Friday, January 5, 2007

Media bias and the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Every morning after taking a shower and getting changed, I head out of my apartment and take a 5-minute walk to the main road where I can get a jeepney to work. Along the way I usually take a quick glance at the sidewalk newspaper vendor to check out the headline of the Philippine Star. Once I get to the office lobby, I check the newspapers there to see the headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

For quite a long time I would have preferred the Inquirer to other broadsheet newspapers — I'm not sure exactly what the reason for this preference was, perhaps I assumed that being the most widely-circulated newspaper in the country would mean that they had a smidgen more integrity and professionalism then their competitors. But lately I have become more and more aware of of media bias, and the more I think about it the more blatant it appears to be. (Maybe Ateneo can take credit for hammering an emphasis on critical thinking into my mind.)

See today's headlines for instance:
  • Star: RP seeks review of VFA
  • Inquirer: 'Palace took law into own hands'
Which of these two headlines presents the facts and makes you better informed? And which one of them spins the facts towards the direction of stoking the flames of discontent?

Sitting around in the office all day yesterday gave me a lot of time to check up on the news regularly, and the Star's headline is the type I'd expect and hope to see. MalacaƱang suggesting the the VFA be reviewed, and possibly amended, seemed to me to be the most important news event of the day, and the Star presents the fact upfront the way it is.

The Inquirer's headline, on the other hand, is hardly even news, it's a conclusion that readers are supposed to make on their own. It's a quotation, but the headline only barely presents it as one. Looking at the main article objectively, I don't see how else they could have come up with a headline like that unless they had a sensationalist agenda.

The Inquirer has a responsibility to promote a neutral point of view, especially because they are the most widely read (and likely most influential) newspaper out there. A newspaper should assert facts, including facts about opinions — but should not assert opinions themselves. If a reader can determine an editor's bias, then that editor is not doing his proper job as a reporter. Putting quotation marks around an opinion and calling it a headline does not make it news.

These days one of the main reasons I'd look into the Inquirer is for the same (sole) reason I'd watch Fox News - to point out to myself the subtle and not-so-subtle biases and get pissed off at the ways they manipulate the public. But I fear that other people get their news from certain impartial sources precisely because they agree with the biases, and this sets off a dangerous precedent. Those who advocate objective and level-headed news reporting would find themselves overlooked by the public. Better to stand for your side, cheer for your team, and make a show that will get people's attention. It's be horrible for the country, but it'll make great headlines.

[The Manila Bulletin, on the opposite extreme, seems to have a severe deficit of sensationalism and goes for the most boring headline possible. "Christians celebrate Christmas today". Right.]


  1. I switched to Star from PDI myself a few years back. At that time, PDI's star reporters were the former editors and staff of The Philippine Collegian of my college days. I didn't have a good opinion of their editorial (I wouldn't say "journalistic") slant back then, I still don't. The distinction between news and propaganda should remain stark, especially in a nation where too many people cannot think for themselves.

  2. Hahaha. I agree on Manila Bulletin. They're boring. I think they never fail to announce, "18M students go to class today" on the first day of classes.

    In terms of news, I don't have a preference for either Star or PDI. Though really it's quite noticeable that PDI has a very sensationalist attitude,

  3. At the height of EDSA II, the Manila Bulletin's headline was something like "Safety of students feared". Sigh..

  4. some body help me about my reasearch wor about media bias