Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today: A double whammy in irresponsible journalism

What a day! Filipino netizens were (and still are) up in arms today over two journalistic booboos: one by a leading broadsheet and another by an anchor of a leading TV station.

First off was the unabashedly tasteless and insensitive montage of Demetrio Vicente, the 70 year-old witness from the defense panel of the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The caption read: "Character witness: The many faces of Demetrio Vicente on the witness stand. He's no ordinary witness after all. He's the cousin of the Chief Justice whose wife sold him seven parcels of land in 1990, where he now grows bonsai."

pdi-front-page_1 copy

Vicente testified yesterday, March 13, on the purchase of seven parcels of land from the Chief Justice's wife, which the prosecution alleges was not declared in Corona's Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), the subject of Article II of the impeachment case.

I saw him in the news and was impressed by his candidness even when the prosecution was desperately cross-examining him. During the course of the proceedings, he apologized for occasionally mumbling as he suffered from a stroke, which would likely explain the curious expressions he had that the Inquirer exploited to the hilt -- on its front page no less.

I found it repulsive and insensitive of the newspaper that so boldly declares "Balanced news. Fearless views." to publish the montage. It obviously isn't just a photo; it was a sequence of photos! I never thought such a highly-regarded newspaper would stoop so low to sensationalize its news just to attract readership. It was utterly disgusting! I really felt sorry for Vicente.

This wasn't the first time, however, that the Inquirer did such a thing. Back during the previous administration, the paper had a propensity of publishing unflattering photos of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. No one really complained, though, as she was a highly unpopular leader anyway. But a 70 year-old civilian? They've gone worse than the tabloids.

After a barrage of Twitter and Facebook tirades, the paper simply issued a brief and rather lame statement on its official Twitter page, @inquirerdotnet, saying that their intention wasn't to make fun and that those were the only photos available.

Seriously? Were your photographers only able to produce four images? And you had the audacity of doing a montage at that? The move was arguably tainted with malice and downright unethical. It was a glaring swipe at Corona and a testament to their thinly-veiled bias for the Aquino administration.

The Inquirer later issued another apology, which still feels halfhearted. What I would want to really see is a formal apology on their front page and not a mere filler buried within their pages. Common, mean it.

"Racist" remarks
Enough with print; let's go to television, where veteran GMA-7 news anchor Arnold Clavio made some really irresponsible remarks this morning on Unang Hirit.

Clavio let off a mouthful of words against the Philippine Azkals, the country's national football team, who just yesterday secured a spot in the semis of the AFC Challenge Cup, a first for the Philippines.

Starting at 1:09 of the video below, he commented on the apology issued by the Azkals over a recent sexual harassment controversy, saying this should serve as a lesson to them who are so cocky because they're handsome and they think they're God's gift to women. Clavio later added he wasn't of the same culture as the players -- who are predominantly half-bloods -- because, as he insinuated by pointing to his heart and his head, they didn't have the heart and the brains. Still not done, he said they weren't Filipino and that they were only pretending to be kayumanggi (or brown-skinned).

After watching it I was, like, what's his beef? It seemed to me as if he was so bitter of the players's good looks or something. He was ranting!

Not surprisingly, the anchor caught the ire of many an Azkals fan and attacked him online, calling him racist and several other unpleasant things. Yes, most of the Azkals were born and raised overseas, and can hardly speak Tagalog or Filipino. But they have Filipino blood in them, from either father or mother, and they're wearing our colors, playing for our country!

So how does Clavio define a Filipino? By color? Truth be told, he reminds me of Salazar Slytherin who so wanted to rid Hogwarts of muggles and half-bloods. He only wanted pure-bloods to practice magic. So does Clavio only want pure-bloods to play for our national team?

This is funny because every so often, local media outlets report on just about every person abroad with even the slightest ounce of Filipino blood in them who enjoys some level of success, however trivial that success may be. Oh, Jasmine Trias is Filipino. Bruno Mars is Filipino. Brandon Vera is Filipino. Mark Muñoz is Filipino. And now, Jessica Sanchez is Filipino. Everyone in the world must be Filipino!

This is the problem with our local news people. As newscasters and news reporters, they're just supposed to deliver the news as it is. Why on earth would they feel the need to add their two cents' worth? And in this case, you see what happens when their emotions get the better of them (Is he insecure of his looks?).

Clavio later issued a statement saying that in all humility he is asking for understanding for his inappropriate words. See? He's not sorry at all. Rather than apologize outright, he wants us to understand him. Furthermore, he thanked those who supported him in his stand against sexual harassment.

I don't know if Clavio is slow or what but he clearly misses the point. It's not about sexual harassment; it's about his misguided and racist remarks that were totally uncalled for.  I believe that GMA-7 should really suspend him at the very least. And moving forward, he should forget about his childhood oppression, insecurities and whatnot, and just stick to the news. Arn-Arn is optional.

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