Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Luie Tito Guia encouraged journalists covering the lead up to the May 2022 elections to report from a “voter-centered perspective.”
Guia, who founded the Democratic Insights Group upon his retirement from the poll body, said journalists should scrutinize issues through the lens of ordinary citizens.
Guia was concerned that election stories are reported like entertainment, where coverage is focused on personalities and slogans, and candidates dictate the election discourse.
“Sometimes we cover elections as if we’re covering a basketball game…. What I’m saying is parang entertainment ang coverage natin sa election more than what it is supposed to be,” said Guia. His observation was based on media’s coverage of the festivities during the filing of certificates of candidacy in October.
There was no emphasis on the “programmatic distinction” among candidates, Guia said.
“Hindi ba pwedeng ipilit natin sa kanila kung ano ang dapat nilang pag-usapan in terms of good governance? Pilitin natin silang sumagot sa mga katanungang relevant sa kanilang magiging trabaho (Can’t we frame the reporting so that candidates would be forced to address issues related to good governance? Compel them to answer questions relevant to the positions they are running for)," he said.
Guia spoke at the Second National Conference on Investigative Journalism, during a breakout session on covering elections, where he was joined by Philippine Daily Inquirer associate publisher Juliet Javellana and Iloilo-based Daily Guardian editor-in-chief Francis Allan Angelo. (READ: PH media, civil society, and academe gather in virtual IJ conference ahead of 2022 polls)
The virtual conference gathered over 200 members of the Philippine media, civil society, and the academe. The conference organized by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism featured seven sets of a total of 21 breakout sessions. (Check for the schedule of conference sessions here.)
Javellana encouraged media organizations and reporters to bring their reporting to the wider public. She said in-depth reports by the mainstream media often resonate only to policymakers.
“When we come up with investigative and in-depth reports, it’s like we’re preaching to the choir. But the masses who account for the majority of the voters are on Tiktok, Facebook, and YouTube,” Javellana said.
“For us – the media – to empower people with information, we also need to go there, to the platforms where we can find them,” she said.
In the coming elections, Javellana said journalists should focus on critical issues such as pandemic recovery, urgent reforms in the health and education sectors, and the use of public resources in campaigning.
Angelo raised practical concerns about the risks and challenges that journalists face during the pandemic.
“No story is worth being hurt for,” he said. “If we could find another way of reporting it without endangering ourselves, then we should do it.”
Angelo also stressed the importance of collaboration with universities and other media outlets to exchange ideas on election coverage and vet information that may otherwise be challenging to verify.
In July, over 400 journalists signed a pledge to empower voters in the coming elections by providing accurate, reliable and essential information that will encourage public discussion and debate. The journalists had since formed the Wag Kukurap media coalition.
— PCIJ, November 2021