vitug, UST, online journalism

03 January 2012

read on (the) line: credibility, the academe, journalism for radikalchick‘s take on marites danguilan vitug‘s UST breaks the rules to favor Corona (rappler.com) and lito zulueta‘s response, UST: CJ Corona earned Ph.D. (inquirer broadsheet).

not surprisingly, the online community, beyond taking sides, vitug vs. corona, is most offended by zulueta’s, or is it UST’s, clear disdain for online journalism and rappler.com.

“Is that a legitimate news organization? What individuals and entities fund Newsbreak and Rappler? Do these outfits have editors? Who challenged Miss Vitug’s article before it went online so as to establish its accuracy, objectivity and fairness? Why was there no prior disclosure made? What gate-keeping measures does online journalism practice?”

to which the center for media freedom and responsibility (CMFR) responded with Specious and Ingenuous, referring to zulueta’s piece, and taking the side of vitug in no uncertain terms.

The argument that as an example of online journalism Ms. Vitug’s article did not go through the gate-keeping process standard in print journalism is similarly misleading. Gate-keeping is indeed an issue in online journalism, but as editor-at-large of Rappler, Ms. Vitug is herself that site’s lead gatekeeper. Vitug, who has been a journalist for 30 years, is also the founder ofNewsbreak, “which has operated as a magazine and online for more than a decade until it joined Rappler in December 2011.”

CMFR notes that Ms. Vitug’s attempt to get the side of UST and Corona, and her disclosing that she was either rebuffed or ignored, were both in keeping with journalistic ethics and protocol.

hmm.  i must confess, it feels strange to be disagreeing with CMFR on this one.  but UST’s tack, which everyone presumes is zulueta’s, questioning the credibility of rappler.com if not of vitug, a journalist of long standing, was the perfect riposte.  by the standards of mainstream journalism, vitug’s piece failed to put the dissertation issue in the context of the big picture — is it something that happens, too, in other universities?  did corona pressure UST into granting him exemptions, or was it purely on UST’s initiative?

that she tried to get the side of UST and corona but was rebuffed shouldn’t have stopped vitug from further investigation.  in keeping with journalistic standards of verification and fairness, her researcher could have checked out the matter with CHED, and maybe she would have learned what zulueta gleefully pointed out, that UST is allowed by CHED to grant academic degrees to individuals “whose relevant work experiences, professional achievements and stature, as well as high-level, nonformal and informal training are deemed equivalent to the academic requirements for such degrees.” then perhaps she would have come to a different, less biased, conclusion, as befits a journalistic piece?  unless, of course, it was part of a diss-corona campaign in aid of his conviction sa impeachment trial, no more, no less.

interesting tuloy ang tanong ng UST about who’s funding newsbreak.ph and rapper.com.  pro-palace ba?  pro-RH and -FOI malamang, in accordance with the majority mood.  pero pro-what else?  anong agenda?  at puwede rin namang wala, banat lang nang banat according to the wishes of the crowd, which would not help the discourse any, but it would keep netizens all fired up all the time, good for digital advertisers which that ceo maria ressa hopes to attract for a “sustainable commercial venture.”

but wait.  isn’t advertising the no-no of what ressa calls “uncompromised journalism?”  googled it and found this definition (from Politics: An Introduction to Modern Democratic Government pages 151-152) that’s specific to public radio and tv broadcasting but would seem applicable to new media as well, where “funding comes from the state … and broadcasters are…released from the imperatives of pleasing advertisers and appealing to the markets that advertisers want.”

so where is rappler’s funding coming from?  who’s spending for the iligan coverage, for example?  the state?  the palace?  philanthropists?  NGOs?  the rappler team mismo?  if any of the first four, then what’s the trade off?  if the last, then mabuhay kayo, good job, i wish you all deep pockets!

interesting din yung question about gate-keeping.  so vitug gate-keeps herself and that’s okay?  but that’s so like blogging, which i do, and which is nothing like rappler’s thing.  radikalchick is right: if the site wants to be taken seriously, ressa et al must define  terms, draw lines, and maybe rethink their concept.  that is, if rappler hopes to earn the respect of mainstream and online media and, in the process, upgrade the quality of and standards for citizen journalism in the pinoy blogosphere and social media.

otherwise, puwede rin namang status quo lang, let rappler be whatever it is they envision claim it to be, pero stop with the grand promise of inspiring smart conversations and igniting a thirst for change, because the question becomes: what kind of change?  small change a la phnoy?

my only prayer is, let it not be as blogger benignO fears: More traditional “branded” journos = more inbred thinking.

 ***

BREAKING NEWS from radikalchick

Or what to do after UST shoots you down, invoking academic freedom and autonomy

Vitug et al could have gone to the CHED website, searched for ETEEAP, clicked on the link that explains what this is exactly, scrolled down this ETEEAP page, and  found a downloadable document entitled “list of HEIs.”  upon opening that document dated December 2010, they would have discovered that while the University of Santo Tomas is indeed granted by CHED the right to give any person a degree based on years of experience etc etc., a Doctorate in Law is not included in that list of degrees.

University of Santo Tomas (UST)
Bachelor of Arts; BS Engineering; BS Nursing; BS Music;
Graduate Programs (MBA; MA Music)

granted the possibility that this list has since been updated, this was still the right “journalistic” reaction to UST’s statement, yes?  and it took me all of five minutes to do.

 

49 Responses to vitug, UST, online journalism

  1. January 4, 2012 at 12:34 am

    re breaking news: rappler posted the info pala earlier today but without much noise, and still asking Who’s lying, UST or Corona? parang they continue to miss the point that this is no skin off corona’s nose but UST’s. unless they can prove that UST did it under duress.

    http://start.rappler.com/nation/660-who-s-lying-ust-or-corona#.TwMNesWGktU.facebook

    • January 4, 2012 at 2:33 am
      GabbyD

      well, they framed the story that way (who is lying?…) because they have 2 different accounts of his tenure in UST. to quote rappler: “MANILA, Philippines – The University of Santo Tomas (UST) said that Chief Justice Renato Corona finished his doctoral degree in seven years, which is within the residency requirements imposed by the university.

      This conflicts with two interviews that Corona granted to the media about his UST doctorate in civil law.”

      its really that simple. only ONE of these accounts can be true. which one?

  2. January 4, 2012 at 1:52 am
    GabbyD

    beyond corona’s impeachment, this is newsworthy stuff to print as rappler had printed it.

    if a U can award a PhD degree for any reason apart from the official policy, it’s potentially a problem.

    i’m not sure if its justified, not knowing anything about graduate civil law. this is something that the legal academic community should know about and discuss. hence, its the job of journalism to put it out of the open and have a frank, civil discussion about it.

    IF it turns out to be justified move by UST. then journalists did their job. di ba?

    in other words, this is what journalists should be doing. ask questions and get answers.

    now, about not knowing what rappler is, thats fine. its something that will change over time.

    • January 4, 2012 at 10:31 pm
      up nn Grad

      Hmmm… GuLorrrYYYaaa has more than one doctorate.

      And guess what… so does Persi-dente Noynoy Aquino.

  3. January 4, 2012 at 2:18 am
    GabbyD

    your quote on uncompromied journalism is incomplete. from that book, govt sponsored journ is ONE way for a journalist to be uncompromised. (in fact, its #2)

    the book cites other ways. i leave it to others to read it on their own.

    furthermore, that interview w ressa speaks to an attempt at a NEW WAY to get uncompromised journalism. thats their goal; but lets see if they achieve it. at any rate, funding questions ought 2 be asked… but that doesnt mean one should IGNORE them until these questions are answered. thats nuts.

    • January 4, 2012 at 2:30 am

      as i understand it, all three eschew advertising revenue. and who said anything about ignoring them? interesante nga to watch them…

  4. January 4, 2012 at 2:37 am
    GabbyD

    UST ignored them, even as they raised the questions.

    tama ang mga tanong nila, but that doesnt mean the researcher/journalist should be ignored.

    _____________________________

    the book you cited includes serious niche advertising as a way to be uncompromised. this is how private journalism works, and as far as i know, unimpeacheable.

  5. January 4, 2012 at 5:08 am
    GregR

    Thanks for sharing your reflections, Angela. I did notice two things about your entry (and the update appended to it). Let me summarize, then let’s see how they hold up, and let me conclude by sharing my own reading of what’s been going on (which may be a stretch, let’s see):

    (1) You said, “her researcher could have checked out the matter with CHED, and maybe she would have learned what zulueta gleefully pointed out, that UST is allowed by CHED to grant academic degrees to individuals…then perhaps she would have come to a different, less biased, conclusion, as befits a journalistic piece?”

    (I stripped out the part quoted from Zulueta to save space. In fact, it turns out that CHED does *not* allow UST to grant a PhD in Law in these terms. So what Vitug’s article originally suggested — that UST bent rules to grant CJ a PhD — turns out to be not biased at all. It also turns out that Vitug did check with CHED, in early December, as explained below.)

    (2) The appended update confirms that UST is *not* allowed to grant a PhD in Law in the terms outlined in the Zuleta article.

    This is the same point Rappler made on Jan 2, 2012 in an article entitled “UST: Corona’s lecture enough for a PhD”: “What the university failed to say is that civil law, the doctorate of Corona, is not covered by the Ched-authorized degrees that UST is allowed to grant under Eteeap, based on a list provided to us by Ched last Dec 6, 2011. UST, in effect, acknowledged that the university bent its rules for Corona.”

    (The appneded update is therefore somewhat late, fails to acknowledge what Vitug/Rappler had already done, and is in the end not very useful. I noticed, however, that the author felt compelled to brag near the end of the update that “this took me all of five minutes to do.”)

    My take (which is probably a stretch, but bear with me): there has been a rush to be pro-Vitug or pro-UST or pro-CJ in this brouhaha. In the middle of it all, I also detect a group — much smaller, but they show up in various social media sites — that are neither pro-UST nor pro-CJ but seems to take some delight in pointing out that Vitug had not done her homework and in seeing Vitug and company (“sacred cows?” according to one tweet) with bruised egos.

    I really don’t care about Maria Ressa’s ego. And I hate sacred cows as much as the next guy.

    But I think if we are to be honest about it, we should acknowledge that Vitug raised valid issues, that she had in fact done her homework, and that UST, as some have already pointed out, was really caught this time with its pants down.

    • January 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      gregR: when i wrote the main piece, my source for the kind of research done was this: “UST and my long wait” [http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/669-ust-and-my-long-wait] which said nothing about checking out CHED. when katrina found that info from CHED’s website, we had no idea that rappler had earlier in the day come out with it (the link didn’t show up in my fb feed until after i had published) and it wasnt treated like a major discovery, which it was to us. and i didn’t edit out the bragging because indeed how could rappler have taken so long to discover that info? vitug’s piece first came out 22 december pa. kung hindi pa sumagot si zulueta/ust, they wouldn’t have thought to check out CHED?

      • January 4, 2012 at 9:10 pm
        GregR

        Thanks for the reply.

        re: “how could rappler have taken so long to discover that info? vitug’s piece first came out 22 december pa. kung hindi pa sumagot si zulueta/ust, they wouldn’t have thought to check out CHED?”

        Please read the Rappler article again: Newsbreak/Rappler received the CHED list on December 6.

        • January 4, 2012 at 10:06 pm

          gregR, please send link, don’t know what article you’re referring to. dec 6 pa nila alam about ched’s list of allowables and they didn’t think it worth reporting right away?

          • January 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm
            GregR

            I was referring to this (published Jan 2)

            http://www.rappler.com/nation/645-ust-corona-s-lecture-enough-for-phd

            The key paragraph is “What the university failed to say is that civil law, the doctorate of Corona, is not covered by the Ched-authorized degrees that UST is allowed to grant under Eteeap, based on a list provided to us by Ched last Dec 6, 2011. UST, in effect, acknowledged that the university bent its rules for Corona.”

            You are of course correct that CHED was not mentioned at all earlier – in the Jan 1 article.

          • January 5, 2012 at 12:58 am
            GabbyD

            why would they report on something that does not apply to their story?

            thats an impossible condition to impose angela.

  6. January 4, 2012 at 5:24 am
    GregR

    ps

    And just to be clear: if it turns out that PNoy also obtained his undegrad degree via some shortcut, I would want to hear about it.

    And I would probably be less interested in whether the person who wrote it was motivated to write a journalistic hit piece. I know that the truth can come out in the unlikeliest of places, even in a hit piece.

    (This is in the end, I suppose, about the integrity of public officials. And academic shortcuts may not be sufficient grounds to kick them out of office, but they do say something about character. [“But for a PhD, Richard?”] And though this brouhaha has been largely framed around UST and its rules — it does say something about CJ’s integrity, too. UST may have been entitled to bend its rules, but CJ could have refused either the PhD or the Latin honors.)

    Thanks for the space.

    • January 7, 2012 at 7:41 pm
      Rembrandt

      Refusing the PhD or the latin honors never crossed the mind of Corona. He didn’t even budge to consider the irregularity of his appointment as CJ. His “makapal na mukha” is one for the record.

  7. January 4, 2012 at 6:56 am
    GregR

    ps (again)

    Last na – di rin yata completely honest ang UST when they said they were “at a loss” as to how to respond to an online journalist.

    All the months of correspondence between Vitug’s staff and UST (now published on Rappler) identified Newsbreak clearly (and electronic and physical contact details all spelled out) on the letters requesting info/interview.

    “Is that a legitimate news organization? What individuals and entities fund Newsbreak and Rappler? Do these outfits have editors?” etc etc. — all legitimate questions, I suppose, but were never raised by UST, at least in several months of correspondence I have read.

    Di ba?

    • January 4, 2012 at 8:03 am
      GabbyD

      i agree. i found that “dont know what online journalism” is silly. but whatever — as is clear, if u dont answer, it will be printed anyway, and it will make the issue more complicated.

      • January 4, 2012 at 8:43 am

        But Gabby, silence is in the tradition of “never complain, never explain,” reportedly said by a Rockefeller.

    • January 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      gregR: yeah, but i wasnt surprised, lalo na now na mas malinaw na tila they didnt only break the rules, they bent over backwards to do it?

      • January 7, 2012 at 7:45 pm
        Rembrandt

        “they didnt only break the rules, they bent over backwards to do it?”

        triple thumbs up for this. the imagery is sickening :)

  8. January 4, 2012 at 8:17 am

    The Rappler story points out that Corona said he finished his Ph.D. in five years, while UST said he finished it in seven. That may be where the “lying” allegation came from.

    That said, I don’t agree with how Rappler framed this story. If Vitug et al. had wanted to highlight Corona’s role in the situation, particularly given that he has supposedly fudged his academic record in the past (at Ateneo, where he claimed to have graduated with honors), they could have tried to find out if Corona knew of the somewhat unusual circumstances under which his degree and honors were granted. If he had (and that likely goes without saying, as he could not have been unaware that his scholarly treatise would be treated as equivalent to a dissertation), then Rappler could have raised the issue of delicadeza, shifting the burden away from UST and onto Corona by asking: Should Corona have accepted?

    Such a trajectory would subsequently have provided a natural link to his midnight appointment as Chief Justice, which is one of the reasons he is being impeached.

    • January 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      jay! i agree. to really get at corona, the story could have been, as you say, framed differently.

    • January 4, 2012 at 9:10 pm
      Bert

      Well I think that Vitug, being an investigative journalist and who might want to inject some mystery to her piece, knew there will be smart people like Jay here who can figure out the puzzle and connect the dot, :).

  9. January 4, 2012 at 8:37 am

    “..questioning the credibility of rappler.com if not of vitug, a journalist of long standing, was the perfect riposte.”

    Hi Angela,

    I tend to disagree that the questioning by UST was such a “perfect riposte.” It smacked of ad hominem, but it seems a no-brainer to question the “greatness” of some of Rappler’s “in” crowd. As one commentator seemed to say, it looks like an inbred form of pan de sal, but still pan, and no sal.

    But Ms. Vitug is well within free speech. One can “slant”, but then we know that good rhetoric requires that we set up and refute the “other side.” While she could have gone so many more steps to get UST’s “side,” that’s a judgment call. As it turns out, two can play the game. UST also quickly put out its own slant. We the readers can then decide. That’s how it should be.

    As to merits:

    Ms. Vitug’s first question was narrow enough: Where’s the dissertation? Or is the lecture it? The next question was: If the lecture was it, was it worth a doctorate?

    The first is subject to a variant of the res ipsa doctrine. If UST won’t or can’t show the dissertation, the outsider can presume it doesn’t exist in its traditional form of one. Maybe, by exercising academic freedom, UST redefined “dissertation” as encompassing other things. With the silence, again the readers scratching heads can reasonably so assume.

    As to the second question, there’s no easy answer. That is for the academics to ponder (to “cerebrate,” even), which takes more time than reading The Old Man and the Sea. But the big picture of how universities behave is always there, and bringing it on can get the goat of those who play the “game”. In any case, the traditional thinking is an ideal. A PhD is meant to be an original and substantive contribution to knowledge, but we know that it has been diluted. In the economics of my era, a 3-essay dissertation was enough, the essays being mainly reviews of literature with a slight nod to new evidence. It worked, but lamely. I still like the Clint E approach – tell the young kid to make “my” day, or else no degree.

    • January 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm

      orlando: well it seemed perfect to me, ang taray lang, hitting back with info that parang rappler didn’t know but should have known — until that CHED info, of course, so i take that back :)

    • January 4, 2012 at 9:56 pm

      and orlando, i love how “cerebrate” has become part of your vocab :)

      • January 4, 2012 at 10:25 pm

        private jokes take on lives.. yes, cerebrate instead of celebrate, and i try not to be facetious.

  10. January 4, 2012 at 9:03 am

    “(The appneded update is therefore somewhat late, fails to acknowledge what Vitug/Rappler had already done, and is in the end not very useful. I noticed, however, that the author felt compelled to brag near the end of the update that “this took me all of five minutes to do.”) ”

    Salamat po sa mga mahahalagang pagninilay ginoong GabbyD.

    Pero sa tingin ko po, hindi po ninais ng may-akda na ‘i-brag near the end of the update that “this took me all of five minutes to do.”

    Naniniwala po ako na sa tuwing magsusulat ang isang tao, nakakadagdag sa kredibilidad ng piyesa ang mga detalye, ebidensiya at patunay. wala akong nakikitang problema at pagmamayabang sa ginawa ng may-akda.

    Maligayang Bagong-Taon.

    • January 4, 2012 at 9:19 am
      GregR

      Salamat, Mang Vincent. Ako po iyon, hindi si GabbyD.

      Maligayang bagong taon din.

      • January 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm

        paumanhin din sa pagkakamali ginoong GregR at GabbyD.

        Advance Merry Christmas.

    • January 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      salamat naman, vincent! maligayang bagong taon rin :)

  11. January 4, 2012 at 10:09 am
    Ron James

    I shouldn’t be peeping through this discussion and stick to my official work time but I couldn’t resist the temptation.

    As it turns out, it’s all worth following the exchanges. It broadens my understanding of this rappler-ust-corona brouhaha and presents to me a discerning big picture.

    Both GregR and Rolando R’s points are delightfully insightful.

    • January 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      ron james: that’s orlando r. and thanks for peeping :)

    • January 7, 2012 at 3:33 pm
      GabbyD

      angela, its unfortunate that you are linking to B0’s essay. i dont know if you’ve read his body of work, but if you have, i’m certain you’ll agree that, at best, his “insight” into the “filipino” are obvious; at worst, its misanthropic; but usually, its biased and mean.

      • January 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm

        to each his own, gabbyd. sometimes he talks sense to me.

        • January 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm
          GabbyD

          he writes well. too well in fact, that if you dont stop yourself, you’ll be swayed.

          example:”Vitug, being a journalist, made a story out of it. That’s what journalists do, in the same way scorpions can’t help but sting.”

          so when journalists make a story of out a school’s freedom to award a degree, its akin to some INSTINCT; specifically, a hurtful instinct.

          now, if you accept that sentence, you have tacitly accepted his premise — vitug’s work was at best “hindi pinagisipan”/instinctual… at worst, its harmful…

          very good writer.

          • January 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm

            gabbyd: when i provide a link to anywhere, i don’t mean to say i necessarily agree with everything that’s said on that link. only to say that i read it and you might want to read it too but it’s up to you if you do or how you take it.

          • January 8, 2012 at 12:29 am

            gabby, i agree and disagree. a good writer works for his readers. he doesn’t waste their time.

          • January 9, 2012 at 9:12 pm
            GabbyD

            angela,

            i’m glad you clarified. any link, without a comment, makes the reader believe that you believe everything in it.

            maybe you can share what your beliefs and his intersect. from what i can tell, you both agree that its a non-story (i.e. shouldnt have been written at all), and from your rejection of the above, you dont necessarily agree with how his argument was arrived at.

            Bo’s work is filled with rhetorical “flourishes” as above; which makes agreeing with b0 err…. dicey…

            orlando,

            i admire anyone who can write the things he writes with a straight face. after several years, i’ve learned that he really believes the mean generalizations he writes. i only wish he’d be more upfront with his assumptions; but he’ll never do that coz that reveals the cracks in his “rhetoric”.

            and his style is such that, if you disagree wtih him, he’ll say you are stupid/”pinoy”. there is no discussion with him.

            which made me concerned when angela linked to him. that guy is entertaining, but devoid of actual substance.

  12. January 5, 2012 at 1:50 am

    gregR: what it tells me is that corona was is the target, and they were are trying to minimize damage to UST

  13. January 8, 2012 at 12:31 am

    angela, i like your community of commenters who call each other by first name and last initial – cerebrators, not terminators.

  14. January 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm
  15. January 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

twitter

follow @stuartsantiago on twitter

recent comments

  • © Angela Stuart-Santiago