Highlighting the intersection of science and journalism having a systematic process to arrive at the truth, GMA News Anchor Alfonso Tomas “Atom” Araullo asserted that balance and impartiality only describe journalistic methods and not the journalists themselves as ‘truth is never neutral.’
In a webinar ”Campus Press in times of Pandemic” held July 25, Araullo said that journalists cannot be objective as they make decisions about the stories all the time, from deciding what topics to write to the angling of the story. For him, the only objective is the method of verification.
“Impartial, neutral, and balanced might describe the method of verification and investigation, but being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism. The final result is never impartial or neutral because there is only one objective truth and the truth is never neutral,” the UP Diliman BS in Applied Physics alumnus asserted.
Aside from discussing objectivity as an important intellectual foundation in science and journalism, Araullo also distinguished science and journalism in terms of accuracy in obtaining truths.
“In science, it is about getting accurate results through scientific inquiry in order to uncover objective truth. In journalism naman, it’s about [getting] accurate information through a process of investigation and verification in order to arrive at the ‘practical and functional’ form of truth,” he said.
“It is not a truth in the absolute or philosophical sense but rather a pursuit of the truths by which we can operate on a day to day basis.”
Discipline of verification
Araullo reminded the participants that as budding journalists, they must uphold transparency, humility, and originality, which are the three core concepts of discipline of verification.
He urged them to prohibit their audience from being swayed by the acts of omission through being transparent to the readers.
“Tell the audience who your sources are. It also signals a journalist’s respect for the audience”
Underscoring humility and originality, the news anchor told the participants to avoid arrogance on their knowledge, and at the same time, do their own work and verify their sources.
‘A force to be reckoned with’
The news anchor stressed that media organizations having sensationalized, taken-out-of-context, and even inaccurate stories, and even being susceptible to business pressures, are weaknesses that “bad actors prey upon to delegitimize media and journalism in general.”
However, Araullo noted that this is where the role of the campus press comes in as they have ‘energy and dynamism as their biggest weapon’ and are ‘unencumbered by market forces.’
“Your integrity and purpose as part of the youth sector is unblemished and as representatives of respected communities, you become a force to be reckoned with.”
Meanwhile, co-panelist and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Chairperson Nonoy Espina asserted that the campus press should continue what it has been doing since the Marcos regime.
“Ang campus press ay isa sa naging major pulse sa pagbuo ng tinatawag na mosquito press … ‘yong mosquito press na ‘yun ang naging hudyat ng pagbabalik ng malayang pamamahayag at ang laki ng papel ng malayang pamamahayag sa pagbagsak ng diktaturya,” Espina said.
He added, “Kung ano ‘yong papel niyo noon, siya pa rin dapat ang papel niyo ngayon, siya pa rin dapat ang papel namin — ang paglalathala ng katotohanan at napapanahong balita’t impormasyon.”
In his conclusion, Espina expressed his hopes that campus journalists will “be biased for the truth and for the good of their audience—their studentry, schools, families, communities, and the Filipino people.”
Handling attacks on press
Another guest speaker, Rappler journalist Pia Ranada shared about her experiences of being harassed and threatened in the course of her career.
She first experienced troll attacks after writing critical articles on President Duterte’s statements from the campaign onwards.
“I received many rape and murder threats … even my facebook, they reached my facebook so I had to change the privacy because they were already attacking my family members so it got very bad to the point that even my company even had to assign me my own vehicle,” Ranada shared.
In public places, Ranada stays vigilant and always on guard since the people she encounters might have hostile intentions.
“Another thing I’ve noticed to myself doing is being more conscious and more aware of what I do and how I behave in public .. having extra precautions with my phones and laptops.”
Moreover, Ranada encouraged the participants not to cower and be silent when attacked.
“Maraming media outlets na they feel small or they fear to be identified as opposition but for us, we embraced what happened to us–that we became targeted, because in a way that [the situation] affirms our journalism and we really try to rally our supporters behind that idea that we are fearless journalists and if you support us, we will provide you with even more fearless journalism,” she concluded.
The said webinar was conducted by the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) in celebration of its 89th founding anniversary and National Campus Press Freedom Day.