Last 15 September 2015, the Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy (DSSP) of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) hosted the first of its seminar series entitled, A General Education (GE) Conversation with a National Leader: A Forum on Governance, Transparency, and Social Transformation, with Vice President Jejomar Binay as guest speaker. In a speech he delivered in the DL Umali Auditorium, VP Binay shared his contributions as a former mayor of Makati City and as the vice president of the country. Afterwhich was the question-and-answer portion, where VP Binay “fielded pointed and hard-hitting questions from UPLB students” for about an hour and half. The questions revolved around a variety of topics such as “political dynasties, the Mindanao peace process, agrarian reform, labor conditions, informal settlers in Makati, and transparency and accountability in government.”
News clamor over Binay’s visit to UPLB
As according to the American Press Institute, any story can be news; but not all news are newsworthy. So what made the visit of VP Binay to UPLB for a forum newsworthy? With reference to the elements of news, this event made it to news because of the following: Prominence, Timeliness, Impact, and Human Interest.
Famous names make news. In this case, name of someone with authority makes news. The event is also timely and impactful because of its relevance to the May 2016 elections and the pending corruption cases and other allegations to VP Binay and to his family. The forum is also of human interest because of its location—the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), which is one of the UP campuses of the country’s premier university. The university is known as haven of radical thought and student activism. That is why even before the day itself, the event already made the news.
I believe that the series of news (15-19 Sept) out of one event is targeted to the general public, since the elections is of national concern. But specifically, the immediate audience of the news are the youth (relating to the students) and the registered voters. The forum that had transpired and the aftermath of the forum, i.e. retelling of what had happened through online news and the social media presence of the story as generated by the participants are powerful that it could would somehow affect the target audience perceptions of VP Binay and UPLB.
One story told by many
This section of the post will analyze the story and provide different perspectives on how the news can be viewed differently by other people and groups. I looked into six (6) local online news portal that reported the news—Rappler, Inquirer.net, MB.com.ph, Philstar.com, ABS-CBN News Online, and GMA News Online, so as to see similarity and differences in the reportage.
Below are the (Fig.1) news generated about the forum from 15 to 19 September 2015 and the (Fig.2) word cloud of the news headlines.
One story told by many: On Binay
Based from the sentiments in the comment sections of online news portals, captions to Facebook shares, memes, and tweets related to the forum, Binay as a political figure gained a bad publicity out of it. I believe the dismay rooted from VP Binay’s answers—“’Di ‘ko alam ‘yan, pero okay ýan (I don’t know [about] that. But that’s okay for me.); ‘Di ‘ko function ýan (It’s not my function)” and many other vague responses which left the UPLB students unsatisfied and annoyed, as evident in trending hashtags #BinayVisitsUPLB and #BinayBwisitsUPLB.
What is the implication of this kind of publicity? We cannot really say (There may be a political agenda behind this. We cannot really verify/confirm now.) What is readily perceivable as of the moment are the negative feedback of the students about VP Binay’s answers during the forum. Judging from these, it could cause a setback on VP Binay’s ratings as a presidential candidate. On one hand, some participants saw the event as an opportunity for VP Binay to be heard. Some also expressed their appreciation of the Vice President for accommodating the students’ questions for an hour and a half. And this could somehow affect VP Binay’s campaign positively.
One story told by many: On UPLB
Another hashtag that trended was #ABSCBNSaySorryToUPLB. This is in response to ABS-CBN’s erroneous report on the event. On their original report entitled VP Binay felt disrespected in UPLB forum (published on 16 September), it was mentioned that VP Binay was “reportedly offguard by the questions of students. Also, it was reported that before the open forum, the students shouted “Trapo (or TRAditional POliticians; used to describe people with family members running the government; usually connotes negative image)” to VP Binay.
The report is said to inflict negative perception of UPLB students as “unmannered” and of “low breeding.” It then gained violent reactions from the students of the university, saying that ABS-CBN is “unethical,” and practices sensationalism over correct facts. Quoting from the UPLB Student Council official statement via Twitter, “it is insulting and is unacceptable for the part of the Iskolar ng Bayan to be wrongly portrayed by ABS-CBN’s recently published articles.”
On 19 September, the Broadcast Company issued a statement saying that they have misheard “sample” to “Trapo,” and rest assured that disciplinary actions would be implemented. The article with the title VP Binay felt disrespected in UPLB forum was changed to VP Binay: I enjoyed UPLB forum.
A similar erroneous report happened on 25 February 2014, where the same Broadcast Company reported that there is a “mysterious flesh-eating disease” in Pangasinan. Going back to the elements of news, this story was considered newsworthy because of its “shock” factor. It could also qualify as a human interest story since the flesh-eating disease to hit Pangasinan was said to be predicted by an Indian prophet, Bro. Vincent Selvakumar, with translation by Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj.
It was later learned by the Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino, Jr. that “many tourists going to Hundred Islands cancelled their reservations in hotels and inns, thus causing a drain in the local’s incomes.”
ABS-CBN later retract their report. But on a statement released on 2 March 2014, the local government of Pangasinan is requesting the company to “go beyond apologizing; and to use its reach to help repair the damage to the province’s reputation, tourism, and fish industries.”
The news discussed in this blog post adhere to MacDonald’s (2006, as cited by Finn & Palis, 2015; 2) statement, that “in this emergent age of digital media, the omnipresence of (increasingly digital) media, and the content that it delivers, has a radical impact on our individual and collective geographical understanding.” We saw digital media, in this case, social media and online news shape our perception of VP Binay as a politician and as a presidential candidate, and UPLB as an academic institution. With reference to Marshall McLuhan (1964, as cited by Finn & Palis, 2015; 1), the medium is the message. In this case, the news [unintentionally] creates a false impression or image on a pressing issue (Forum) or person (VP Binay)/group of people (UPLB students) or geographic location (UPLB/Pangasinan). These are proofs of the “power of medium to broadly contribute to our geographical imaginations and thus frame and even shape our future actions (Finn & Palis, 2015; 6).”
It was also evident here that apart from the forum, the feedback as generated by the students and readers of the articles via comment section and social networking sites also made the news (#BinayBwisitsUPLB: Students take to Twitter to criticize Binay; #ABSCBNSaySorryToUPLB Among top trends in PH; Broadcast firm apologizes; #BinayBwisitsUPLB generates stinging remarks about Binay). We can say then that apart from affecting our perception of the news, our practice of newsmaking and our criteria on what qualifies as newsworthy are evolving due to the advent of the digital media.
Recognizing the media’s power over representation and dissemination of information, we should consider adopting Hay and Israel’s (2000; 120-121) newsmaking geography mindset. As they noted, “[g]eographers can never expect to dominate public discourses but they can engage with journalists in knowledge creation as part of a commitment to critical societal reform (122).”
UPLB, (16 September 2015). VP Binay is first guest speaker at DSS forum series. http://uplb.edu.ph/index.php/component/k2/item/371-vp-binay-is-first-guest-speaker-at-dss-forum-series)
(16 September 2015). Students Roast Binay at UPLB Forum: “Wala naming ganyanan. http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/105995-students-roast-binay-transparency-forum?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=referral
Binay: I enjoyed UPLB Form. No offense taken. http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/106079-binay-uplb-no-offense?utm_content=bufferf11dc&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
#BinayBwisitsUPLB: Students take to Twitter to criticize Binay. http://www.rappler.com/technology/social-media/105991-binaybwisitsuplb-trending-twitter-binay-uplb
VP Binay: Dynasties don’t cause poverty. http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/106000-binay-dynasties-do-not-cause-poverty?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=referral
(19 September 2015). ABS-CBN News Apologizes to UPLB for inaccurate report. http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/106450-abscbn-apology-uplb-trend?utm_content=buffer2e0c1&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Philippine Daily Inquirer
(16 Sept 2015). Binay faces tough, quizzical students in UPLB forum. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/722392/binay-doggedly-face-tough-quizzical-students-in-uplb-forum
(17 Sept 2015). Binay prefers college forum to facing Senate (17 Sept). http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/722752/binay-prefers-college-forum-to-facing-senate
(9 Sept 2015). Binay apologizes to UPLB students over erroneous Binay stories. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/723611/abs-cbn-apologizes-to-uplb-students-over-erroneous-binay-stories#ixzz3mAnvvce0
USC open letter to ABS CBN– https://twitter.com/UPLBUSC/status/644922510333489152/photo/1
(16 Sept 2015). Binay cool with UPLB jeers. http://www.mb.com.ph/binay-cool-with-uplb-jeers/
(19 Sept 2015). #ABSCBNSaySorryToUPLB Among top trends in PH; Broadcast firm apologizes. http://www.mb.com.ph/abscbnsaysorrytouplb-among-top-trends-in-ph-broadcast-firm-apologizes/
(16 Sept 2015). #BinayBwisitsUPLB generates stinging remarks about Binay. http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/2015/09/16/1500461/binaybwisitsuplb-generates-stinging-remarks-about-binay
Binay respects sentiments of UPLB sentiments. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/09/17/1500734/binay-respects-sentiments-uplb-students
(16 Sept 2015) VP Binay tackles questions of UPLB students. http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/537014/news/nation/vp-binay-tackles-questions-of-uplb-students
VP Binay says he enjoyed heated forum at UPLB. http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/537200/news/nation/vp-binay-says-he-enjoyed-heated-forum-at-uplb
(16 Sept 2015). VP Binay: I enjoyed UPLB Forum. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/09/17/15/vp-binay-felt-disrespected-uplb-forum-0
LOOK: The UPLB Students who dared to ask Binay. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/09/16/15/look-uplb-students-who-dared-ask-binay
Binay was not heckled, claimed Roque. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/09/16/15/how-binay-felt-after-being-grilled-uplb-forum
VP Binay jeered in UPLB Forum. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/09/15/15/binay-jeered-uplb-forum
(2 March 2014). Sorry not enough: Pangasinan says ABS-CBN must repair damage from ‘flesh-eating disease’ story. http://www.interaksyon.com/article/81849/sorry-not-enough–pangasinan-says-network-must-repair-damage-from-flesh-eating-disease-story