Presenting facts and their context through the discipline of verification is among a journalist’s long list of duties. So when “journalists” resort to transcription and call it “journalism,” they help peddle propaganda or abet disinformation, a clear disservice to the public and the profession of truth-telling.

Contrary to diehards of President Duterte who defended Joseph Morong for merely transcribing in toto the former’s vicious tirades against Vice President Leni Robredo, the broadcast journalist wasn’t practicing neutrality. He wasn’t refraining from taking the side of either leader. He was simply not doing his job. He violated the foremost requirement in journalism: separating chaff from grain, lie from truth. In effect, he wasn’t neutral. By helping peddle the lies of Duterte, he was taking his side. He was taking the side of liars.

While it was not surprising to hear cock and bull from the President, it was alarming to see journalists irresponsibly and plainly reporting his lies without providing necessary fact-checking and context.

On that same night, the GMA reporter was burned at the stake for live-tweeting—without fact-checking—Duterte’s false claims against Robredo. To some extent, what Morong did was not wrong; he was merely stating what had happened and what Duterte had said. However, even a neophyte journalist would know how problematic and irresponsible merely parroting Duterte’s defamatory declarations is—especially in AT a time when disinformation is rampant.

Former Varsitarian editor in chief Christian Esguerra put it very well when he said that when a journalist descends into the simple job of transcription, he “surrenders his role as a journalist.” It is true. INDEED, journalists should be more critical with the information they handle.

Parroting lies without providing context can cause misinterpretation and can be easily weaponized by spin doctors to mislead the public for personal and political agendas. Have we not learned yet from the dangerous disinformation campaign peddled by the assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office?

In their book “The Elements of Journalism,” American journalists Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel said journalism’s first obligation is to the truth. “Good decision-making depends on people having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context,” they said.

The concept of “journalistic truth,” they said, is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. The American Press Institute adds to this: “As citizens encounter an ever-greater flow of data, they have more need – not less – for suppliers of information dedicated to finding and verifying the news and putting it in context.”

Journalists should stick to one common goal, which is similar to the Dominican motto: Laudare, benedicere, praedicare. Parapharsing the slogan, the journalist’s job is to check disinformation and ferret out the truth, while praising and preaching it.

In these trying times, a “journalist” should not be mere mouthpieces of an administration that has attained quite a notoriety for engineering lies and deception. Duterte already has the almighty Palace spokesman Harry Roque and the trolls of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. People like Morong should not add themselves up to the troll farm of the President while carrying the pressman’s badge. We need journalists and truth-seekers, not pretenders and Palace interlopers.


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