Alex Tinsay said that in his journalism career, he saw the problems of the country and he wanted to help solving it. So he ran but lose. It’s his choice and he took it. But there’s no conflict of interest on his part and on the part of GMA.

In the end, I’m not trying to discredit ABS-CBN and show favor to GMA. It’s not about that. Although both networks clash for ratings, they still deliver important news. The point here is that, you have to be ethical especially in this field. I remember when I was student journalist, I didn’t join any political party even as a member. That’s how I value journalism very much. If ABS-CBN values journalism as well, they should consider choosing non-partisan but not apathetic journalists. There are still a lot of good men and women out there. They should not just consider choosing some famous people to bring their ratings high. Lastly, I realized that there’s no such thing as an objective news. Some or even many would disagree about this. In my experience, you may try to be objective but you write on your perspective. You are objective in your perspective. So if that’s an assumption, then it can be concluded that it’s easy to make a news objectively in a perspective of a conflicting person to protect his/her interest.

Excerpts from the Journalist’s Code of Ethics:

V. I shall not let personal motives or interests influence me in the performance of my duties, nor shall I accept or offer any present, gift or other consideration of a nature that may cast doubt on my professional integrity.
X. I shall accept only such tasks as are compatible with the integrity and dignity of my profession, invoking the “conscience clause” when duties imposed on me conflict with the voice of my conscience.
XI. I shall conduct myself in public or while performing my duties as journalist in such manner as to maintain the dignity of my profession. When in doubt, decency should be my watchword.




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