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Columns - JGL Eye
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Friday, 29 January 2010 17:29

 

JGL Eye

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2009 Journal Group Link International)

 

Should Philippine Newspapers Endorse Candidates?

 

C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – With elections in the Philippines just around the corner, I have a moot question to ask that may not elicit a response: Should Philippine newspaper editorials endorse candidates?

 

Any newspaper, which tries to answer this question, will be damned if it does or damned if it doesn’t.

 

When Spain introduced newspapers in the Philippines, the aboveboard newspapers were censored while the newspapers that were printed underground or in secret were the ones printing the truth, like the “mosquito” newspapers under the martial law of Ferdinand Marcos.

 

But when America took over from Spain, freewheeling newspapers surfaced. These lasted until the outbreak of World War II.

 

But it would be several decades later after America left the Philippines in 1946 when American newspapers started endorsing candidates in their editorials.

 

Because such phenomenon was never introduced by Americans in their newspapers in the Philippines, post-war Philippine newspapers have never endorsed candidates in their editorials.

 

MARTIAL LAW NEWSPAPERS ENDORSED MARCOS

 

T he 14-odd years of the Marcos martial law may have forced Marcos-controlled newspapers to endorse candidates in their newspaper editorials. But these candidates were composed of Marcos and his ticket of the only party – Kilusang Bagong Lipunan – in town allowed to take part in an election, also called “selection.”

 

But with Marcos gone, the Philippine newspapers that survived martial law and the new ones that sprung up have reverted to pre-martial-law free press.

 

Although, the Philippine newspapers have been freewheeling during the last 20-something years, none of them has ever strayed into the gray area of endorsing candidates that has been a trend in North America and Europe.

 

Perhaps, if they realize that this trend has been an election feature of newspapers in North America during the last three decades, endorsing candidates in their editorials may not be far behind.

 

But for this thing to take root, it will be a big leap of faith for these newspapers because they reckon that media can make and unmake a politician.

 

After struggling to be fair after the Marcos martial-law years, newspapers endorsing candidates in today’s atmosphere is like “backsliding” to martial law years all over again.

 

But these newspapers should realize that as human beings, journalists have God-given right to express their own opinions. But by force of habit, Filipino journalists are frowned upon from openly exercising this right. Doing otherwise will make them vulnerable to accusations that they are being “biased” by candidates they are not endorsing.

 

In the United States, 70 percent of newspapers with circulation of 200,000 or more were endorsing presidential candidates in 2000. But two of America’s largest newspapers – USA Today and Wall Street Journal – are not endorsing anybody.

 

PRINCIPLES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN POLITICIANS

 

W hile the Wall Street Journal views principles as more important than politicians, the USA Today thinks endorsing a candidate is demeaning and an insult to readers and the newspapers political coverage “becomes suspect in the eyes of readers rightly or wrongly.”

 

But a Public Editor or Ombudsman of Toronto Star 37 years ago said, "The easy way for a newspaper, as for a citizen, would be not to support any party in this election. But this is not a responsible course for a citizen in a democratic society – or for a newspaper that believes it has a responsibility to provide comment and opinion on the issues of the day."

 

But as to criticism that the newspaper will be a “suspect in the public mind" or is “alienating many of my readers,” another editor said, “That not endorsing a party in an election ‘would be like spoiling a ballot.’ Telling the readers that you are endorsing, ‘None of the above,’ is simply not an option. Nor is neutrality ... (to) refuse to take a position on the most-important question before the country, is wrong-headed. It does not serve the interests of readers and it does not serve the interests of public discourse."

 

For me, I don’t see anything wrong with journalists, particularly columnists, endorsing candidates like what newspapers in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, and Germany are doing.

 

After all, by the time editorial endorsements are out into the open, voters usually have already made up their minds.

 

For as long as Philippine newspapers or journalists are not getting any personal favors from the candidates they are endorsing, let newspaper editorials and columnists endorse the candidates of their choice.

 

Why let these big newspapers have all the fun and the thrill to endorse their own candidates?

 

Not endorsing a candidate is not only a pure hypocrisy but also a sign of immaturity. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net) # # #

 

© opyright 2009 The Journal Group Link International. The contents provided in the JGLi may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of the Journal Group Link International.

 

(Editor’s Note: Watch out for the upcoming outlet-oriented, subscription-based website of Journal Group Link International that guarantees originally sourced stories, features, photos, audios and videos and multi-media contents.)

 


 

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