Macapagal-Arroyo Wants Subjectivism in Media

The President wants media organizations to be subjective in their reports, insisting that the “good news” must be given due prominence.


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this week chided media practitioners for not giving due prominence to good news, especially at this time when there are allegedly so many “good news” that must be disseminated to the people.

“The good news is needed at this time to give more investors confidence in the country,” she said last November 16 at the 32nd Top Level Management Conference of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP, Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines).

She wants what she considers to be the “good news” to hog the headlines in much the same way that the “bad news” usually does, arguing, “(G)ood news tended to be found anywhere but on the front pages of newspapers.”

The President claimed that media organizations tend to headline issues like political killings and to bury in the inside pages the arrest and detention of those allegedly responsible for them. “Sana naman kapag sila ay nahuhuli at naprepreso pareho ang headline gaya ng kung noong nagpatay sila ng taga-media (It is hoped that when they are arrested and jailed, it would make the headlines just as when they killed the journalists),”she said.

A selective scanning, however, of the media’s treatment of the killings of activists and journalists shows that there is equal prominence given to the developments surrounding the events. For example, the conviction of the killer of journalist Edgar Damalerio was prominently reported in the media. It is safe to assume that an in-depth research with a broader scope on the treatment of political killings through the years would show the efforts of media organizations to report not just the actual killings but also the efforts to solve them.

It is likely that Macapagal-Arroyo is unaware that journalists generally do not make any distinction between “the good and the bad” in terms of stories to write. Guided by the elements of news, they choose their stories mainly on the basis of their significance to the people’s lives. It is not the responsibility of journalists – moral or otherwise – to highlight the good news purportedly to make people feel better.

That the mass media tend to highlight problems simply reflects the social crisis besetting Philippine society. While it is practically impossible for mass media to report all events happening in society (thus failing to exactly mirror it), the mass media nevertheless can provide a glimpse of the national situation through a selective presentation of issues and concerns.

In order to be objective, this selection must be based on the various elements of news like prominence and oddity, as well as ethics of the journalism profession. There is a tendency to be subjective if the criteria of “good” and “bad” were used, for the simple reason that these concepts are subject to a person’s interpretation.

The same is true for the angling of stories since journalists cannot be compelled to highlight the positive and to bury (or even not report) the negative. This is like providing consolation to readers when reporting in a vain attempt to make them feel better despite the nature of a social problem.

Macapagal-Arroyo clearly does not want an objective mass media, but a subjective one to fulfill the administration’s agenda of not just getting investor confidence, but of making people feel better through the inundation of so-called good news, totally ignoring the important issues that they should know. (

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