What journalists say on 'bias' tag, attacks

Demerie Dangla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 01 2016 03:15 AM | Updated as of Oct 01 2016 12:20 PM

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

MANILA – "BIAS".

The word is often used by people on social media who accuse journalists and media companies of being biased or unfair in reporting on people or institutions they support. It is now commonly used in comments on news reports critical of the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a journalism seminar conducted by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), five journalists shared their views on being tagged as biased by netizens on social media, as well as personal attacks against them.

For Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent Ryan Rosauro, it is fine to be called biased if it's "based on universally accepted principles and values, like human rights."

CMFR's Melinda Quintos de Jesus agreed and said that there are natural biases that should be encouraged, such as "bias for the truth, for somebody who comes clean, for competence."

Joel Salud of the Philippine Graphic, the longest running weekly news and literary magazine in the country, said the concept of bias comes along with the expectation of objectivity in media.

That is why for Salud, context plays a huge part in helping readers understand the story as it shows the "bigger picture" and lets readers or viewers "see where the story is going."

"You should not only go through the details, but [show] the bigger picture, the historical background...I always explain in social media, 'Look, this is not biased. This is actually a better context than what you just read a while ago," Salud told students and professionals who attended the CMFR seminar.

Meanwhile, ABS-CBN journalist Gigi Grande said she is worried about how being wrongly accused might affect a journalist who is not mentally tough.

Grande believes that the only solution to fight it "is to just keep doing your job, and keep doing it as well as you can."

Grande said, "We should keep in mind the principles that we have been taught, which are the principles of fairness and accuracy, and just telling the truth. If people want to call you biased despite the fact that you're doing everything you can to be fair, then you just really have to suck it up."

Rappler's Michael Bueza said media outlets are not public relations agencies, and urged the public to ask themselves about the information they get from social media.

"It is our job to be critical of the people and the events that we cover. I think the public should also ask themselves with regards to the other outlets that they trust. Are these outlets also doing the basic journalistic methods or ideas like verifying facts, getting the other side, or are they just writing about people that they think would favor their readers?" he said.

Meanwhile, TV5 veteran journalist Ed Lingao observed, "in a very active and assertive community in social media that has started echoing the president, stories that would appear critical of certain policies and issues are immediately met with criticisms of being biased, bayaran (paid), or corruption."

Because of this, Lingao said that it has become more difficult to be critical of Duterte's policies and declarations.

Asked if there is a weapon against being wrongfully accused of being biased, Bueza replied, "We fight the quantity with the quality of our work."

Grande, meanwhile said, "Data is one weapon that we have and we can use in order to add more credence to our news reports."

The discussion was part of Jamie V. Ongpin Journalism Seminar conducted by the CMFR on press freedom, media coverage of the 2016 elections, and the first months of Duterte administration. Five journalists were chosen to become panelists for the body of work they produced during the 2016 presidential elections and other related work.