Flagging Bandila (1/3)

I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts or to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis.

– The Journalist’s Code of Ethics, No. 1

ABS-CBN News was possibly doing a sufficiently fair coverage of the inter-faith rally against the RH bill last Friday. George Cariño was doing his report next to the stage, and Korina Sanchez was in her “tent” in front of the grandstand, serving as one of TV Patrol‘s news readers.

At least they reported on the rally, I thought, unlike before.

And then Bandila aired.

No, I wasn’t able to catch the report live. I was at the rally, standing for more than five hours, and just dropped dead to bed when I reached home. It was only this afternoon that I got to watch Jenny Reyes’s “Rosales, Velarde take swipes at RH bill supporters” on abs-cbnnews.com.

Innards tumbled. The clip forced me to conclude that Bandila’s producers would do anything to sow discord and discredit the pro-life block, even at the expense of high quality reportage.

The gists of the report were:

  1. Not everyone in the rally understood the RH bill.
  2. Cardinal Rosales was unfairly maligning Carlos Celdran.
  3. Bro. Mike Velarde verbally hit at those who already left the rally when he began speaking right after the Mass.

As for (1), it is true — as true as the fact that not everyone in pro-choice rallies know what they are rallying for. Like some pro-life supporters, they too have not even read the bill.

Indeed, both camps have their share of ignorance among their members. That ignorance is even more shameful to the camp that claims to be for “informed choice.”

But how come we’ve never heard news about pro-choice supporters who are largely ignorant of the bill’s contents? And isn’t it unfair that Bandila did not even look for ordinary pro-life advocates who, on the other hand, truly know what they stood for — even if merely for an appearance of journalistic civility?

Again, this seems like ABS-CBN’s (or just Bandila’s?) non-dissemination of relevant information, effectively depriving us of the larger truth and of justice.

[To be continued]

Advertisements

The problem with surveys (and those who report them)

I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts or to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis.

Journalist’s Code of Ethics, No. 1


by Dexter MC

Short lesson on reporting surveys

There are clear-cut rules on how to do news reports that will use survey data as its primary source of information. Any journalist would know that the data must be interpreted correctly, and that this interpretation must properly be delivered to the audience without any distortion.

Also, journalists must keep in mind that not all surveys can be used to make news reports. Obviously, not all surveys are credible, and the media does not have the time and space to report all the surveys being conducted everyday.

Credibility of a survey is first judged by the credibility of its conductor, which should not be perceived as biased. The conductor of the survey should not gain anything from the result of the survey, because even a small interest would taint the result.

Once ascertained that the survey is credible enough, that is, it was conducted by a neutral organization, the journalist can then start making a news report. But even then, the journalist should still be careful because, as previously pointed out, there are clear-cut rules on how to do this.

Elements that should not be missing in a news report based on a survey are:

  1. The dates when the survey was conducted, and the places where it was conducted. – These are important because it would give the audience an idea on how big the survey was.
  2. The number of the people surveyed, and how they were chosen – Was the sample divided by age, race, sex, and other categories?
  3. A short summary on how the survey was conducted – Were the people surveyed given a questionnaire? Were they interviewed face-to-face? Were they interviewed by phone?
  4. Contributing factors that may have affected the survey – For instance, a survey of the ranking of presidential candidates may be affected by news of one candidate’s alleged corruption that is currently being reported in the media.

There are other elements, but those listed above are the most important. Without them, the report comes out without any semblance of credibility.

ABS-CBN’s vague, old news

There’s a problem, therefore, with Timi Nubla’s “exclusive” report on ABS-CBN’s Bandila, aired on October 7. The whole report, titled “More Filipinos use contraceptives,” can be seen here:

According to the report, a women’s health NGO named Likhaan Center conducted the “new” survey in 2008. Survey results said 5 out of 10 Filipino women already use contraceptives. The number is increasing slowly because non-contraceptive users have apprehensions, including the fear of the contraceptives’ side effects, confidence that the “natural method” will work, and that contraceptives are expensive.

Next, Nubla quoted Likhaan Center: “Maliit na porsyento na lamang ng mga Pilipino ang apektado sa opinyon ng Simbahang Katolika sa paggamit ng contraceptives. Pero malaki pa rin ang impluwensiya nito sa mga pulitiko, kung kaya’t hindi ito maisulong o maipatupad.

There are many faults in this report. One, it makes great importance to the data from Likhaan Center, who did the survey obviously for its own gains. Likhaan Center, as the report said, is a “women’s health NGO.” Therefore, any of its surveys should be treated with great doubt.

The lack of survey elements in the report greatly increase this doubt. How was the survey conducted, and who were the subjects? When and where was it conducted? Were the subjects taken from the slums or from affluent families, and were they all women? Of what age? How many were interviewed? What is the survey method used?

The way Bandila handled the report was also malicious. Nubla said the survey is new or “bago,” when it was taken in 2008. The survey data said there were “5 out of 10 Filipino women” who use contraceptives, posing a great disparity to the report’s title “More Filipinos use contraceptives.” One, “Filipino women” cannot be equated to Filipinos in general. Two, it is improper to say there are “more” users of contraceptives than non-users when the data arrived at only half—5 out of 10 is not more, it means there are also 5 out of 10 who do not use contraceptives.

And since the survey method was not explained well, Nubla’s quote from Likhaan Center—“Maliit na porsyento na lamang ng mga Pilipino ang apektado sa opinyon ng Simbahang Katolika sa paggamit ng contraceptives. Pero malaki pa rin ang impluwensiya nito sa mga pulitiko, kung kaya’t hindi ito maisulong o maipatupad.”—smacks of incredulity. Was this conclusion taken from the survey, too? How?

All in all, the report from Bandila should not be taken seriously, because it was based on a survey that is not credible to begin with. In the pursuit of a good scoop or exclusive, journalists should not forget that their main role is to educate the public, not to misinform and malign them.

Dexter MC writes for a living. He is fascinated by social media, web trends, law, literature, and politics.