By Tonyo Cruz
In 2010, the Commission on Elections granted full media accreditation to 11 bloggers belonging to Blog Watch and 100ARAW.
In President Aquino’s inaugural address and in his first State of the Nation Address, bloggers again were given media accreditation.
At around that time too, brands and agencies in a growing number of industries were already expanding their media lists to include bloggers. Today, apart from media liaison work, PR and marketing agencies reach out to bloggers.
The last frontier, it seems, is Malacanang, where a press corps jealously guards their perks and privileges. From PNoy to PDiggy, their anti-blogger position appears to have been made from a cave, where they are oblivious to the changes in the media landscape and in the audiences they profess to serve.
We have news for them: The ground has shifted. From outside the legacy media tradition, bloggers have come forward as new and/or alternative sources of information and insight.
The Internet made it possible for members of the audience to also be the media, although we have to stress that it never started that way. Blogs, short for web logs, began as online diaries. Its potentials were not lost on the first bloggers who soon found themselves empowered to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, and to freedom of information.
Enter the advent of Web 2.0 and the rise of an audience that talks back to legacy media and citizens becoming media themselves. It smashed the pretensions of legacy media that it alone can cover and report the news. Technology made this possible, along with the public’s thirst for news, and the demands of “globalization.”
Legacy media tried for the longest time possible to reject the demand for “breaking news,” falsely thinking that such a practice would cannibalize morning newspapers and newscasts. But they were of course proven wrong.
Today, breaking news online is an integral part of legacy media practice. Yes, they are also going social, going digital. Many journalists in fact are now blogging. Most of the biggest media outlets either employ bloggers to manage their social media, or have sought bloggers’ help to make sense of the changes.
In 2005, the White House granted full media accreditation to a blogger. Did the White House press corps oppose it? No. In fact, they joined the campaign of that blogger to be part of the press corps covering the US president.
Today, in many international intergovernmental bodies, international public and private conferences and events, media accreditation does not discriminate against bloggers. They welcome bloggers.
Concerns expressed by some in the MPC and by Vergel Santos of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility about bloggers’ sense of accountability are welcome. We bloggers can only agree — especially those of us who have been invited to be columnists in national and local newspapers, social media strategists for TV networks, resource persons on national TV and radio shows, and the online publications, Instagrammers, mobile photography enthusiasts and blogs whose combined audience size could compete with many national media outlets.
Blogs and bloggers have led the way for business and even some government agencies in terms of modernizing their marketing and public information work. The list of bloggers who now hold high and important positions in many companies cannot possibly be the product of haoshiao-like practice. Bloggers can be great and outstanding. Readers know this, as much as they know the bad and fly-by-night.
Malacanang now appears to be the last frontier on legacy media coverage. Only journalists belonging to media outlets owned by Big Businesses should cover the President of the Philippines.
This mindset is what prevents media from winning the argument about freedom of information. They preach that it is a people’s right, but act as if they have an exclusive franchise to actually claiming and exercising it.
What understandably complicates matters is that Secretary Martin Andanar cannot hide his bias in favor of pro-administration bloggers. Andanar is not doing bloggers any favors with his displays of preference and discrimination in favor of bloggers favoring his principal. Whether a media practitioner is a journalist or blogger, Andanar cannot pick only those who favor his principal.
CMFR’s Santos says journalism is an “engineered train” while blogging is a “runaway train.” Is he referring to all bloggers or to Andanar’s choices? We hope he’d be accurate, fair, balanced, and not resort to sweeping generalizations about this new craft called blogging.
It is not our or even media’s “fault” that blogging came to be and have become what it is now — new media. Sure, we also have our own challenges and bad apples, but we do not wish to be judged by our rank’s exceptions. We have lots of best practice to show. Sure, the current categories favor journalists, but that doesn’t mean bloggers cannot be Members of the Media.
Whether we mistrust or dislike bloggers is actually irrelevant. The law cannot be applied based on the insulted feelings of journalism clubs and journalism watchdogs. The Constitution grants no exclusive rights to journalists. Citizens today who leverage technology to perform media-like functions cannot be disqualified solely by virtue of innovation and for not being journalists. There are legal cases on this in the US, where bloggers have been granted the same rights and protections given to journalists, including the shield law.
As the highest press officer of the government, Andanar has to be fair and resist the urge of making access to the President a form of political patronage to reward pro-administration bloggers. I also hope the MPC and CMFR’s Santos would take a second look on their positions amid the changing media landscape and put forward a position that promotes the fullest exercise of FOI, FOE and press freedom by citizens themselves.
Follow me on Twitter @tonyocruz and check out my blog tonyocruz.com