Forgive and never forget

THE Christopher Lao incident is among the stuff we want to forgive and never forget.

“Forgive”, because Lao was not in the best disposition to be interviewed by media at that time. And his apparently choleric temperament was definitely no help. Reason could have impelled him to refuse being interviewed, but emotions seized him.

“Forgive”, because GMA News reporter Jun Veneracion and his colleagues possibly had a good laugh themselves, contemplating Mr. Lao’s fateful outburst. For a report that “sought to highlight the hazards of traveling through a flooded metropolis,” the extended airing of Lao’s garbled answers to Veneracion seemed uncalled for and vaguely hinted some malice.

“Forgive”, because GMA News is doing something to clean up the mess made out of its own report.

“Forgive”, because the bullies and haters did what they did, disregarding the circumstances surrounding the event and the way the report was presented. (Frankly I could somehow side with Lao, who said one couldn’t really be totally sure if the murky water is already very deep. I used to live near the flooded area, and sometimes, because of the road’s slow descent, one may think the road plateaus in the middle.)

“Forgive”, because “Think Before You Click” proposes a big and noble dream, which individuals and groups (especially media networks) simply must struggle to actualize. Sensationalism and pride are our fierce enemies here.

“Forgive”, because Lao already issued an apology and he deserves the privacy and time to heal the wounds the entire controversy caused him.

And “never forget”, because the incident is inundated with lessons.

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Think before you click, indeed

IT’S timely, relevant, important.

GMA News’ “Think Before You Click” campaign is probably the best (or only?) media literacy campaign on the digital life which — I daresay — can even save lives. It advocates responsible use of social media — an attitude critical in a time when information dissemination at a personal level is already quick and easy.

The Economist described our times well: with social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook (and now Google+ enters the scene), the world is back to the coffee house of 1700s America. Information is floating in the din of the pub; sometimes nobody knows where the information comes from, but it’s there, free for redistribution.

“Think Before You Click” simply reminds social media users to be wary about what they post on their bulletins or feeds; the information they post just might be used to harm them. Think the forgetful, grumpy employee who badmouths the boss who happens to be one of his Twitter followers. And the trigger-happy lass who takes photos of her house and posts it on Facebook, available for public ogling by robbers and kidnappers. Sad.

But that’s just one side of the campaign. “Think Before You Click” is primarily a reminder against unfair and maleficent use of social media. What do you do to a tweet informing you about an acquaintance’s supposed scandalous misdeed? RT? Indeed, people now should also get the ideal journalist’s nose for truth. One has to measure the veracity of tweets first before retweeting them, especially when they are about people — and especially when one has hundreds of followers. And we’re talking about information on private people here, non-celebs who have no claim to nor dream of fame, ordinary people who want to be let alone.

One big minus to GMA News’ campaign, however, is its inclusion of Carlos Celdran as a model of responsible social media use. While a talented person, Mr. Celdran is among the most rabid anti-Catholic social media users, some of whose tweets and retweets were far from fair to the people involved.

Then again, we as ordinary news consumers, should also throw back the “think before you click” mantra at GMA News and other members of the “media elite” (thanks to Arnel Endrinal for the term): Think before you click “Publish”. And, especially when your piece is so “explosive” that certain actually-important details might have disappeared into the background, think twice.

GMA News Online wins award and deserves it

GMA NEWS ONLINE recently bagged the “Special Citation for New Media Approaches” in the Rotary Club of Manila Journalism Awards.

It was bound to happen.

GMA News Online is certainly imperfect in different ways (as this blog, for example, pointed out several times). But one has to commend how it is making information more accessible and interesting to satisfy the increasingly tech-savvy, and info-hungry Filipino.

At the top of my mind is how the site used Google applications to aid the search and rescue operations in the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. Arguably one of the finest projects of online public service in the country.

Another is how the site keeps its “face” easy to the eyes. Ample white space and gray gradients are such subtle eyecandies. Overall, the homepage is easy to navigate.

And don’t forget hailing Manix Abrera’s comic strip on the tragedy and comedy that is the life of a reporter.

And the site’s commenting system is friendly, unlike that of ABS-CBN.

To the staff of GMA News Online: keep up the good work, and get rid of the bad ones! 🙂