Responsible journalism in digital age highlighted in online forum

BEING responsible journalists in the digital age means taking extra care in confirming and verifying news and information before posting it online especially now that social media information, whether fake or real, travels faster, even before people can make informed decisions.

This is according to Cathy Yang, a multi-awarded international journalist and currently PLDT Inc.’s first vice president and group head for corporate communications.

Yang spoke to Journalism and Communication students and instructors from different universities in Cebu during the 14th edition of SunStar Cebu’s “Reaching Out to Future Journalists” forum held virtually on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.

The forum, hosted by Cherry Ann Lim, SunStar Cebu’s managing editor, is a component of the 28th Cebu Press Freedom Week celebration from Sept. 20 to 26. For this year, SunStar has partnered with PLDT and Smart Communications to produce the forum.

Yang, in her talk, said it is better to be correct than be first and fastest in news reporting. She said the duty is on the journalist to let information be secured by going through different levels of clearances and fact-checking with no shortcuts.

Asked by a participant on how to properly deal with a backlash on social media, Yang said responding to backlash, now made possible and evident on social media, depends on varying levels.

She said she would do it by providing more information. She also advised the future journalism and communication practitioners to not lose their temperament in dealing with it.

She also said though trolls are present in digitalization, she would not advise digital news portals to close their comment sections.

She said the good thing with social media and digitalization is that the media no longer have to dictate on what people have to believe as the truth, as the public is now empowered to participate by giving real-time reactions to the information presented to them.

As to how media entities, particularly the newspaper industry, can take advantage of the digital platform by not only reaching out to people for news but also getting advertisers, Yang said it is important to establish a brand. She said if a digital news platform can establish its verified social media assets, the crowd will come and the advertisers will follow.

Yang said the transition from print to digitalization is a work in progress, but this is where the industry is headed and it is a fact that all must accept.

“We, journalists, find the best venue for our truth-telling and wherever medium it takes us, we find where the masses have come together to want to be heard and hear a voice,” she said.

As she has worked as an anchor and managing editor of the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) before joining PLDT in August, Yang also shared her experiences and the challenges she faced in reporting brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and, later on, with the denial of the network’s franchise application issue.

Yang said it was difficult enough to report on the gravity of the Covid-19 pandemic, then came the issue on their franchise renewal which was later on denied.

She said the Covid-19 pandemic has brought complex issues that do not only have an impact on health aspect, but as well as to the economy and politics and it was at that time when she felt the responsibility to inform the public at its greatest and most impactful way.

She said the onus was on a journalist to tell the truth backed up with numbers.

She also encouraged the journalists to not self-censor themselves and continue to ask the “hard questions” and not restrain themselves from knowing and presenting the truth, even in the most challenging times for journalists. This, she said, she also learned when she previously worked for a state media, the China government-run CCTV.

She said: “Carry on and ask the hard questions. Carry on and look for all sides of the story. Carry on confirming and verifying before broadcasting and sharing. Carry on because you are fair.”

Yang said the media cannot always claim to be unbiased as everyone has his own opinion. But that bias, she said, is dealt with by the kind of balanced journalism one practices in a newsroom.

There is truth to all sides of the issue and the job of the journalist is to get the versions of the truth from all sides, she added. (WBS)


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