Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Seares: Media coverage of courts may not be getting better

A SERIES of “Hustisya Natin” training sessions on “monitoring the judiciary” held last year in the cities of Baguio, Iloilo, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Bacolod did not just take up the usual problems of media coverage of the justice system. The project pushed further the need for collaboration between journalists and judges.

A recent report, contained in a pamphlet titled “Uncovering the Courts,” summarizes the dialogues.

They tackled again the myriad problems on media coverage of the courts. Journalists, mass-com instructors and one judge from each conference area were the discussants.

Too numerous

There are just too many ills: ranging from ill-preparedness and inadequate skill set of reporters to reluctance of many judges to interact with media. And each problem links to other problems: such as too few reporters who specialize on trials and other stages of litigation and sloppy reports or baseless criticisms of court decisions.

Which in turn relate to journalism curriculum, economic hardship of newspapers, no or little mentoring in the newsroom, overworked editors, and similar woes.

Cebu session

I attended the Cebu session last Feb. 24, 2017 at the USC College of Law in Cebu City. I saw how the problems are tangled with one another. Just like opening a can for a few worms and scores of them wriggle out, a lot more than what anyone would care to tackle.

The “Media’s Public” column (March 3, 2017) about the session was limited to the lament of Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Gilbert Moises. He said that often decisions of acquittal are not reported, which, he said, is unfair to the accused and shuts out the explanation of the judge.

The issue required more space in the column than the time it took at the forum. The situation was brought up but only the surface was scratched.

But the “Hustisya Natin” sessions picked up what needs to be a continuing conversation. The question that professor Ramon R. Tuazon of the Asian Institute of Journalism & Communication raised in the critique (“More light than heat in covering the courts?”) must have been partly answered.

Endangered role

On top of the heap of problems on media coverage of the courts was the concern presented by Mayette Q. Tabada, newspaper columnist and journalism professor.

Tabada said journalism is “being endangered by the emphasis on new media and digital technology and journalism’s role in society increasingly being lost in the dialogue.”

What I see are symptoms of it: (1) coverage of the courts diminishing further and deteriorating more, (2) less and inferior information about the justice system getting to media consumers, and (3) the judiciary being marginalized as a beat, drawing reporters only when a sensational case is filed or tried.

* * *

‘Is it OK for a journalist to fake his own murder?’

THAT, noted Nicholas Thompson of “Wired,” is a lesson not taught in journalism ethics classes.

Arkady Babchenko, anti-Putin, Russian war correspondent and anchor of “Prime Babchenko” on Crimean Tatar channel ATR, faked his own death, in a trap conceived by the Ukraine intelligence agency to catch would-be assassins allegedly paid by Russia to kill the journalist.

His death was reported Tuesday and the next day he surfaced alive at the press-con held by the Ukraine government. Not only did the report of his “death” shake newsrooms world-wide and draw outpouring of grief among his friends and family and outrage from the media community. It drew concern about eroding public trust in media.

The Committee to Protect Journalists wanted more details, other than Babchenko using pig’s blood and makeup and conniving with the police, before it would respond to the bizarre incident.

Faking the news of his death was necessary, he said, to foil the murder plot and catch the assassins. PAS, from the “wires”


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