What is the place of skepticism in journalism? This is one of the questions that came to the minds of Filipinos as they witnessed the looks of disbelief on the faces of our local women broadcasters during their networks’ 2022 election coverage.
Tweets on Mel Tiangco, Vicky Morales, Jessica Soho, Karen Davila, and Pia Hontiveros have gained mileage as a number of netizens lauded the anchors for asking tough questions and expressing their frustration over COMELEC’s shortcomings, such as the malfunctioning of about 2,000 vote-counting machines (VCMs).
In one of the viral clips from election day, Tiangco cut GMA News’ tagline short at “Walang kinikilingan, walang pinoprotektahan”—stopping the phrase “walang kasinungalingan” from being uttered by co-anchor Mike Enriquez. Instead, Enriquez added, “Sa mga mananalo, babantayan namin kayo.” These words signal a dedication to journalistic integrity which, to me, means the willingness to fill the primary role of journalists as society’s watchdogs.
During the broadcast, Tiangco was steadfast in pointing out the need for COMELEC to provide a justifiable reason for its shortcomings despite its long period of preparation. Davila, meanwhile, directly asked COMELEC Commissioner George Garcia what was needed for it to approve the decision to extend voting hours and reminded him that it isn’t the voters’ or the pandemic’s fault that people were forced to stand in line for hours at the voting precincts. Hontiveros also asked Senator Jinggoy Estrada about screenshots of threatening messages that he allegedly sent to a classmate who called him out.
On the other hand, those supporting the leading candidates, according to COMELEC’s partial results, claim that these anchors lacked objectivity. But is objectivity akin to truthfulness?
It is human to have biases, but journalists try to dig up the truth through objective methods like doing research or asking questions rather than reporting based on their own assumptions. If reporters are partial to a truth you do not like, then maybe you have to question your own biases.
Renowned journalist Dr. Shaka Ssali once said, “The only reason one will respect you as a journalist is because of your integrity. Your integrity is based on your credibility. Your credibility comes from your truthfulness. All these come from you submitting yourself as a servant of the truth, a servant of issues.”
In the business of news, as journalist Pacinthe Mattar puts it, “Our professionalism is questioned when we report on the communities we’re from.” However, this insistence that passive and detached reportage is the only form of impartiality is merely privilege speaking. Real truth is always impartial. What journalism must do is to help remind us why truth matters.
This journalistic ethos extends to culture and lifestyle publications as well as independent content creators. What type of culture and lifestyle are we projecting as aspirational? How are we making sense of the world we live in? What type of world are we helping shape it to be?
Those who cry out “bias” in the media seem to do so only when their political views do not align with that of the journalist. It appears then that objectivity serves them and those who want to keep the status quo rather than challenge them. Today, we celebrate those who choose to inquire and examine, especially when the truth is uncomfortable.