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Anti-social media
By Elson T. Elizaga

Veteran photojournalist Froilan Gallardo did something that no fake-news reporter in his right mind would do: Apologize.

Gallardo apologized, in Facebook, because he had made a mistake. Actually, the Philippine National Police did, and Gallardo reported it, but he was sorry anyway. Gallardo’s complete post on June 15, 2017: “PNP retracted earlier statement that they arrested the youngest sibling of the Maute Brothers in Macasandig this morning. They said they arrested a relative and one of the bombers of Maxandrea hotel years ago. My apologies.” (I’ve changed his “my” to “My”.)

I shared Gallardo’s statement in my Facebook and explained that his act is what makes him a real journalist. It is consistent with newspaper tradition.

Journalism is “literature in a hurry” and mistakes happen. To prevent readers from being misled by wrong information, editors would print a correction and an apology in a small note called “erratum”. This has to be done quickly. It has to appear the following day if the newspaper is daily, because it is dangerous for readers to make decisions based on errors.

Journalism is a tough discipline. It’s a four-year course. What journalists do is get and report facts, not just give information. Technical and ethical rules have to be followed. But some of us believe that text messaging and chat are the same as news reporting: The journalists are media. We have social media accounts. Therefore, we must be journalists.

Mocha Uson, who is Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations, has never apologized for spreading fake news. In fairness to her, she doesn’t claim to be a journalist. We know what she did with photos of Honduras and Brazil.1 So, I won’t belabor the point. But let me describe my experience with the ThinkingPinoy website.

Days before the election, the writer of ThinkingPinoy, who describes himself as a “Filipino citizen journalist” (whatever that means) attacked presidential candidate Mar Roxas for allegedly claiming that he has a master’s degree at The Wharton School. The reference of ThinkingPinoy was Wikileaks.

But when I checked Wikileaks, I discovered that Roxas didn’t make the claim. It was US ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney, who mistakenly described Roxas as having “a Wharton MBA” in a 2008 confidential cable written by Kenney.

Kenney's claim that Roxas has Wharton MBA
Part of the cable of former US ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney.

I sent an email to Wharton to double-check this MBA issue about Roxas because it was also being circulated online. I discovered that Roxas’ degree at Wharton is Bachelor of Science in Economics, major in Finance (1979). The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler also conducted the same inquiry and got the same reply from Wharton. Roxas has no MBA from Wharton and he never claims he has one.

So, I wrote to ThinkingPinoy, hoping the error would be corrected. But I didn’t receive a reply. No apologies were published. Then a few days later the webpage containing the allegation vanished. Its address is
http://www.thinkingpinoy.com/wharton-graduate-mar-roxas-truth-succeeding/ but its content has been replaced by a 404 error message.

Why do people like Uson, ThinkingPinoy, and other distributors of fake news, not acknowledge their mistakes? Only they can tell. But I have theories. They are probably not raised well by their mothers. Second, everything is so fluid in the internet. You print print something, you can delete it, unless someone has pressed the PrintScreen. Third, who cares?Black square indicates end of article.



1 An earlier version of this article contains the statement “We know what she did with photos of Honduras, Brazil and Vietnam so I won’t belabor the point.”Opps. The Philippine News Agency (PNA), not Uson, published a photo of the Vietnam war and identified it as one taken in Marawi.

It’s my turn to apologize
There are a few news articles online that mention Uson, PNA, and the photos of Honduras and Vietnam war. It’s clear I got them mixed up. Sorry.