Palmes-Dennis: Mainstream media under siege

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina -- Perhaps never at any point in human history has the media industry been scrutinized, criticized and admired in their seemingly never-ending work to ensure a free, informed and open society.

This situation is not only true here in the US but also in my country of birth the Philippines. The media industry is under fire and it's a disturbing reality of the times.

Days ago the 45th president of the US Donald Trump announced that he was giving “Fake News” awards to various media outlets for supposedly reporting fake news about developments at the White House.

I wonder when President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines would also give awards like this to the national media industry. But both Duterte and Trump already declared war on mainstream media or at least those whom they believe to be manufacturing “fake news” or negative press coverage against them.

But unlike Trump, Duterte's style is lethal as shown by the revocation of the certificate of registration and incorporation of the online media news site Rappler by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

This was tantamount to muzzling of the press and no amount of denial from Duterte that he had anything to do with it will work. Malacañang's handwriting on the Rappler case is evident and clear.

Anyway, we'll talk about it another day as our business today is about Fake News.
I heard about fake news here in the US when it was popularized by President Trump.

It may have been used in the past but it had not become popular until Trump used it. It is claimed that media plays an important role in ensuring a free, open and informed society and those founding fathers may be astonished as to how it had grown over the years.

For the past eight years I’ve been watching cable TV and regular channels and listening to the radio and saw how mainstream media—both conservative and liberal—handle news coverages and I have to admit there are slants or biases in favor of a party, belief or person.

I also read newspapers and online news websites. I noticed that US mainstream media monitors each other and any opposing views would be discussed in earnest in their programs or pages.

In the Philippines the Philippine media's finest moment was the first People Power revolution that resulted to the ouster of the late president Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies and led to the election of the late president Cory Aquino and the creation of the 1986 Constitutional Convention that formed the 1987 Constitution.

From there the media waged a relentless crusade for clean government and the euphoria of being free had rubbed off on the public who monitored exposes on the corruption of officials.

This nightmarish development for politicians caused them to fight back by hiring public relations experts who helped them deodorize their reputations. The national media at the time also got help from the academe in professionalizing their ranks in order to weed out the corrupt and the incompetent.

In the US maybe a lot of media practitioners are lawyers or journalism graduates which is why the mainstream media is so diverse and exceptional.

There is no denying that the media industry functions as a business and any altruistic pursuit of the truth is maybe secondary. I have yet to find one outlet that would more programming and less commercials since advertisements remain its lifeblood.

My husband Ronnie Dennis would rather watch Netflix than regular TV programs because of the commercials. And the same is true in the Philippines.

There no denying that there are excesses in the press. The Fourth Estate is not spared from corruption, issues and elsewhere. There are those who claim that today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by media.

There are also those who ask what is the truth and what is accurate. Which brings us to the “Fake News” awards handed out by Trump to media outlets like the New York Times whom he accused of falsely reporting that he ordered the removal of the bust of the Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.

He also gave the fake news award to Washington Post for supposedly lying about the absence of a crowd in a rally in Pensacola, Florida. CNN was also awarded for retracting a story about Anthony Scamucci's meeting with Russian officials.

In print, the likelihood of false news is low since editors have a longer deadline and more time to verify facts with reporters or do a double check themselves.

Broadcast is a different story since reports in the field are hard to filter and news production teams are in a constant race to outscoop rivals. News junkies or those versed in mainstream media whether in the US or the Philippines can easily spot the fake news being spread in social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Being a former media practitioner, I can confidently say that a true journalist won't spread fake news though there may be instances of wrong information and bad evaluation which are unintentional on their part.

Unfortunately a lot of people aren't so savvy and would readily believe fake news that more often than not are geared towards propaganda in favor of the powers that be. Is there an algorithm that can double check and expose false/fake news?

I don't know but fake news should not only be stopped but banned outright in social media. I still believe that even a free-wheeling, transparent and accessible mainstream media is better than one that is suppressed, harassed and silenced.

Under a free and truly democratic society, the public can choose whom and what they believe in and dealing with fake news can be done at one's fingertips.
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