The Philippines’ mainstream news media is in a death spiral. Many of the country’s top media outfits led by ABS-CBN, Rappler, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and even relatively professional CNN Philippines went for broke in this year’s elections. They bet their entire reputations on the campaign of now-failed Yellowtard presidential candidate Leni Robredo. They tossed all semblance of objectivity out the window and took part in the solidarity-in-desperation that characterised Robredo’s campaign particularly in the final weeks leading to the 9th of May.
Following all that, the buzzword among the stragglers in the aftermath of the landslide win of administration tandem Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte is “disinformation”. Marcos and Duterte, the losers insist, won on the back of a “disinformation campaign” — one mounted on a “massive” scale, they screech. In essence, the Yellowtards are attempting to gaslight the majority electorate into believing they were victims of a vast conspiracy to mislead them. To make things worse, key personalities employed by the very news organisations that now suffer severe crises of credibility remain unable to reflect on the self-inflicted damage to their priceless reputations seeing that they continue to amplify the baseless assertions of the partisan camps they evidently remain loyal to.
So where to for these media organisations who now suffer a colossal loss of face not to mention their place at the top of the pedestal they built for themselves and directed the audience they once monopolised to bow to? The credibility void their folly created is now rapidly being filled by new players — enabled by the very social media platforms they sought to police (an act of hubris that also contributed to further losing the trust of the Filipino people).
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Mainstream media have to face reality — they need to compete for credibility in today’s hyper-competitive mass communication landscape. If it is the “disinformation” bogey they are worried about, they need to get over that phantom and, instead, focus on proving to an audience who enjoy an abundance of information channels to tune into that theirs is the real deal. Ultimately, however, the public has sole power to decide who is and who isn’t that real deal. No amount of fashioning one’s self to be “official fact checkers” and, believing so, presume to act as Disinformation Police will win back the trust of the public. Only the better brand will.
It is now a cliché but there is no denying the reality of the free market of ideas. The alternative is a policed market of the sort that “fact checkers” Maria Ressa of Rappler and Ellen Tordesillas of VERA Files aspire to institute on Facebook. Unfortunately for them Facebook is but one of many options for information dissemination that ordinary people are at liberty to sign up to. To count on policing the Net as being even possible and stubbornly hanging on to that notion is the sort of thing that, in all ironies, loses one precious ground. Issuing a label against a worthy opponent rather than competing with her head-to-head for worth in the sporting manner the free market demands is a comfy space Disinformation Crybabies prefer to inhabit. Yet again they had lost an entire people because of that laziness.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.