ON June 15, veteran photojournalist Froilan Gallardo did something that no fake-news reporter in his right mind would do: Apologize.
Gallardo apologized, in Facebook, because he had made a mistake. Actually, the Philippine National Police did, and Gallardo reported it, but he was sorry anyway. Gallardo’s complete post: “PNP retracted earlier statement that they arrested the youngest sibling of the Maute Brothers in Macasandig this morning. They said they arrested a relative and one of the bombers of Maxandrea hotel years ago. My apologies.” [I’ve edited his “my” to “My”.]
I posted Gallardo’s statement in my Facebook and explained that his act is what makes him a real journalist. It is consistent with newspaper tradition.
Journalism is “literature in a hurry” and mistakes happen. To prevent readers from being misled by wrong information, editors would print a correction and an apology in a small note called “erratum”. This has to be done quickly. It has to appear the following day if the newspaper is daily, because it is dangerous for readers to make decisions based on errors.
Journalism is a tough discipline. It’s a four-year course. What journalists do is get and report facts, not just provide information. But since the advent of mIRC some of us have been made to believe that text messaging and chat are the same as news reporting. The journalists are media. We have social media accounts. Therefore, we must be journalists.
Mocha Uson has never apologized for spreading fake news. In fairness to her, she doesn’t claim to be a journalist anyway. We know what she did with photos of Honduras, Brazil and Vietnam so I won’t belabor the point. But let me describe my experience with ThinkingPinoy website.
Days before the election, ThinkingPinoy attacked the alleged claim of presidential candidate Mar Roxas that he had a master’s degree at Wharton. The reference of ThinkingPinoy was Wikileaks. But when I checked Wikileaks, I discovered that the US ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney, had made such a description of Roxas, but Roxas himself didn’t. What Roxas earned was an undergrad degree from Wharton.
So, I wrote to ThinkingPinoy, hoping the error would be corrected. But I didn’t receive a reply. No apologies were published. The article with the misleading information simply vanished.
Why do people like Uson, ThinkingPinoy, and other purveyors of fake news, not acknowledge their mistakes? Only they can tell. But I have theories. They were probably not raised well by their mothers. Second, everything is so fluid in the internet. You print something, you can delete it, unless someone has pressed the PrintScreen. Third, who cares?
(Elson T. Elizaga studied creative writing and journalism in Silliman University. Among his jobs was researcher at De La Salle University, and information officer of the Department of Trade and Industry of Region 10.)