The senate committee on public information and mass media held a senate hearing regarding the alarming spread of fake news last October 4. In the hearing, they made it clear that there are four kinds of fake news that they wish to actively fight against; falsehoods, hate speech that are potentially libelous, parody or satirical articles, and unintentional propagation of erroneous facts. Enumerating eighty-seven fake news sites, majority of which contain President Duterte’s name and are directly connected to ASEC Mocha Uson’s office, the senate brings up a question that many of us have yet to find the answer to – can we put our trust in the media?
This is our reality today: the masses follow fake news sites, sharing sensationalized news articles, without a doubt believing in them and when the truth is revealed that what they have shared is in fact, false, they turn on those in the newsroom – bayaran, bias media – blaming them for not doing their job well.
Journalism is not easy. Hundreds of people had to go through years in the university, attending countless workshops, seminars, and conferences, just to earn the title of “journalist”; just to have a shot at being the best at their chosen field. Even then, opportunities to practice the profession comes and goes. To work in a media company is a privilege that not many experience. It is also a responsibility. A responsibility to produce content on time. A responsibility to keep the nation informed and educated. A responsibility to provide audiences with the most accessible version of the truth, and a responsibility to be accountable for the trust that people will have to eventually place on you.
Mocha Uson is one of the lucky few who has the audience a journalist aspires to have.
The Mocha Uson Blog Facebook page has more than five million followers as of press time. There are five million people reading and consuming her thoughts and opinions. In a time where Facebook and Twitter has been the main source of updates for citizens and free data is being offered by most telecommunication companies, everything spreads fast. In just one click of a button, your reach can double. There is so much potential in having people be connected, when everyone can get their dose of updates however they want it. These doses however come at a cost—with the limited attention span of citizens, how do we ensure that what they read is that of journalistic integrity when all new information that people consume is to be considered as news?
It is offensive for qualified journalists that someone like Uson is able to be where she is right now. Her presence in the industry belittles everything that journalists stand for. Journalists work because of and for the truth to be told. Journalism is a form of public service because journalists seek to inform and help the public become aware of issues. News articles should not be clouded by personal views and biases. Making sense of facts and data collected is the heart of a journalist’s job. When Uson emphasizes that she is a blogger and not a journalist, she does so out of convenience, because despite her need to be believed as a legitimate news source, she is not willing to carry the burden of trust that the masses put on her as a source of news and information.
The likes of Uson only further proves the need for journalists to become more grounded in the values that they were taught to internalize and practice. At the peak of fake news is when we need critical and responsible journalism even more. Journalists must begin taking this issue into their own hands. There is nothing left to do but to continue working harder, sticking with our bread and butter by striving to produce content that educate and inform, even amidst persecution.
Can we trust the media?
Hopefully, people would be able to do so again. Journalism is a two-way street that does not stop at the time of printing. Journalism comes to life when it begins moving people to action, when the audience are moved to act upon the information that journalists give them. In as much as journalists make an effort to verify facts and present informed opinions, citizens in turn must remain constantly on top of logical thinking. Theirs is a mutual relationship where the audience and the journalist are in conversation of how to make sense of the facts gathered.
In the battle against fake news, the masses have as much responsibility as the writer, editor, photographer, and artist. As the receiving end of the information, the audience are the ones who have the ability to put change into action.