How @rapplerdotcom triggered the decline of journalism in the Philippines

It’s the buzz of the week. Manila Times columnist Rigoberto ‘Bobi’ Tiglao and Rappler are at war. It started with Tiglao’s eye-opening revelations on the sloppy — and borderline fraudulent — reporting by Rappler on the issue of the so-called “extrajudicial killings” (EJKs) supposedly running rampant in the Philippines. In How Rappler misled EU, Human Rights Watch, CNN, Time, BBC — the world published on the 22nd March, Tiglao points out that the the number 7,000 supposedly representing the number of victims of “EJK’s” being bandied around by news sites all over the world is false and an artefact of fake news peddled by Rappler.

And yet…

That 7,000 is the same number Vice President Leni Robredo used in her message last week to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs to rant against Duterte. It is the same figure that was used in the very critical report on the country by New York-based Human Rights Watch. It is the same figure used again and again by Western media, such as CNN, BBC, Time, and even the New York Times — all citing the Philippine National Police as its source. Even Al-Jazeera and Wikipedia cite this 7,000 number.

To this, Rappler responded with an anonymously-written piece Tiglao’s Fake News in which its key message, the ad hominem that Tiglao is an “ex-journalist and Arroyo apologist” was delivered to its readership. Unfortunately this infantile payload proved ineffective and only served to further highlight just how sophomoric a “news” site Rappler is. According to Tiglao in a subsequent article Rappler insists on its ‘7,080-killed’ fake news; resorts to ad hominem arguments, the researcher of that work is a certain Michael Bueza who, along with Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria, Tiglao addressed a letter to seeking clarification.

I had emailed Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria and the researcher who wrote the piece, Michael Bueza, two weeks before I wrote my exposes on their epic lie, requesting if they could clarify to me how they got the 7,080 figure. They didn’t respond at all, not even a “no-comment” or mind-your-own-business reply.

Interestingly enough, on the 22nd March 2017, an evidently embattled Bueza issued a “68th update” (as of this writing) on his September 2016 piece IN NUMBERS: The Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’ where he exhibits more precise figures to further support Rappler’s now-discredited claim of 7,000 “EJK” victims.

Tiglao can, be credited for being the first mainstream journalist to mount a sustained attack on the adolescent reporting of Rappler. However the insult-to-Philippine-journalism that is Rappler’s contribution to the industry has a history dating back to the 2012 spectacle that was the “impeachment trial” of the late former Chief Justice Renator Corona. Get Real Post‘s track record of scrutinising the lazy journalism of Rappler can be traced back to our January 2012 piece at the dawn of “social news networking” where we explored The official definition of ‘social news network’ as issued by the then fledgling site Rappler.com.

Even that early, the nebulous nature of the way Rappler went about its business was evident…

So can Rappler.com really distinguish itself using such a term as “social news network”?

In my opinion, it’s overcommitted itself to a notion it hardly understands. Even as I write this, the chattering classes exchanging disembodied 140-character snippets that pass off as “insight” are struggling to wrap their heads around what exactly the term means. I think they struggle because they are trying to backward-engineer the concept to something that fits what Rappler aspires to be. The trouble is, as I already pointed out above, the term “social news network” is essentially a nonsensical term. As the Rappler.com folk like to continuously emphasise, they are a team of “online journalists” — essentially combining a new concept, online, with a dinosaurian one, journalist. Result: convolusion.

Indeed, despite Rappler.com‘s claim to being the new new “thing”, it introduces [“journalist” Marites] Vitug in a very traditional way…

The Corona “trial” went on to serve as a petri dish within which Philippine mainstream media festered. In the course of that spectacle, Rappler paved a slippery downhill path into which the rest of the Philippines’ news media industry slid. Leading this slide was the Philippine Daily Inquirer. On its 14th of March 2012 edition, unflattering photos of a key witness in Corona’s defense team, Demetrio Vicente, were used as senasationalist front page fodder. Featured were four close-up photos of Vicente (who had previously suffered a stroke and spoke with difficulty as a result of this) in various states of grimace as he undertook a gallant effort to attest to the character of the Chief Justice.

Following a tradition of non-apology that Rappler upholds even to this day, the Inquirer editors, evidently backpedalling from their monumental ethical gaffe, issued a lame apology that neither directly addressed Vicente, acknowledged the inexcusable disrespect and lack of taste of their front page spread, and did not express regret. Instead, the Inquirer editors denied any impropriety in that instance, sought to appease its advertisers, and passed off their “apology” as a news report rather than a sincere message from its editorial leadership.

Yet none of those lessons had evidently been learned. Tiglao today turns his sights on another astounding display of perverted Filipino “journalism” — because, today, the New York Times takes over Philippine Daily Inquirer.

I’ll leave the rest to Mr. Tiglao to explain just how awful an insult to Philippine journalism the Inquirer had lobbed yet again. It is important to note, for now, that Tiglao even on this day of journalistic infamy has been fair — even generous — to the excellent writers of the Inquirer

The PDI has over 50 reporters and writers, and has such excellent and analytical opinion writers like Randy David and Solita Monsod, as well as essayist Rosario Garcellano, the former two having written opinion columns for nearly two decades, and who obviously don’ t like Duterte.

Yet its editors weren’t confident to get these writers, Filipinos who have lived in this country their entire lives who made it their job to study its politics and society to write an article critical of Duterte? They preferred the article of the NYT writer, who spent a few days here for research, who has lived all his life and wrote his article 14,000 kilometers away?

Suffice to say, for now, abangan ang susunod na kabanata.

A convenient tack the Inquirer editors can take to control damage to its credibility following this gaffe is to blame Rappler for leading Philippine journalism’s slide to bunghole oblivion. But as the modern-day philosopher Obi Wan Kenobi say: Who is more foolish, the fool or the one who follows him?

[Photo courtesy Journalism and Media Studies Centre.]
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13 Comments on “How @rapplerdotcom triggered the decline of journalism in the Philippines”

  1. The New York Times, is another mainstream media in the U.S., that is making Fake News. It is getting bankrupt, because of lack of readers…this tabloid is being used by the liberals, in the U.S. , to promote their agendas.

    Rappler.com is the tool of the Aquino Cojuangco political axis, to upgrade their way of spreading, Fake News, and facilitating disinformation to its readers. The ABS CBN media and the Inquirer media , are becoming obsolete…

    Bloggers of every kind; with every shade of opinions, came out from the Web Blog sites, like the GRP. So, the mainstream media and the Aquino Cojuangco , political axis, must have a way to counter, these annoying trolls/bloggers.

    They did everything like: impersonating them; discrediting them; hiring “counter trolls” to debate with them and misled them; and finally hacking their blogs, then sending viruses to their computers…

    They even passed a law, that criminalized trolling. The Trolls held their ground… Nothing worked, to stop these Web Blog Trolls !

    It is good that the Rappler.com has now an adversary like, Mr. Tiglao…

    And by the way, Rappler.com must still deal with these ubiquitous Trolls…the GRP Troll variety is the most pestering one !

  2. the duterte administration should ignore their detractors. instead just move on. the pilipinos are suffering from delays to prosperity. that’s their goal to keep the country in misery.

  3. these yellows are fantastic. after sending the pilipinos to miserable life to poverty using them to proliferate drugs, now they’re using the poor again as victims of injustice. this is what you called ‘spin doctors’. the yellow dynasty is the one who send the Philippines into miserable life after that edsa1 gathering. it’s not like that during Marcos days.

  4. all television/movie titles to provoke pilipinos to rebel should not be allowed. and scenes of stabbing/shooting/fist fighting should be edited out. it should be love among pilipinos to learn.

  5. the pilipinos should support any law to be enacted needed for the country’s properity. the people’s voice is the law and no one’s else. this is the time the pilipinos should voice out what they think should be done. president duterte address the people already. he needs your help.

  6. president duterte need not to wait for the pilipinos globally to cry ‘DECLARE MARTIAL LAW’. it’s the only way to stop detractors for a better Philippines. the pilipinos globally will support that 100%.

  7. The Philippine Media is evolving into maturity. Politicians can no longer spread, disinformation or force their political agendas into the throats of Filipinos.

    The Trolls are a peculiar writers. Whereby , a common citizen, who knows how to use the Web Blogs, can have a say in the governance of our country. They can also criticize any government official, without fear of reprisal. They can blog their opinions, no matter how stupid, they can be…

    In the Web Blogs; it is the readers, who decide to agree or not to agree, of what is written. It facilitates people to think, Not just accept what is written or spread information, as truth…

    We are now in the Age of Information Technology. It will be a fault of Filipinos, not to take advantage of the good , offered in this age, to prosper and improve themselves !

    1. That is too simplistic an analysis. Propaganda in war is both a science and an an art with the object of beating or destroying the enemy short of violence.

    1. Another romantically simplistic analysis. One call never get to power if on is a smart. He must be smart enough to be in position of power. It is the illusion that is created in the man with power that makes him a fool to others. People with power in the Philippines have rightly or wrongly think they can abuse their power because they can pay lawyers to fight and with their cases in courts. That is why an Estelito Mendoza or a Sigfrid Fortun are filthy rich.

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