Journalists must 'scale up' to compete with 'opinion peddlers' in online discussions on 2022 elections: experts

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 16 2022 08:09 PM

MANILA - Journalists are now pitted against "opinion peddlers" in disseminating information about candidates vying for key national posts in the 2022 elections, two experts said Wednesday.

Influencers, vloggers and "ward leaders" who are tasked to oversee some "200 to 500 accounts online" are now being used by political camps to boost the candidacies of several personalities, said veteran political strategist Ronald Llamas, in an online Roundtable with the Philippine Press Institute (PPI). 

"The new ward leaders, hindi na yan yung Kasal, Binyag, Libing (are no longer those attending weddings, baptisms and funerals)," he said. 

"May sahod 'yan from P5,000 to P10,000 a month just to handle and interact with 200 to 500 online users kaya very intimate, very effective," Llamas, who served as presidential adviser on political affairs of the late President Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III, said.

(They have a salary from P5,000 to P10,000 a month just to handle and interact with 200 to 500 online users, that's why it's very intimate, very effective.)

"Emotions ang kanilang tutok... Kapag ang relasyon mo ay emotions, hindi ka makakalimutan nung kausap mo rather than 'yung kausap mo ay ina-address 'yung iniisip mo," he said.

(They are focusing on the emotions... And when your relationship is based on emotions, you tend to be more memorable than those who only address some issues in mind.)

Journalists need to be "able to adapt to the changing circumstances," said Dennis Coronacion, head of the University of Sto. Tomas Political Science Department, in the same forum. 

"Mas nagdo-dominate sila (opinion peddlers) pagdating sa usaping pulitika at eleksyon," he said, noting that online personalities have been dancing on TikTok and creating more engaging content on different social media platforms.

(They are dominating discussions about politics and elections.)

Voters nowadays are "very impatient" and "want to know the message in a short amount of time," Coronacion said.

"It cannot be too serious or general or objective. The message should be specialized, very narrow and very particular," he said.

Journalists -- who have been trained to discern fact from fiction -- must be able to reinvent their messages to be "able to catch up" with vloggers and influencers who have been sharing their political opinion online, Coronacion said.

"If journalists can't scale up in terms of form and substance, then itong mga vloggers na sumasayaw sa TikTok will fill the vacuum," he said.

"It's a challenge not just to scale up in substance but also in form," Coronacion said.

"You have to evolve or become the dinosaurs which are extinct."

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