Policy changes sought, done after error
Inquirer’s erroneous April 29 banner story, “Death came before dawn,” below a large photograph of condemned Filipino domestic helper Mary Jane Veloso, has once again brought to the fore the innate propensity of media workers to edge out competition in breaking the latest news to the public without delay and to bag a “scoop” or an “exclusive news” story acquired by luck or initiative before a competitor does.
I know that, given the Inquirer’s impeccable track record in news reporting, it has never been the newspaper’s policy to indulge in “yellow journalism” or in journalism that is based on sensationalism and crude exaggeration; or in “speculative journalism” in which fact-checking and verification momentarily take a backseat in favor of outsmarting the competition. Far from that.
But the April 29 issue’s monumental faux pas, coming on the heels of a massive public outcry to save the embattled Filipino woman from the Indonesian firing squad, is too embarrassing to just gloss over and ignore. It has, in no small measure, created a veritable dent on the Inquirer’s credibility and reliability, not to mention the immeasurable emotional stress it brought to the affected families and supporters of the death convict. Something more concrete than a public apology is therefore in order.
“Dewey Defeats Truman,” an incorrect banner headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 3, 1948—the day after incumbent US President Harry S. Truman won an upset victory over Republican challenger and governor of New York Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 US presidential election—would evidently pale in comparison considering that it involved a mere political contest, not a race to save a life, as in the case that has presented itself before us the past week or so.
Even then, the Chicago Tribune was only able to laugh it all away after years of persistent public mockery and ridicule and after a series of drastic changes in its editorial policies and structure. The Inquirer would do well to emulate that, and more.
As a newspaper living up to its ideals of “balanced” news reporting and “fearless” opinion-making, it is high time for the Inquirer to consider revisiting and shaking off its editorial pillars and supplanting some of its editorial chopping boards with new ones as well, all in the spirit of principled and responsible journalism which it has long espoused and advocated.
—ALVIN T. CLARIDADES, PUP College of Law Faculty, Sta. Mesa, Manila
(We thank Alvin Claridades for the kind words and the sound advice. We are humbled by our erroneous report even as we have revisited our newsroom processes. For one thing we have moved our deadline further to accommodate breaking news. We have learned our lesson, with our prayers, to stay the course of the Inquirer mission/vision.—Ed.)
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