Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Seares: Handling Pacquiao, Imee: Did Karen Davila cross the line and dzMM didn’t?

TWO broadcast interviews: one with boxing champion and Sen. Manny Pacquiao by Karen Davila on ANC’s “Headstart” last Feb. 20; the other with Gov. Imee Marcos on dzMM’s “Ikaw na Ba?” last Dec. 11, 2018. The question in each interview, which set off the controversy, was related to the same subject: educational background of public officials.

Davila asked Pacquiao if he agreed that senators and presidents should have a college degree. “Yes,” Manny said.

That requirement may disqualify the senator. “Actually, I’m pursuing a college degree.” She wanted to know where he was studying.

Detour in the answer

At that point, Paquiao took the detour a news source usually takes if he wants to avoid the question. He said, “The very important thing is you know the situation of the country’s problems.” Note that Manny was asked where he was studying.

Karen, a veteran interviewer who can spot a diversion when she sees it, didn’t let go: she held on to what she had asked:

Davila: Pero teka lang, tinatapos mo ba ang college degree ninyo o hindi?

Pacquiao: Tinatapos.

KD: Anong eskwelahan?

MP: Dito lang.

KD: Saan, sa Maynila? ... Malaking istorya yan, anong pangalan ng school?

MP: Ibubulong ko na lang sa inyo.

Davila would’ve been remiss had she abandoned the line of questioning that Pacquiao himself dangled when he said he was “pursuing a college degree.”

Not trivial

Was the information sought trivial? No, because details about his supposed school and course will support his disclosure that he’s completing a college education. It isn’t trivial; it’s knowledge that the public wants and needs to know.

The reporter in Karen sensed the value of it: “malaking istorya yan.”

Princeton thing

Compare that with the interview of Imee Marcos on dzMM. When asked by a listener how she could prove that she was a “true graduate of Princeton,” Imee answered:

“Yes, tama po. It’s the season. Talagang eleksyon na eleksyon na... (Here, she also mentioned about the attacks on her brotherBongbong.) My performance, track record will show what I have done. I have many solutions that can help my people.”

The governor didn’t answer the question and got away with it. There was no follow-up from the dzMM host who read, or the listener who sent, the question. Obviously, the format didn’t allow that, unlike in the ANC interview where Davila had a lot of leg room to kick ass.

Not tough or discourteous

But Karen wasn’t even kicking ass. It was not a difficult question. “What school and where” didn’t require guts from Davila or complex thinking from Pacquiao, just his candidness. It must have made the senator uneasy because he was fibbing or it was something not to be proud about: why else did he say he’d just whisper it to Davila.

Was Karen being rude? Did she cross the line and the dzMM interviewer didn’t? A public interview of the “Headstart” genre requires persistent, sometimes tough questioning. The “Halalan” format didn’t allow the follow-ups ANC did.

Manny must know that; as he said, it was the fourth time he faced her in the program. Guests in broadcast talk shows are entitled to courtesy but that doesn’t include protection from embarrassment, brought on themselves by what they say or do on screen or on air.

Alma Moreno case

In 2015 Davila asked movie actress Alma Moreno if she was in favor of the Reproductive Health Bill. Her answer:

“Yes, with reservations.” As expected of any reporter, Karen followed up: What were her reservations? That stumped Moreno who sued for time and help.

Same thing that Karen did in the Pacquiao interview.

No bullying. The sources themselves opened the trap door. The interviewer just nudged him a bit.

Thank heaven for journalists who still do their job well. They help remind celebrities and their public that the Senate and the presidency require a lot more than willingness to serve.


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