It’s not as if Pia Ranada is irreplaceable as a reporter covering Malacanang. For that matter, neither is Rappler itself, Ranada’s employer. Rappler had only been in existence since 2012 and before this “social news network” bubbled up from the Philippines’ primordial soup of pedestrian punditry, the Philippine press had already been long recognised as one of the freeest and most “rambunctious” in the region.
Back in 2011, Malou Mangahas wrote of an “Excess of freedom, impunity [and a] Deficit of ethics [and] self-criticism” in mainstream Philippine news media. Gleaning insights from a certain “Asian Media Barometer: The Philippines 2011 Report” which is supposedly “a project of the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES), was co-organized and co-authored by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ),” Mangahas wrote back then…
Reporters and editors also zealously guard and assert their freedom and resist all attempts by state authorities to restrict their trade, and yet self-regulation by professional and industry associations has always lacked vigor and constancy. Indeed, self-criticism of media by media remains scant and thus ineffectual, even as competition for sales, revenues, and audience share drives most editorial decisions of most gatekeepers.
Evidently, the appearance of Rappler out of nowhere in 2012 and its subsequent hipster reign from then until 2018 when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pulled the plug on it for alleged offenses against corporate regulation did not materially change this situation. Indeed, rather than contribute rigour and dignity to the practice of “journalism” in the Philippines, Rappler, instead, routinely thumbed its nose at established conventions often to the chagrin of established pillars of the media community. Under the guise of the notions of “online journalism” and the nebulous concept of “citizen journalism” that formed the new-age lingo of its “trend-setting” ‘lettes, Rappler set out to re-invent “journalism” and turn it into more a form of art and an edifice of ego and less of a discipline or service to the public.
What Rappler essentially contributed to the profession was a blurring of the line between blogging and “journalism”. This is evident in the identity crisis Rappler suffers today. Whilst the Philippines’ other more established news media organisations exhibit no such confusion, Rappler has long struggled to define itself and, as such, has suffered the consequences of both regulators and the Filipino public being subsequently infected with this same confusion.
In short, Rappler disturbed an established order in a negative way. By operating like some sort of perverse hybrid of a blog and “news” organisation, it subtracted from the integrity of a practice and industry already suffering from the creeping malaise described by Mangahas back in 2011. Rather than move the industry closer towards resolution of these integrity and self-regulation issues, the short Rappler era set it back several years.
Thus one can conclude that Rappler single-handedly gave the Philippine news media industry a bad name.
To be fair, Ranada is actually one of the better Rapplerettes and much of what is being said about her is unfair as she has conducted herself relatively professionally during her stint as a Malacanang hackette. Her mistake is more around her irrational emotional investment in her employer and may be a victim of the sloppy reporting of her colleague Carmela Fonbuena who, bizarrely, she continues to defend.
As a professional, the best thing Ranada could do is cut her personal losses and bolt. It ain’t worth it. Rappler‘s days are numbered and her colleagues aren’t exactly paragons of excellence in a profession that is already under siege. More importantly, the personal brand of its CEO Maria Ressa is in tatters and she has been reduced to a quaint punchline. Rappler is in no position to offer Ranada anything in the way of personal fulfilment, career advancement, or compensation.
This deficit in skills and talent in the industry was, in fact, something Mangahas also pointed out back in 2011…
Other findings of the ANMB Philippine Report include:
– The standards of reporting are very varied. Low salaries and the lack of skills and training often lead to poor writing and reporting.
– Media practitioners complain about the deteriorating quality of graduates coming out of journalism schools.
– Whilst TV anchors make more money than their education warrants, small community newspapers can’t pay living wages for their reporters or correspondents.
What Ranada needs is to associate herself with true professionals who are above politics and above the bald consumer marketing and influence peddling that has characterised the brand equity-building approach Rappler CEO Maria Ressa fatally applied to the business. This approach was focused on building a cult of personality (around Ressa) and not on earning the sort of respect and trust that is independent of personalities that a true news media brand commands.
The best advise one could give to Pia Ranada is that she should face the confronting truth and start looking out for Number One.
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