calling out cheche

13 May 2009

so what’s winston garcia of gsis up to, doing a mike defensor and doing it worse, harassing bullying persecuting no less than the veteran journalist cheche lazaro, who is highly esteemed, widely loved, and multi-awarded for the excellence and relevance of her body of work in broadcast journalism and nation-building?   and don’t tell me that winston garcia is not calling the shots here, because that’s simply not to be believed in the context of either the public teachers’ gsis pension plight or the war between garcia and the lopezes over meralco, or both.

cheche lazaro is right, she did not break the anti-wiretapping law.    she wasn’t a sammy ong or a vidal doble wire-tapping gma’s phone conversations with garci without gma’s and garci’s knowledge.    she was just cheche of probe interviewing a gsis pr lady on her cellphone for a show she was putting together, and yes she recorded the conversation, in the course of which she informed the gsis lady that it was being recorded, and the gsis lady did not stop talking, did not get off the line in protest, so what’s the crime.   the complaint shouldnot have prospered.   there is no wiretapping case.

what there is however is a breach of journalistic ethics.   when cheche aired a part of the recorded conversation without the gsis pr lady’s consent, cheche gave the lady reason to ask,what about my individual right to privacy?

Are the media allowed to violate the individual rights of a person? I was asking the court if the media could simply call you up, record your conversation, and broadcast it for the entire world to hear; all these, without your knowledge, much less, your permission.

…”I am a believer of the significant role journalists play in a democratic system. They are the watchmen, protecting us from wrongdoings taking place both in government and private sectors. But even journalists are not infallible. They can have their share of wrongdoings. And when journalists do wrong, how can we – especially private individuals – protect ourselves from them?”

the gsis pr lady gave cheche tacit approval to record, but not to disclose.   “hindi po lalabas…” and cheche agreed, “no, no…” yet she did put out a part of it, on the convoluted ground that the gsis pr lady had insisted that it be explained to viewers that gsis refused to grant an interview because of biased reporting by lopez-owned media entities.   cheche could simply have shown the official letter refusing the invitation to air the gsis side, she could have highlighted, even read out the pertinent parts, and the message would have been sent as effectively.

given her long history in the business, it surprises that cheche chose to publicize what was clearly off-the-record.   of course journalists hate off-the-record, it usually denies them the satisfaction of scooping a juicy story, but it’s a short-sighted view.    some of the biggest stories of corporate scandals, i am told, have been broken based on information that off-the-record statements led to.    there’s value, too, in something said that you can’t write or broadcast but which you can follow up in private and which might lead to you more info you would otherwise have missed out on.

the question is, why did cheche do it?   freedom of the press?   maybe she thought she could get away with it because the larger issue of gsis’s lack of transparency or the teachers’ well-being is more important than any government official’s privacy?   maybe she thought that off-the-record was an outdated ethic, it doesn’t promote nation-building?   maybe she thought that public opinion would be with her given the low satisfaction ratings of government and its institutions?  but says bong austero:

Lazaro is of course a pillar in broadcast journalism in this country with a sterling reputation both in academe and in media. I am a fan of Lazaro; I think very highly of her work … Being dismayed that someone of her caliber has to go through something like this is a natural gut reaction.

But if we really come to think about it, who Lazaro is and what she stands for is important and relevant but is not a foolproof defense and justification. I dread the idea that anyone who feels wronged cannot file a case against anyone on account of that other person’s reputation. I dread the idea that people likeLazaro is deemed untouchable because of who she is.

Moreover, I think it’s a disservice to automatically rile against the whole case, scream suppression of freedom of the press, and make reckless generalizations about how the case is yet another proof of sinister political machination of the powers-that-be without considering the intrinsic value of the case … the whole case is potentially just as much a chance to validate press freedom given the opportunity it offers to vindicate Lazaro’s cause as it is an opportunity to stress the right to privacy of individuals against the often invasive posturing of media.

and says the daily tribune:

The local media community appears to be divided on the issue on whether the Lazaro case is a case of press freedom or a case of a journalist having violated the rules of journalism, as even an instance of a journalist airing or publishing agreed off-the-record statements of his source is already a breach of journalistic ethics.

It will be recalled that veteran US broadcaster Connie Chung was booted out of the major network in the US a decade ago for having aired an off the record comment made by the mother of then Rep. Newt Gringgich that then First Lady Hilary Clinton was a bitch. This was not regarded as a case of press freedom, but a violation of the rules of journalism.

and says alex magno:

The mass media could be intrusive. It could so easily break into anyone’s privacy and brazenly trample on rights to privacy. There needs to be a finer consensus in the journalistic community over the conduct of interviews and the use of phone conversations, outside the formal setting of an interview, for airing.

On this concern, there is public merit in hearing out the arguments in the case filed against Cheche. Ordinary citizens, not only journalists, have rights too.

a qualified yes.    there is public merit in hearing out the arguments in the case of cheche but only on the question of journalistic ethics, NOT on the bogus and ridiculous wiretapping charges which should be dropped, the arrest order withdrawn, and the bail money returned.   in fairness lang naman.

12 Responses to calling out cheche

  1. May 13, 2009 at 2:57 am
    GabbyD

    question on journalistic ethics…

    the recorded conversation (that was broadcast) supported the letter’s arguments of why they didn’t want to be interviewed. (they were burned, etc)… that conversation was basically a verbal reiteration of the letter. nothing more.

    right?

    it didn’t bring out any additional information. it didn’t discuss the premium policy. etc…

    is this a violation of ethics?

  2. May 13, 2009 at 6:42 am
    saxnviolins

    “Do you want to be interviewed?

    “No. If you air my refusal, that is a violation of my privacy.”

    What a dumbkopf.

    The comment of Mrs. Gingrich about Hillary is a comment. This is not even a comment; it is a mere refusal.

  3. May 13, 2009 at 11:39 am

    gabbyd ;) indeed. that’s why i’m saying that using the sound bites from the recording added nothing to the story anyway. going by journalistic ethics, cheche should not have aired any part of the conversation without permission, no matter the significance or non-significance of conversation.

  4. May 13, 2009 at 11:47 am

    saxnviolins ;) it was not a mere no, i dont’ want to be interviewed. it was also explaining that gsis had been “burned” before by biased reporting from lopez-owned media. whatever the gsis lady’s reason for not wishing to be heard in public saying those lines is a valid reason. it does not matter what was said, it does not matter kung merong masasaktan o wala. off-the-record is off-the-record.

  5. May 14, 2009 at 2:24 am
    Men

    Hi Angela,

    I don’t think Cheche violated any ethics in journalism. She reminded the GSIS pr lady that she was recording the phone conversation. Why did the pr lady continue the phone conversation with Cheche despite Cheche’s reminder in unequivocal terms that she was recording the interview? Clearly, pr lady consented to the interview and knew that the interview was being recorded. There was nothing off the record in that interview. Cheche could have aired other parts of the interview. But precisely because the ethics are deeply engrained in her, Cheche only released what GSIS wanted to be aired. The pr lady’s right of privacy was never violated. To repeat, she freely talked to Cheche; she knew that she was being recorded; and her request that the GSIS position be aired was granted, nothing more, nothing less.

    Incidentally, Cheche is not being paid by ABS CBN. Probe has a block-time program. Probe moved from GMA 7 to ABS-CBN. And the reason? Story from insiders: Pressure from above, arising from a Probe episode on PAGCOR, which authorities didn’t like. GMA 7 would obviously publicly deny this.

    Incidentally, I wrote a column on Cheche’s harassment for BusinessWorld’s Yellow Pad. The link to BusinessWorld is not freely accessible. So please visit the AER site:
    http://www.aer.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=857&Itemid=63

    Best,

    Men

  6. May 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm
    maliittitik_o

    there’s a lot of ifs and maybes in this case. The biggest of the maybes here is that maybe we are reacting this way because we expected something better from a che-che lazaro, a well-respected and multi-awarded journalist.

    but here is a tip that might prove helpful next time you get the itch to that stunt again. call Ricky Lo. he gives the juiciest news from tinseltown yet he protects and guards his sources well. he might be able to give you the low-downs. or, better yet, get some tips from the researchers of The Buzz, Showbiz News Ngayon or other showbiz oriented shows in abs-cbn, ikaw din, matutunan mo pang magsabi ng EXCLUSIVE ng walang kakurap-kurap.

    but seriously, I am very disappointed. this is not something that I expect from a che-che lazaro….

  7. May 14, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    hey men ;) i was being kind na nga. in the first place, cheche shouldnt have started recording the conversation without asking permission first. that’s journalistic ethics as i know it. yes, the pr lady continued with the phone conversation when she was informed but only to at once set the condition, hindi lalabas, and cheche assured her, no no. and so she freely talked with full knowledge of being recorded because she was assured na “hindi lalabas” yung recording.

    i beg to disagree that there was nothing off the record about the interview. the content of the conversation does not determine whether it’s off the record, and neither does anyone else’s interpretation or personal opinion of it. the pr lady could have said nothing more than what was previously written or she could have blown the whistle on everyone and everything, but if she said it was off the record– hindi lalabas, how much clearer did she have to be — it’s off the record. no ifs or but about it. that’s journalistic ethics as i know it.

    and yes, cheche is not being paid by abs-cbn. in fact she pays abs-cbn to air probe (correct me if i’m wrong). which relationship indeed does not mean that cheche has anything to do with the gsis experience of biased reporting by lopez-owned media entities. just the same, the relationship identifies her with abs-cbn, and it’s perfectly understandable that gsis would be wary.

    this is not to justify gsis’ lack of transparency and other failings, especially that of being willingly used as a tool of the administration to silence its critics. but there are ways of skinning a cat, a buwaya? without breaching journalistic ethics.

  8. May 14, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    hey maliit_ ;) oo nga, ricky lo doesn’t have to worry about citing sources, his readers don’t bother or care to ask kung saan napulot, as long as the tsismis is good and juicy. but that would be beneath cheche, don’t you think?

  9. May 15, 2009 at 2:03 am
    maliittitik_o

    well jokes on che-che after all what she did was very showbiz. sa hirap ng buhay ngayon, escapism is the new best seller. siguro, che-che is preparing herself for a new career in movie reporting, kaya she committed this booboo. nainggit siguro ke joan maglipon who must be raking a lot since joining the showbiz bandwagon….

    but kidding aside, it hurts so much that che-che would stoop that low just to get a scoop and it hurt even more reading her explanation. so difficult to reconcile that a journalist who worked so hard to make a name could make a serious mistake…. plus yung explanation ni che-che, parang very disrespectful naman masyado sa intelligence ng kanyang expected readers.. you can always make a case from unnamed sources. bakit naman si deep throat who remained a well kept secret.

  10. May 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm
    Men

    Hi Angela,

    “Walang lalabas” can be interpreted in different ways. This is one honest interpretation: GSIS wanted Cheche’s show to only air the reason behind GSIS’s refusal to talk about the issue involving the benefits of schoolteachers.. And that’s what Cheche did. So for Cheche, “walang lalabas” meant not airing the portion about GSIS’s side pertaining to the teachers’ benefits. Similarly, “off the record,” can have different interpretations. The fact that the pr woman continued to talk, despite having been reminded by Cheche that their phone conversation was being recorded, can mean that the talk was (well literally) on record. What was clearly off record was the pr woman’s explanation of the GSIS position, which Cheche honored. But there was agreement, in fact the proposal came from GSIS, to air GSIS’s statement why it doesn’t want to air its position.

    Given that what happened could have different honest interpretations, it would likewise be unfair to judge Cheche for violating ethical standards.

    At any rate, the bigger issue here is that however we interpret the events, clearly GSIS had a far more insidious agenda. And you put it well: “especially that of being willingly used as a tool of the administration to silence its critics.”

    Best,

    Men

  11. May 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    hey men ;) okay. who am i to insist. maybe you’re right.

  12. May 19, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    oops ;) that doesn’t sound quite right. what i mean is, i won’t insist na lang since you seem quite set in your thinking, and so am i. let’s see na lang how the case goes.

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