It’s a wonder Rappler remains online underneath the crushing weight of a growing pile of legal troubles. The most recent charge of securities fraud this week has resulted in an arrest warrant not just on CEO Maria Ressa but also several editors and board members. The Straits Times reports…
They were also charged with securities fraud over the bond sale, according to a statement issued to the press by a state prosecutor.
It said this allowed the buyer, a foreign fund, “to intervene in the management, operation, administration or control of Rappler Inc and Rappler Holdings Corporation.”
Ressa’s lawyer declined to comment on the fresh cases when contacted by AFP.
According to the same report, “Ressa insists the site is not anti-Duterte, saying it is just doing its job to hold the government to account.” However other media reports evidently contradict this claim. A recent Bloomberg report describes Ressa as “[the] head of a Philippine news site critical of President Rodrigo Duterte”, suggesting that publishing “news” reports critical of Duterte had come to be known as an inherent feature of the corporate character of Rappler.
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While the other big media conglomerates operating in the Philippines led by ABS-CBN, the GMA Network, and the Inquirer Group have all been at one time or another cited for being “biased” in their reporting and in the manner that they prioritise display and profile of their published and broadcast content, it is only Rappler that had made just short of categorically explicit its mission of being critical of the Duterte government or, as most would assert, of any partisan group critical of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan and its broader community of “Yellowtards”. As the Bloomberg report makes quite evident, this particular character of the Rappler brand has been picked up and consistently highlighted by Ressa’s cronies in foreign media.
It is likely that Rappler has long suffered from two erstwhile “assets” that had evolved into abject liabilities. Firstly, it Rappler once took pride in its newsroom staffed by young hipster writers and producers collectively pitched as a new generation of “media practitioners” out to disrupt the status quo blanketing “mainstream” or “traditional” media. In time, the starker character of this lot of “reporters” who consistently tended to err on the side of reactive emotionalism than on level-headed, facts-based, and coherent journalism became more evident. Second, its early approach of deliberately blurring the line that sets apart real journalists who practice the trade professionally and the community of online publishers broadly defined as “citizen journalists”, while once hailed as an innovative asset within its brand equity, has, in recent months, become the bane of its existence.
In short, Rappler is a failed industry “disruptor”. Rather than lead in the redefinition of an entire industry it, instead, became a blight on it, infecting the entire landscape with its degenerate practice of the once-noble profession of journalism. Indeed, in light of recent events, even the best of successful disruptors have come to be regarded with disdain. That seminal big-time disruptor of the Net that came of age in the mid-2000s, Facebook, now too finds itself staring down the business ends of global regulators’ guns after having enjoyed more than a decade of gleefully turning its mainstream competitors’ business models into minced meat.
But, unlike Facebook, Rappler is a mere cockroach that could easily be crushed and scraped off the sole of one’s shoe straight into the crapper. It is a failed business that, by many accounts, never turned a profit, never remained sustainably cash-positive, and never delivered any capital gains of consequence to its investors and shareholders. In short, as a business, it is a dud. As such, as its “CEO”, Ressa has failed the Rappler business.
So, is Rappler worth saving? The answer to that question has become quite obvious. It is a liability to the journalism profession and it is a liability to its shareholders. And its CEO, Maria Ressa has become no more than a sad punchline.
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