MahB: T.V.


Esquire (Philippines) - - CONTENTS - BY JONTY CRUZ

Is this the death knell for the fourth es­tate?

Say it isn’t so.

If you come across the end of TV Pa­trol th­ese days, you will be greeted by a man dressed in a suit of var­ied ab­surd colors mov­ing from side to side, wig­gling his legs along­side an an­i­mated Christ­mas elf. This is the face of our lo­cal news to­day. Is it any won­der, then, why we are the way we are? When the news is treated as a joke, how are we sup­posed to understand ev­ery­thing that is hap­pen­ing around us?

Watch­ing the lo­cal news is an or­deal, a chal­lenge to even the most pa­tient and rea­son­able of peo­ple. TV Pa­trol most es­pe­cially is the per­fect ex­am­ple of the cur­rent state of news with its im­por­tance on ig­no­rant pun­ditry dis­guised as re­portage, it’s em­pha­sis on CCTV news, and show­case of “cit­i­zen jour­nal­ism.” Broad­cast jour­nal­ism is dead, and in its place is an ugly hy­dra of clowns, gos­sip­mon­gers, and panic push­ers; a.k.a. Noli De Cas­tro, Ted Failon, and which­ever un­lucky woman they put be­tween them. Their suc­cess lies solely in their fa­mil­iar­ity. They’ve been news an­chors for so long that their faces equate to news it­self. De Cas­tro and Failon know just how much power and in­flu­ence they have, and they use it to push what­ever agenda they have that day. Prime­time news has be­come pun­dit hour for peo­ple like them, the news play­ing sec­ond fiddle to their opin­ions. They’ve warped TV jour­nal­ism into a twisted re­al­ity talk show where their views shape the news.

I’d like to be­lieve that this form of stu­pid­ity is an iso­lated case but TV Pa­trol’s cur­rent state is only a symp­tom of a greater dis­ease. No one is im­mune to the de­cline of the fourth es­tate. Our main­stream broad­sheets for in­stance read like glo­ri­fied tabloids. Our pa­pers, once owned by pi­o­neers of lo­cal jour­nal­ism, are now un­der the con­trol of big busi­ness, or are be­ing run to the ground by un­de­serv­ing heirs. And in their wan­ing mo­ments and days of twi­light, they choose not to fight the sys­tem. They are con­tent to merely fade away.

But the state of me­dia to­day can’t be blamed on a few old igno- rant men. It’s re­shaped to cater to a new gen­er­a­tion that prefers eas­ily di­gested, bite-size con­tent. To­day, in­stead of hav­ing a ded­i­cated team of in­ves­tiga­tive and long-form jour­nal­ists, they em­ploy savvy so­cial me­dia ex­perts who con­dense the news into 140 char­ac­ters. The me­dia to­day is re­ac­tive. They wait on their asses, fin­gers rest­ing on key­boards as they wait for the next break­ing news to drop.

The fourth es­tate used to be more than this. They didn’t an­swer to any­one ex­cept the truth. To­day they an­swer to money, or worse, celebrity. To their de­fense, if you ask any­one in me­dia to­day, most will say that they are only giv­ing the au­di­ence what they want. But what the au­di­ence wants isn’t al­ways what it needs. The news has be­come fast food. Yes it’s be­come more avail­able but it now caters to the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tion, and los­ing all its mean­ing and value in the process. Look at any news web­site to­day and 90 per­cent of it is fluff and half-baked. Ex­cus­ing ac­tual con­tent for the prom­ise of clicks.

As­pir­ing jour­nal­ists to­day must now forget all the prin­ci­ples and val­ues they learned in J-school in fa­vor of dumb­ing down their con­tent for hits. Be­cause at the end of the day, big money and ad­ver­tis­ers don’t care about ac­tual news or re­spon­si­ble re­port­ing—they only care about hits. Of course this pales in com­par­i­son to me­dia be­ing sup­planted by celebrity. Th­ese days, it’s the celebrity that reigns supreme. The fourth es­tate now caters to the whims of the lat­est star­let or love team or It Girl in­stead of hold­ing its ground on some­thing far more con­crete than fame. Once cred­i­ble news or­ga­ni­za­tions are now be­ing forced to re­struc­ture them­selves to look more like TMZ whether they care to ad­mit it or not. It’s be­come so com­mon­place that most pub­li­ca­tions now are too in­se­cure to try any­thing new and just rely on the com­fort that “celebrity al­ways sells,” never oc­cur­ring to them that this in­dus­try wasn’t built to sell celebri­ties in the first place. Me­dia be­comes as shal­low and as fleet­ing as the very peo­ple they fol­low.

Jour­nal­ism shouldn’t go calmly into the night. Old jour­nal­ism, real jour­nal­ism, stood for some­thing that new me­dia will never understand. Jour­nal­ism is its own goal, the ex­is­tence of a wor­thy story more valu­able than any num­ber of clicks or shares. It doesn’t need to be vi­ral, or en­veloped in the cast off shine of celebrity. There’s al­ready so much stupid in the world; jour­nal­ism shouldn’t be one of them.

Old jour­nal­ism, real jour­nal­ism, stood for some­thing that new me­dia will never understand.

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