HOW could they go so low?
I mean this media company that prides itself on not being mainstream media but also not a blogging site.
Yet, upon closer analysis of the narratives which have come out of its website, one can’t help but wonder whether this trend-setting pretender has indeed outed itself to be simply a trolling center that sometimes posts legitimate news.
Maria Ressa, its founder, obviously wanted to emulate Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post. Unfortunately, she invested not in veteran writers, but in fresh graduates not even of journalism, but people mainly from that otherwise excellent elite school in Katipunan. Rappler hoped that youthful exuberance and badass attitude could compensate for experience that should have started with initiation in the police beat where real journalists are tried and tested.
The result was disastrously alarming.
Armed with expensive communications gadgets, fruits of the blessings from foreign funds provided by Omidyar, these upstarts were poised to take over the media landscape. And their only weapon was this arrogant attitude that they are God’s gift to journalism.
Any tried and tested journalist is honed by humility and humanity in the face of breaking news that can also break hearts and limbs.
Maki Pulido earned her right in that classical image of her running towards the gates of Malacañang during EDSA 2, catching her breath while delivering live news.
Jun Veneracion almost lost his life when he was caught in the crossfire in a firefight in Basilan, while Jiggy Manicad, who was my student at UPLB, survived a helicopter crash. Jun and Jiggy risked their lives in hot pursuit of the news.
And having a journalism degree is not even absolutely necessary. Francis Faulve has no degree in journalism, yet he climbed up the ladder to become one of the veteran police reporters in his network. Inday Espina-Varona has become a name in journalism without even a formal degree.
My good friend Jojo Robles is a tested veteran, and has earned his mettle through a wealth of experience from field reporting to copy editing to become news editor, and now a broadcaster.
There are just too many to mention.
And lest we forget, those who died in Maguindanao who all have become vivid, albeit tragic, reminders that journalism is not just a job, a fantasy or fashion, but a commitment that could cost one his or her life.
It is in this context that one can express outrage at how cheaply Rappler has treated the journalism profession when it unleashes reports, such as the one written by Chay Hofileña, supposed to be one of its more veteran reporters. The piece tried to expose an alleged link between Secretary Martin Andanar to some pro-Duterte social bloggers. It even alleged that Andanar has released money to social media groups in exchange for their support for the President.
The attack on Andanar, while presented as news, is a classic example of a fundamental violation of the ethical tenet of balance, for nowhere in the write-up was the voice of Andanar.
The piece was also critical of Sass Rogando Sasot and R. Joseph Nieto aka Thinking Pinoy. But again, Hofileña failed to provide Sasot and Nieto the space they deserve that would have maintained a balanced piece.
In fact, this is not the first time that Rappler became an attack dog that targeted those who either defended the President, or are critical of the Liberal Party, the Vice President and even of Madam Claudia, who is a fictional social media account that is critical of the administration. It was also Rappler that led the charge to diminish Renato Corona, Jejomar Binay and Bongbong Marcos.
Journalists are supposed to be ethical, objective and neutral. They should be above the fray, and should as much as possible take criticisms as part of the hazards of the profession. It is one thing to explain and another to attack. Yet on several occasions, writers of Rappler openly quarreled with netizens in the comment section of their news features in social media.
In an act that is unprecedented, Rappler made a post that demeaned pro-Duterte blogger Mocha Uson, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and pro-administration Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, all born on the year of the dog, by likening their loyalty to the President to the behavior of the animal of their birth year.
This is the lowest that one can go for an outfit that pretends to be a haven of veterans like Maria Ressa, Chay Hofileña and Glenda Gloria, one that promised to set the trend for newsgathering and news reporting in the country.
But even lower than the lowest is for it to commit the biggest mistake a journalist can do–that of murdering the language by using a word that does not even exist. “Intenseful” became a word now associated with Rappler’s shame.
Horrified perhaps, Rappler quickly pulled out the post. They say it was an unauthorized post.
But the damage has been done. Rappler has just rapped itself in, well, an “intenseful” way.