Tuesday ∗ 25 Jun 2013

online journalism fail 2: rappler’s churnalism!

it seemed portentous, or maybe just convenient, that a website like Rappler would have one of its “thought leaders” — a most pretentious if not laughable label to begin with (a leader of thoughts? whut.) — writing about her shift from print to online journalism on the same day as Rappler’s more recent foibles.

on June 19 a Rappler news article takes a Facebook status and tears it apart like it’s an interview, while doing some good old fashioned red baiting that endangers the lives of high profile activists. on the same day, its “thought leader” Marites Dañguilan Vitug makes excuses for the kind of news writing that is online, and in the end, that is on Rappler. 

how? because as  Vitug talked about the difficulties of shifting from print journalism via Newsbreak to being editor-in-chief of abs-cbnnews.com, she also ended up explaining away the kind of journalism that is online. that is, she explains it away by saying that she had no choice.

During my first weeks, I questioned the stories that simply quoted an official who was interviewed by DZMM or ANC. Why were we uploading these? Wasn’t this what others, including myself, derided as “he-said, she-said” journalism? I found myself eating my words.

and so she said, she and her editors decided to “live with this type of stories” as they “agreed to provide background and context so that the single interview would make sense.”

Sure, let’s break the news, be the first to do it, but we should update it to include enough substance.

Vitug also talks about how in the end there were metrics, and it was clear that having readers was of utmost importance.

right here is the problem with Rappler and its task of “breaking the news” isn’t it? right here, is why it has become irresponsible. because the goal is to get readers, break the story, never mind that all you have is not even a soundbite from an interview, but a Facebook status.

Vitug then continues to talk about “churnalism” as something that the internet “encourages.”

Online multimedia reporters tweet, interview news sources on camera, write breaking news, and update it with video. Often, there is no time to really gather the news, to talk to people and reflect on the story.

Newspaper reporters and editors have the luxury of time—compared to the Web—and do thoughtful journalism.

what is Vitug doing here? isn’t it such a disservice to these “online multimedia reporters” that they are being labeled as reporters who have no time to “reflect on a story”? why are we making excuses for the kind of journalism that these reporters churn out? why are we not talking about journalism — good and responsible journalism — full stop, for all news reporters?

also, Vitug’s got it wrong. newspaper reporters and editors do not have “the luxury of time” anymore either: newspapers update their sites with breaking news, too. in fact these sites are what Rappler is up against, alongside the sites of the larger media conglomerates like GMA and ABS-CBN. and yes, it is obvious too when these news sites mess up. but they don’t make up some excuse about online news journalism, do they?

but Vitug does not consider that, especially since it seems the task is to validate the kind of “churnalism” that should offend us all about online journalism.

Let me end with this challenge to my colleagues in the print medium. Newspapers have a tougher job to do. They need to go a step further, beyond breaking news to news analysis and in-depth stories. The Internet already tells us the news by the minute, by the hour.

The newspapers will do a great service to the public by making sense of all these events.

really. for someone who says that the internet is the future, we fall back on the belief that it will be print journalism that will make sense of what goes on in it? we are saying that “news analysis and in-depth stories” happen in print, and not online? isn’t Vitug merely making excuses for the utter lack of news analysis and in-depth stories on the site that thinks her a thought leader?

isn’t it that Vitug really should be doing her research, and giving credit where it is due: long before Rappler, and far far from what that site can even begin doing, there were blogs and bloggers that were critical precisely of mainstream news, and which took these to task as a matter of assessing the kind of information being fed the public. long before Vitug etal even thought the internet the future, Pinoy bloggers were already online, critical not just of mainstream media, but also of government and the establishment.

the Pinoy blogosphere was alive and well, growing and productive, seeing Erap through to EDSA Dos, and GMA staying too long. too many of the critical bloggers and netizens of GMA’s time would later be absorbed into Malacañang — the craftiest move EVER by the PNoy government (look ma! no critics!). but really, while there are very few of those bloggers now, they are the ones that Vitug should have known to acknowledge when it comes to “making sense of” mainstream media’s messes — Rappler included.

ah, but Vitug’s written something that Rappler can totally fall back on every time they are called out for irresponsible news writing. as far as Vitug is concerned, this is churnalism. deal with it.

on the about page of Rappler, Maria Ressa says:

We at Rappler promise uncompromised journalism that – hopefully – inspires smart conversations and ignites a thirst for change.

whatever happened to just responsible journalism? what about admitting to your mistakes and revising as you are called our for your foibles? no? that doesn’t happen in churnalism? buti pa sa responsible blogging.

Rappler didn’t fix what was broke. they’ve just broken journalism, online and otherwise, to pieces.

Posted in: bayan, komentaryo, media

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15 Comments/Pingbacks

  1. Tish
    June 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I was so sure I read Vitug’s piece wrong — what with its ligalig logic. But apparently not. Hay.

    • katrina
      June 26, 2013 at 2:21 am

      gusto ko yung konsepto ng ligalig. :)

  2. Iya Torres
    June 25, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I’d like to understand and respect your whole angst against Rappler, but then again, your column appears on a paper that has been notorious for sensationalism, for misleading reportage, for yellow journalism. Before nitpicking on Rappler and the mood meter, try doing something about the paper you’re in. Until then, your criticisms on journalism remain non-credible.

    (I’d like to see a public response on this comment as well. Thank you.)

    • noonday rind
      June 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      that’s why you call it a “column”

      • Iya Torres
        June 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm

        Whether she’s writing a column or handling their printing machine, it’s still for a newspaper that is not credible, far less decent than the online media outfit she’s criticizing. Before she criticizes other media outfits, try doing something about the one where your column is being published. Again, until then, her criticisms on journalism remain non-credible.

        • agalegre
          June 25, 2013 at 6:27 pm

          Rappler is notorious for committing blunders (from grammatical errors to irresponsible reporting). She calls herself a “thought leader?” Yuck! Thanks to this blog entry, Vitug’s stupidity has been exposed.

          • Karen
            June 25, 2013 at 6:49 pm

            Sadly, this write-up also exposes this columnist/blogger. It’s easy to pick on a relatively new media group, than decades-old ones whose reporters and editors who seem to have not learned anything about responsible journalism all those decades. Same old sensationalism and misleading stories for decades already…including the one where Ms. Santiago is writing for.

        • katrina
          June 26, 2013 at 2:37 am

          @Iya Torres: you obviously have no sense of the kind of the relationships writers have with the papers they write for, and that is obviously beside the point here, seeing as you’re equating me not only with the wrong newspaper, but also you are contradicting what Vitug and Rappler believe: that IT IS in mainstream media, it is in newspapers, that online news writing might be taken to task.

          that this means Vitug has put mainstream media, including whatever newspaper you have in your head, in a more credible position goes without saying.

          and there is a distinct difference between a writer of a column in the opinion pages of a newspaper, and the one handling the printing machine. the latter is the only reason newspapers even come out. the former are people whose opinions matter to the paper, and as such are printed by the paper, and who are all always replaceable and transient.

    • katrina
      June 26, 2013 at 2:32 am

      @Iya Torres: What newspaper are you talking about? The Manila Times? That is far FAR from being yellow journalism ha, and it’s the only newspaper that has ever carried a column of mine. You seem to be talking about the Philippine Daily Inquirer, for which I wrote art reviews in 2009-2011, in a section that is far from being about news writing or sensationalist headlines.

      And if you mean that I write for GMA News Online, then throw me a headline that was sensationalist, or wrong, that GMA’s editors did not apologize for or correct.

      Also, my criticism of Rappler’s brand of journalism is borne of what they promise to be “new” journalism. THAT is what I question, as it is the kind of irresponsibility that is in their ranks.

      You’re saying that in order for anyone to critique journalism, then he or she must be writing for a paper that is faultless. The latter is not only impossible, it is also NOT what I ask that Rappler be.

      This piece also appears in my blog, just in case you didn’t notice, and nowhere else. That is of course deliberate, and is part of the point.

  3. noonday rind
    June 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Rappler’s article about GMA7’s My Husband’s Lover and the CBCP has some errors like CBCP-ECY executive secretary’s name. Rappler wrote Fr. Kunegundo Gargantaang instead of Fr.Kunegundo Garganta…

  4. agalegre
    June 25, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    RT @radikalchick rappler journalism fail 3: using Arabic calligraphy without knowing what it means. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200822803045826&set=a.10200822801805795.1073741893.1636144794&type=1&theater

  5. Mak
    June 26, 2013 at 8:09 am

    O dati takot ka na baka kasuhan ka nila. Anyareh hehe

    • katrina
      June 26, 2013 at 10:39 am

      kung forever takot, forever rin na walang mangyayari.

  6. Granheritage
    August 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Your means of describing everything in this article is actually pleasant, all be able to without difficulty understand it, Thanks a lot.

  7. Brigette
    August 23, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I usually do not leave a bunch of comments, but I read some of the
    responses on online journalism fail 2: rappler

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