Like kids proudly brandishing their new toys, broadcast giants ABS CBN and GMA unleashed their brand new and spanking technological acquisitions as they competed in covering the elections last summer. I remember distinctly how one news anchor giddily and over-enthusiastically announced to their ka-whatever their hologram technology. Of course, they had different ways of telling the world about their new acquisitions, but they did say something in common: their news delivery service has just been greatly enhanced.
Clearly, that much is true, and easy enough to comprehend. As technology gets better and better, so does the manner in which the media fulfills its role as the fourth estate. Technology improves the gathering and dissemination of news and information that the people require to effectively participate in public affairs.
But any amount of technological advancement becomes utterly useless if the journalists who use these lack one very fundamental thing: common sense. In journalism school, our professors always reminded us that the power media wields is immense, and that the exercise of this power demands a good deal of wise judgment, a good deal of common sense.
Something I personally did not see that much during last Monday’s hostage-taking tragedy.
Technology allowed media to cover the tragedy blow-by-blow. From its tension-filled start, to its promising developments, and ultimately, to its downward spiral. Everywhere one looks—television, radio, internet—one is kept apprised of the developments. And the coverage was not simply a one-location, one-reporter, one-anchor setup. Reporters were reporting from everywhere; at least one reporter was even hanging out with a strategically located sniper. Field reporters were connected to the studios, allowing the anchors to immediately tap any reporter with any new development to report.
Though no hologram was used that day, the confluence of busy bodies and any available technology (and the very story itself) kept those who had been monitoring the news since the first hour or those who chanced upon the same during the day glued to their seats. For about 11 hours, we laid witness to the tragedy and learned, among others, about the ineptitude of our police force
It is indeed pretty amazing to note how we, the public, were fed information real-time. And it is also pretty amazing to note how the hostage-taker was similarly fed with information real-time.
Because the bus had both radio and TV.
You have to be really, really stupid to not exploit the advantages presented by a radio and TV set on board that bus. True enough, reports over the last few days showed that the hostage-taker indeed noticed this advantage, and that media appeared to have played a significant role in escalating the tension and marshalling it towards the tragic ending.
As with their conduct last May, the media (again) tripped over each other to get that shot, sound byte, or detail to “exclusively” report on air. Ironically, there was nothing exclusive about such reportage; everybody was reporting and everybody was watching.
Including the hostage-taker.
Media appeared to have forgotten that it can act as gatekeepers of information. As such gatekeeper in a volatile situation, the media people should have exercised good judgment in deciding what to and what not to air. Such acts are not contrary to free speech and press; it is consistent with responsible journalism. And common sense.
But I suppose what they say is true. Common sense may not really be that common after all.
-- William G. Ragamat