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Oct 04th
Home Columns JGL Eye Newsmen Are Also Human
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Columns - JGL Eye
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Thursday, 13 August 2009 17:39


By Joseph G. Lariosa



C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – There is nothing wrong with newspapers and television stations or Internet sites, committing mistakes – for as long as they own up to their mistakes – and take pains to avoid the same mistakes.


In their haste to get ahead of their competitions, some newspaper and even television reporters and photographers in the Philippines last week identified President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the dead Filipino leader instead of former President Corazon C. Aquino in their news accounts.


Trouble is newspaper publishers and television stations owners have oversized egos. If they goof up, they would refuse to acknowledge their mistakes and would just go on the motions like the cat who swallowed the canary.


This reminded me of the quotes from a Philippine newspaper, where the young Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino was asked if he would reconcile with the Marcoses, now that the Aquino matriarch, the former President Corazon Aquino, is gone. 


Like his principled father, Senator Aquino was on the mark with his answer. Noynoy said that reconciliation is not forthcoming unless the Marcoses own up to the assassination of his father and apologize for it because under command responsibility, they were responsible for letting the assassination happen under their watch.


This should also be the standard of our news media. They should own up their mistakes and apologize before they move on.






T hat’s why when the Philippine Daily Inquirer asked its rivals the Manila Bulletin and the Philippine Star for comments for “killing Arroyo in their newspapers,” it got a cold-shoulder but the Bulletin corrected its error  without acknowledging the error nor issuing apology.


Fortunately, the reporter of ABS-CBN expressed remorse for its mistake when its “Newsbreak magazine writer Lala Rimando ... later apologized for her mistake. ‘I’m guilty. I killed our president,’ wrote Rimando on,’” according to the Inquirer.


But I do not blame the Bulletin and Star for ignoring Inquirer’s entreaties. After all, when I asked the Inquirer sometime ago if it authorized its own reporter to cover an international boxing event in Chicago on behalf of Bulletin, Star and other Philippine newspapers, I did not get any response either.


I only wanted Philippine newspapers to hire newspaper area correspondents instead of sending their own representatives if they really want to cut cost.


But among the "big three newspapers in the Philippines," the Bulletin was among those, which, I have personal knowledge of, to have fired its own photographer for submitting a photo that former President Aquino did not like to come out.


It was not really an issue of press censorship. There was a standing protocol among press photographers not to take the photo of President Aquino while she was eating.






W hen the photo with Mrs. Aquino shoveling food into her mouth landed in the front page of the Bulletin, Malacanang asked the editors of the Bulletin if the photographer was aware of the “no-eating” photo protocol. When the photographer said that he was aware but did not tell the editors about the protocol, the award-winning photographer was let go. 


The mistake committed by this Bulletin photographer when Mrs. Aquino was still alive was different from the mistake by another Bulletin photographer during her death. In its Thursday (Aug. 6) edition that ran in the back page of the Bulletin, a photo caption read: "WITH UTMOST CARE, Military honor guard carefully moves the coffin of President Arroyo out of the Manila Cathedral."


Here responsibilities of the mistake rest both on the photographer and the page editor. The Bulletin, however, compounded its mistake when it re-ran the same photo, carrying a corrected caption but without mentioning the erratum and without apologizing nor saying it was inadvertence. 


The same thing happened the day before on Wednesday (Aug. 5) when the Philippine Star ran a story that read: "Wearing a white blazer suit, President Arroyo went straight to view the coffin of former President Arroyo and offered a short prayer before joining Senator Noynoy Aquino, who received the president in behalf of the Aquino family.”


The Star did not apologize either for this gaffe.






A pparently, this kind of slip-ups maybe a gray area for Filipino editors on how to handle this situation.


But they could look up to the way the Chicago Tribune handled this newsroom blunder.


On Nov. 5, 1948, the Tribune bannered the story with boldface 72-point font size "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN," which was the opposite of what happened. A photo of the Tribune's mistaken headline was flashed around the world with Harry Truman having a laugh at his opponents' expense while holding the mistaken copy.


According to the biographical book titled, "The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, Indomitable editor of the Chicago Tribune" by Richard Norton Smith (1997) Houghton Mifflin Co., Arthur Sears Henning, the Washington, D.C.-based reporter of the story was let go; and J. James Loy Maloney, the managing editor was retired using "deteriorating health" as a cover.


I just hope when a similar incident will present itself again before Philippine newspaper editors, they will promptly acknowledge the mistake, issue an apology while coming out with the corrections.


Mistakes in publishing have become so common place in the print journalism that the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, two of the more-respected daily newspapers in the world, have special sections for "errata" almost everyday and they don't get tired apologizing for their own mistakes. ( # # #


Last Updated on Thursday, 13 August 2009 18:00

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If a man will begin with certainties,he shall end with doubts;but if he will be content to begin with doubts,he shall end in certainties.-- Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626