COMMUNICATIONS Secretary Martin Andanar should speak for himself when he says that people only read headlines nowadays. This is wrong and simple-minded on several counts.
First, because the statement is questionable with respect to veracity. Many people, Filipinos as well as other nationalities, will dispute the truth of this gross generalization.
Second, it is misguided because Andanar is the communications secretary of the Duterte administration, meaning he is the chief or expert in communications in the Philippine government today. This gives the impression that the entire government and the entire country are superficial and shallow on public affairs and on national and international developments.
And third, it is misguided because Filipino readers in fact follow up in the newspapers what happens regarding what they read.
When Andanar made his unfortunate statement, he meant it as a response to media criticism of him for judging news stories based on headlines and not reading the news reports carefully as a government communicator should. The controversy started when he criticized media reporting of President Duterte’s recent public statements on martial law.
In a Facebook video interview with a blogger in the United States, where he went to attend the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the US, Mr. Andanar claimed that he reads all published reports in newspapers from top to bottom. It is the public that does not like to read whole stories anymore and merely depends on the headlines, he said.
He blames the situation partly on the Internet: “Most people are now online and they do not read the whole newspaper stories anymore.
“People nowadays read only headlines and leads. And sometimes they are being twisted so as to collect attention from readers.”
We take issue with Andanar’s statement because it is demonstrably untrue of the readers of The Manila Times, regardless of their economic or social standing. And we can show it in the case of our recent headline stories.
When the Times headlined on Wednesday that the “Mamasapano raid was a CIA operation,” the natural reaction of our readers was to read on and find out what was the basis of President Duterte’s implication of the US intelligence agency in the Mamasapano incident. They wanted details, not just the headline. They wanted to know more. And they would follow the story in subsequent issues of our paper.
This was also the case with our subsequent headline story that President Duterte would convene a truth panel to investigate the Mamasapano tragedy. Readers wanted to know the facts. And they want to know even more what the new inquiry would unravel concerning unanswered questions about the massacre.
The point we want to stress is that Andanar and his office should be careful about their generalizations about the Filipino public. They should be careful about patronizing our people, as though they are incapable of sharing Palace curiosities and interest in public affairs.
Mr. Andanar should not reduce the service of a newspaper to serving headlines to the public. He should move beyond his limited experience as a broadcast newsreader to the responsibilities of a communications policy-maker.
Our responsibility as a newspaper is a much bigger one than headline-making. It is to help our people and our readers understand what is happening in our country and in the world. That includes understanding what our President is saying, and what a public servant like Andanar is doing in his lofty office in Malacañang.