Filipino journalists trusted NGOs more than Noynoy Aquino


Former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III enjoyed consistently high trust ratings during his term based on national surveys in the Philippines, and this appears to be true even among journalists in the country.

A national survey of Filipino journalists conducted during Aquino’s final year in office showed an average trust rating of 2.66 out of 5, which translates to about 53%.

Of the 349 journalists surveyed, 1.5% reported having a “complete trust” in the former president, 12.6% reported having a “great deal of trust,” while 49.7% reported having “some trust.”

Some 36.2% reported having “little” to “no trust at all.”

Aquino’s trust rating among journalists is higher than that of either the House of Representatives (48%) or the Senate (51%).


The survey is part of the Worlds of Journalism Survey, a global project involving journalism researchers from more than 70 countries.


The journalists who joined the survey also reported similar levels of trust for the police (51%) and the military (53%).

In contrast, journalists seem to trust non-governmental organizations (61%), the judiciary (59%), and religious leaders (58%) quite well.

Of all the different institutions included in the survey, the journalists trusted the news media (68%) the most.

Skepticism is considered to be important in journalism practice, as journalists need to constantly question authorities to report accurately and truthfully.

Thus, understanding journalists’ level of trust in the institutions they routinely cover is also important, because such perceptions can affect their reporting.

The survey, conducted between May and December last year, is part of the Worlds of Journalism Survey, a global project involving journalism researchers from more than 70 countries.

The respondents from the Philippines included journalists from local, regional, and national news organizations. Some 51% were female and 49% were male.

The sample also included journalists across different positions, from reporters to editors-in-chief. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 5.

The author is a journalism researcher and professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His research focuses on the impact of new technologies on journalistic practice. He is also a former journalist from the Philippines.







Filipino journalists face low pay, violence, restricted info access


JOURNALIST AT WORK. A photo I took while covering the special elections in Lanao del Sur in May 2007. The elections there had to be postponed because of violence.

Low pay, media killings and restrictions to information access are the three most important problems facing journalists in the Philippines, results of a national survey of journalists showed.

A survey of 349 journalists in the Philippines, conducted between May and December last year, found that 38.2% identified low pay and poor working conditions as the most important problem journalists in the Philippines have to endure.

About 21% identified violence against journalists as the most important problem, while 9.5% referred to problems with information access, primarily citing the lack of a freedom of information (FOI) law in the country as well as different forms of government pressure.

The survey is part of the Worlds of Journalism Survey, a global project involving journalism researchers from more than 70 countries.

In the Philippines, journalists were asked to identify what they considered as the most important problem confronting journalists in the country.

The respondents were allowed to write their answers using their own words. The responses were then categorized and analyzed by the researcher.

The respondents also identified the following problems: decreasing media credibility (8.5%), increasing pressure from audiences and new technologies (7.5%), corruption among journalists (6.5%), increasing pressure from owners (5.2%), and sensationalism in reporting (3.6%).

The respondents include journalists from local, regional, and national news organizations.

Some 51% were female and 49% were male. The sample also includes journalists across different positions, from reporters to editors-in-chief.


The author is a journalism researcher and professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His research focuses on the impact of new technologies on journalistic practice. He is also a former journalist from the Philippines. Email him at edson[at]

#PiliPinas2016: The good, the bad, and the reality

Fake survey

This year’s election has brought out the best and the worst in many of us as we publicly engaged one another on social media, and yet we need to be mindful that what see online is rarely accurate and complete.

I have done some research on social media use, but from just observing my own social media accounts and reading posts of my own circle of friends in the last several weeks, I saw some patterns that support and question what we know about social media so far.

Let me start with what’s good.

I think the level of engagement we have witnessed this election is unparalleled, and part of that is because social media provided a public platform for people to voice out their thoughts and opinions without passing through the gates of traditional media.

Far from fears of social media functioning as echo-chambers—or when individuals get exposed only to information consistent with their views—I saw how friends supporting different candidates engaged with one another.

Supporters aggressively sought out and confronted opinion inconsistent with theirs. Such mediated confrontation, I think, further heightened public interest in this election.

Increased interest translated into mobilization, with supporters using social media to organize their ranks. I had friends who posted on Facebook calls for campaign donations and arrangements to distribute campaign materials.

I don’t remember seeing this level of participation, at least on social media, in the previous elections.

But we also witnessed widespread problematic social media behavior.

Many supporters abandoned civility as they expressed support for a candidate who, ironically, they claimed to represent discipline.

There was a lot of name-calling, with people not just arguing but even maligning others who disagreed with them. Supporters turned into cyber-bullies, viciously threatening supporters of other candidates.

I also have very close friends who engaged in misinformation, one of them posting bogus survey results, and I was appalled how such fabricated information went viral in a matter of hours, that a survey company had to issue a statement to deny it.

Many also became very hostile with traditional media organizations, threatening reporters not just online but also when they see them in person.

Studies have long established what researchers called the hostile media effect.

Simply, it refers to the phenomenon of individuals with a strong opinion on a particular issue perceiving the media to be biased against their opinion, even if confronted by a neutral story.

An important factor explaining this effect is the perceived reach of the source.

It seems that part of the aggressiveness of many supporters in criticizing and demonizing traditional and social media sources they perceive to be biased against their own views is the fear and recognition that these sources have wide reach.

But what’s interesting is how some supporters did not just question the media they perceived as biased, but they also put up alternative social media pages, blogs, and websites that spread fabricated information and were, ironically, explicitly biased.

However, while we now live in an increasingly digitized world, we have to realize that most of what we see on social media—even what we get from opinion surveys—remains incomplete. We have witnessed this in the recent national elections in the United Kingdom and Singapore.

In the UK, the majority win of the Conservatives surprised polling companies which had predicted a much different result.

In Singapore, supporters of opposition parties dominated social media, but election results saw the administration party increasing its majority last year.

But are we really ourselves on social media?

While it is surprising to see some social media users spew out threats and nasty messages without hiding behind anonymity—vicious comments also come from users using their real names—many of them quickly step back when counter-attacked.

It’s great to see social media being maximized as a platform for free exchange of ideas during this election, but much of what we have witnessed also highlights the need for social media literacy.

This election is not only about deciding what our country will become, but it should also be about reflecting on what we have become as a people.

In defense of today’s newspapers

News about the execution came too late for many newspapers in the Philippines. (Image from The Guardian;  Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

News about the execution came too late for many newspapers in the Philippines. (Image from The Guardian; Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

Filpinos rejoiced after Mary Jane Veloso was spared from execution in Indonesia, and then laughed at national newspapers which got their headlines wrong.

Veloso, sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug smuggling, was scheduled to be executed by firing squad early morning Wednesday.

Indonesia proceeded to execute eight death row prisoners but spared Veloso at the last minute. Veloso maintained she did not know about the heroin found in her suitcase.

Filipinos around the world signed online petitions, joined street protests, and participated in night vigils. They woke up to learn about the positive development as well as to read morning papers with wrong headlines.

Facebook teemed with posts ridiculing newspapers’ frontpages. Inquirer’s banner headline read: “Death came before dawn.” Manila Bulletin had: “No delay in execution.” Abante Tonite said: “Paalam Mary Jane (Goodbye Mary Jane).”

Philippine Star and Manila Bulletin managed to update their headlines in their latest editions.

Many social media users were harsh in their criticisms, describing reporters as stupid or sleeping on their jobs.

Inquirer's statement released via Twitter by @Team_Inquirer

Inquirer’s statement released via Twitter by @Team_Inquirer

This post is not to defend the erroneous newspaper headlines, not even that of the Inquirer, where I worked as reporter for six years (although I know for a fact that the Inquirer reporter assigned to monitor the Department of Foreign Affairs briefing was literally not sleeping—she was doing her job as late as 3am).

But this is a good time, I think, for some reflection on what is happening to journalism. This incident, it seems, is about three issues:

  1. This shows the changing expectations of news consumers. Having been socialized into real-time reporting they find online, news consumers appear to expect the same speed from their newspapers. This is, of course, an unreasonable expectation, given the nature of the newspaper medium.

Newspaper issues have to be ready between 9pm and 10pm to allow sufficient time for printing and delivery, which are not quick processes. Newspapers have to reach newsstands early the following morning, as very few buyers wait for a specific paper: Being late means losing out to competition (of course, the case is different when it comes to the subscription market).

From what I know, updates in the past have been made successfully until about 1am, but only for editions distributed within Metro Manila, where the time between printing and distribution is much shorter. But most readers don’t realize this. They also don’t realize that reporters, whose bylines appear with stories, do not write their own headlines. This is why we need media literacy.

  1. Given the changing expectations of news consumers, newspapers should reassess their roles. The nature of the medium limits its capability when it comes to breaking news. Newspapers cannot, and perhaps should no longer, strive to break news all the time. We have online platforms for that. Freed from this expectation, newspapers can channel their strengths into other forms of journalism, where they can remain strong.
  1. Finally, against this backdrop of changing expectations and changing roles, newspapers should also remain true to the traditional standards that guide journalism, at whatever platform. While it is true that newspapers face time constraints, it does not give them an excuse to predict spot news. It does not free them from reporting events as they are. When something has not happened, and there is no certainty as to what would happen next, that’s what should be in the story. And by story, I also mean the headline.

Today’s social media attack on newspapers, I think, is undeserved and uninformed.

But it informs us about how readers’ expectations are changing.

Such information, if used properly, can hopefully also spare newspapers from their projected demise.

Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy? The Bong Revilla Saga and the News Media

It was a meticulous, well-coordinated script, orchestrated down to the tiniest detail, such as what shirt Sen. Bong Revilla would wear on the day he would surrender. It should be white to symbolize purity. Or maybe innocence. It should be imprinted with a Bible verse, so that a predominantly Christian nation would see.

The news media faithfully documented and reported about what was clearly organized for them. They followed the good senator everywhere he went, with reporters reporting even from inside his car. This way, the world got to know about, for example, an inspirational book the good senator’s father had given him on that day, and the words of love and encouragement scribbled on one of its pages.

Of course, the news media might have wondered what the good senator would have worn if their cameras were not around, or how many supporters would have showed up for the vigil if reporters were not invited to cover. The events that happened on the day of his surrender were clearly organized for the sole expectation of being reported, and yet we cannot really fault the media for disseminating information about events that, without them, would not have been real in the first place. For the good senator’s surrender had the makings of a newsworthy event, going by textbook definitions of what constitutes news. Not every day do we get to see a senator being jailed. Human interest is high. It was a logical follow-up to a developing story. And the good senator is a prominent individual. He is a celebrity, famous for being famous.

But some frown on why the media had to report about the most trivial of things, for example his complaints of having to stay in a facility infested with rats and roaches, and yet these reports are provoking important discussions, especially in social media, such as comparing his current plight with those of Yolanda survivors still living in tents seven months after the Haiyan tragedy. These reports let the people who supported him know more about the man they idolize and learn more about the things that the man they elected to represent them considers as his personal tragedies.

Indeed, others can label these news reports as manifestations of sensationalism, or as the news media focusing on drama than on substance, and yet how then do you cover an event orchestrated to be precisely that—more drama than substance? Isn’t this over-the-top news coverage just a comprehensive and accurate representation of an over-the-top publicity event?

An important part of being accurate, however, is offering a complete account. News reports should include how the news media got to know when and where the senator would be on that day. How was the event organized? Who organized the event? Why was the event organized? Were the complaints the good senator had about his detention cell reasonable?

For some, answers to these questions would compromise a journalist’s objectivity. But keeping quiet about these and many other questions is compromising accuracy. A persistent belief, passed along generations of journalists, is that news should be devoid of a journalist’s judgment. But when complaints about a detention facility infinitely better than what many Filipinos (who would have benefited from properly disbursed government funds) call home—complaints meant to elicit public sympathy—go unchallenged in news reports, they only get legitimized. In this case, no judgment is a form of judgment. For when journalists see and know what is wrong but keep silent about it, they not only mock the principle of accuracy. They also perpetuate dishonesty.

The future of print: Newspaper crisis in Germany, rising circulation figures in Peru

Koln, Germany; Lima, Peru

Koln, Germany; Lima, Peru

What does the future hold for print journalism?

It depends on where you ask.

In the US, many have already given up hope amid plummeting circulation figures and dwindling advertising revenues. But then, journalism’s two new Js— founder Jeff Bezos and Boston Red Sox owner John Henry—did not purchase the Washington Post and the Boston Globe just to lose money.

In Germany, Spiegel reports about a newspaper crisis: Local newspapers in Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich “have lost about 30 percent of their readers in the last decade.”

But then you have a tabloid called Trome in Peru, the best-selling Spanish newspaper in the world with nearly 700,000 copies sold daily. The Society of Journalism Businesses of Peru (SEPP) says newspaper circulation in Peru rose to 1.9 million in 2012 from 1.2 million in 2007, according to this report.

Also, a study projects newspaper circulation in Latin America will grow 10 percent in the next three years.

The newspaper might be old, even worn out, challenged continually as it is by every single innovation in mass communication.

But it might be true, what people say: first love—or in this case journalism’s first mass medium—never dies.

Framing, second-level agenda setting, and what am I thinking?!?

The debate on whether or not framing and second-level agenda setting are the same remains unresolved. I should not have been surprised therefore when it became one of the questions I was asked in my doctoral comprehensive exam.

The following version comes from my first exam—one of the four questions I had to answer for my mass communication theory test. I was asked this question: Are framing and second-level agenda setting different from each other? I argued they are different, but one of my committee members thought differently, too.

What do you think?

Now, if I got anything wrong, please consider I was writing this from memory (away from my books and notes), within a four-hour deadline (I was to answer three more questions), and without immediate access to donuts, chocolates, or pad thai that could have inspired me to do much better.

Snowmageddon 2.0


The agenda-setting theory refers to how public’s exposure to news about an issue increases the salience of that issue to that public. It began after McCombs & Shaw (1972) found in a survey of still undecided voters in Chapel Hill, North Carolina how media agenda was related to public agenda, supporting the agenda-setting theory instead of the selective exposure hypothesis. In particular, they found that general media agenda had a much stronger correlation with public agenda compared with the agenda by each news medium, or even to the agenda by the political party that members of the public support.

Three important concepts need to be defined: media agenda, public agenda and “public.” First, McCombs and Shaw (1972) measured media agenda in Chapel Hill during an election using content analysis of the news published or aired by several news media. Though they also compared the agenda of each of the news media, no news article is considered to have an agenda. Thus, agenda refers to an accumulation of articles that refer to an issue. The repetition and consistent prominence attached to an issue elevate it higher into the media agenda. Thus, media agenda is cumulative. Second, public agenda referred to the public’s perceived salience of issues. Salience among media users was measured in a survey. McCombs and Shaw (1972) asked respondents to rank what they thought were the most important issues. Finally, focusing on public agenda instead of studying the agenda of audiences or media users carries the assumption of what constitutes a public. Scholars have differentiated the public from the audience, in such a way that members of the public are thought to be responsible citizens exercising their social roles (e.g. Papacharissi, 2009; Ettema et. al, 1994). This is appropriate for the original agenda-setting study as McCombs and Shaw (1972) surveyed voters. In summary, the agenda-setting theory argues that while the media cannot dictate what people think, they are particularly good at shaping what people think about (Valenzuela & McCombs, 2011). Subsequent studies that tested agenda-setting, however, found no explanation from the theory for how people thought about the issues presented to them.

When people believe an issue is important, they also have ideas why these issues are important. They also have evaluations of actors associated with these issues. Thus, McCombs later coined second-level agenda setting as an explanation to these evaluations. While first-level agenda setting is about importance of issues, second-level agenda setting is about evaluation and interpretation. However, many scholars correctly pointed out that second-level agenda setting sounded very much like framing.

Framing also talks about the concept of salience. Entman (1993) described framing as “to make aspects of a perceived reality more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation” (p. 52). But framing effects are different from agenda-setting effects (Tewksbury & Scheufele, 2009). Framing is “what unifies information into a package that can influence audiences” (Tewkbury & Scheufele, 2009, p. 19). It is about interpretation. This focus on how a text is interpreted is similar to second-level agenda setting.

Framing, however, is different from agenda-setting. From the point of view of message construction, agenda-setting is cumulative. A news article does not provide an agenda, but placed within the context of previous and future similar stories across different media, it might elevate an issue into the media agenda. In contrast, individual messages contain frames. For instance, journalists cannot choose not to frame their news articles (Stromback & Luego, 2010). Thus, a media agenda, derived from a cumulation of messages each containing frames, can include multiple and even conflicting frames.

In terms of message processing, agenda-setting is an accessibility effect (Scheufele & Tewksbury, 2007). Exposure to the media increases the accessibility of an issue in one’s mind. A way to operationalize agenda-setting effect is to ask individuals to list what they believe are the most important issues, which are conceptually the issues that are most accessible, or what they are thinking about. In contrast, framing effect is an applicability effect (Scheufele & Tewksbury, 2007). Exposure is not enough for framing effects. Attention to the media is important. Attention to frames in messages provide individuals with information that they can connect to those stored in their memory networks—persons, objects, ideas they had prior experience with and have value judgments of. Connecting new information with the old brings about interpretation—the point when framing takes place. Thus, a way to operationalize framing effect is to ask individuals how they perceive an issue; for example, asking why climate change is important. An answer that says climate change is important because of the economic problems it brings about is usually considered an economic framing, or linking climate change with economic evaluations. This is how an individual thinks about climate change.

Framing and second-level agenda setting are explained by very similar processes. Some scholars would even argue that second-level agenda setting is framing, that it was just coined to strengthen the original agenda-setting theory. I would argue, however, that despite the same processing mechanism that underlies them, framing and second-level agenda setting remain distinct, if we keep the conceptualization of second-level agenda setting faithful to and consistent with the original agenda-setting theory. A difference is how framing effects talk about the interpretation of a message, as each message contains frames and triggers frames in the minds of those who process them; while second-level agenda setting is supposed to be explaining how people interpret particular agenda, which do not stem from a single message, but from the accumulation of messages. Indeed, when individuals believe an issue is the most important, they also have their interpretations of that issue, or what is the most salient consideration within that issue. A media agenda contains multiple, sometimes even conflicting, frames. When individuals think of an important issue, they also think of it through the lens of particular frames—evaluations and interpretations—that have resonated from previous attention to individual articles that repeated, highlighted, and contributed to the issue occupying a place in the public agenda.  In interpreting each message about an issue (messages that contributed to its place in the overall agenda), individuals frame each message in particular ways through the process of applicability. Repeated exposure to the same issue in subsequent messages, no matter how they are framed, makes previous frames not only applicable, but also accessible. Thus, as an issue becomes more and more accessible (and thus part of the agenda), frames applicable to that issue, or the ways an individual has consistently evaluated and interpreted the issue (based on prior experience, personal interest, among others), also become more and more accessible. Thus, second-level agenda setting remains to be an accessibility effect, consistent and faithful with the first-level agenda setting, and distinct but related to framing effects.


The comprehensive examination at the Missouri School of Journalism is a nerve-racking but fun process. For several weeks I had to read about 100 journal articles, book chapters, and books from five subject areas. These reading lists were developed in consultation with my dissertation committee members.

Then, for five days spread in just two weeks, I had to take five four-hour closed-door, closed-book, no-internet, no-contact-with-the-outside-world exams, with just me, an old PC provided by the department, and a few sheets of scratch paper inside the window-less room. You never get to know the exact exam question until that day you are locked into that room.

Now that I have successfully defended my comps—yes, we also have an oral defense for the comprehensive exams—I am uploading some of my answers.