Participatory journalism

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ROLLY G. REYES

THE topography of television news reporting has changed over the years with the advent of new technology and a wide array of tools currently available in news gathering. Citizens armed with smartphones that can provide stills and video, private and government CCTV footages, drones with cameras and instant uploads supplement the standard ways of a regular television news network.

A journalist can now converse with anybody in any part of the globe in real time and interview subjects even in a simultaneous mode. Stable bandwidths allow instant and high definition images with high audio quality. Links to live streaming sites are just millimeters away from a keypad.

Additional information can be Googled and Wikified to collect and solidify background information at any given time. Yes Virginia, data is at our fingertips nowadays and “pros and cons” are at its heels inadvertently.

Generally, the news producer is still the person who is directly in charge of the newscast. The news producer typically puts together the list of segments for each newscast based on the stories available. And the director will then check the segments and make sure they are ready for airing and then call for them as the news is broadcast.


The centerpiece of any newsroom is its newsgathering section. This is where news orgs differ in so many ways. Desk editor plays an important role in deciding which stories to pursue. Editorial soundness and agility are paramount in this area.

Major networks now have segment producers in charge of specific stories or newscast segments. They are accountable for the production and total running time of the segments they produce.

The ENG coordinator or location producer starts with the story assignments required by the assignments editor and works closely with the reporters on the ground. ENG van crews, editors, technicians, and the site director see to it that the stories make it to “air.”

The job of the journalist (especially the investigative journalist) is to gather the truth about situations and explain that to an audience in a clear and succinct way.

This is very important: It’s not the responsibility of the reporter to advocate a particular viewpoint but simply to bring all of the related facts to the public’s attention and let those facts speak for themselves. Once a news source is suspected of having “a hidden agenda,” credibility is lost and all of their reporting becomes suspect.

Investigative journalism pinpoints the journalist’s job in uncovering the facts that were being successfully hidden from exposure and bring these facts to the public’s attention. In this manner, they fulfill their role as the watchdogs of a democratic society. The same goes for commentators and public affairs programs.

* * *

Broadcast news today is a highly competitive business. The two Rs are most important: Ratings and Revenue. Being first with the news can translate into high ratings and, of course, ratings will eventually translate into profits. Out-scooping one another is still the name of the game. Glitzy presentation through the use of computer graphics in huge LED screens, futuristic digital set designs and 3-dimensional lighting system add spice to “visuals” competition.

Also, a field correspondent that can “scoop” competitors by being first with a story can gain personal and professional prestige, and even awards. And that goes for news presenters and news programs as well.

With this in mind, there is now pressure for reporters to sometimes step over the red line of “civility” or decorum that often result in the brazen image of reporters resorting to “dramatics.”

Dynamic changes in the nature of broadcast news have taken place. Whereas before, news videos were filtered through the editors of major news organizations, today, because of social media and the preponderance of personal cameras of smartphones, news events are often covered by a multiple citizen journalists and disseminated in advance of the mainstream media through the web. Where the major news media used to support law enforcement’s version of events, the public now may be presented with conflicting versions of events.

Equally disturbing is the participatory “slant” being made in social networks that can “dilute” an otherwise very factual reportage. Hacked or fake documents by fake websites or trolls cast some unwarranted doubt on traditional news media coverage.

Pre-dated photos, file videos and rehashed stories make their way and are portrayed as “current” in these web-based platforms to achieve certain defamatory political innuendoes against a newsmaker or an organization in focus.

One of the reasons that news is mistrusted and influential people are reluctant to give interviews is because facts have been reported wrongly or distorted.

Once a news source is suspected of having “an agenda,” credibility is lost and all of their reporting becomes suspect.

* * *

I used to belong to the “old newsroom” of a giant media network and I remember that we always remind our newsgathering team these few important but basic points when writing news stories.

.Interview those who claim to be witnesses thoroughly and make sure that they really were in the midst of the event covered.

.Use a second source to double-check information that seems surprising or may be in doubt—especially if it could put any personality or organization in a bad light.

.Double-check all names, titles, and places, and check out the pronunciation of names phonetically.

.Check if a telephone number or address is valid and current.

.During editing, make sure that sound bites accurately reflect what the person being interviewed meant and discard those unrelated blurbs.

To conclude, the ugly part of news organizations is that reporters are being pressured to “back off” from an investigation when the outcome could affect political power or corporate profit. The flip side of the coin is to order the demolition of anything that will get in the way of seeking favors and securing prosperous bottom lines. The independence of the people in any news organization will never be secure when the transactions of their owners is concealed from them.

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.” (Edward R. Murrow, 1908-1965)

Good work, good deeds and good faith to all.

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2 Comments

  1. Ernesto Dela Cruz on

    The last sentence of paragraph 9 was repeated in paragraph 18.

    This is the line:

    “Once a news source is suspected of having “an agenda,” credibility is lost and all of their reporting becomes suspect.”

    Is it repeated for emphasis, or the author forgot that he already mentioned it?

    Just asking.