The adverse reaction of some veteran and professional journalists to Malacañang’s invitation for bloggers to cover President Rodrigo Duterte seems belated and xenophobic. Bloggers emerged with the start of the Internet age in the 1990s by filling cyberspace with content, including news and opinion. They have become a fixture of the Internet today as they were accepted rather than suppressed for their own distinctive styles of communication and expression.
Journalists are being too territorial when they cautioned Presidential Communications Operation Office Secretary Martin Andanar from letting bloggers with at least 5,000 followers and daily blog posts to also wear the Malacañang reporters’ hat. But Andanar emphasized he did not mean to disrespect the journalism profession, being one himself. He also clarified that Malacañang is not tagging bloggers as journalists and Duterte does not intend to drown criticisms with pro-Duterte reports.
Moreover, opening Malacañang to bloggers is still in the experimental stage, with Andanar admitting that the PCOO is still developing the ground rules for such policy with traditional journalists encouraged to give inputs.
We should commend the good intention of the PCOO because the plan is consistent with the administration’s promise of transparency and inclusiveness. The bloggers’ ability to disseminate information in real time when it becomes available reinforces those policies while promoting freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Malacañang bloggers will not be there to compete with journalists nor mock the journalism profession with sloppy or inaccurate reporting. Concerns that bloggers could violate the Journalist’s Code of Ethics are also speculative and judgmental. After all, blog errors can be corrected the same way newspapers publish errata.
Blogging is akin to citizen journalism which TV and radio stations adopted more than a decade ago to enhance news reporting. Like citizen-journalists, bloggers complement professional journalists when it comes to keeping the public well-informed on current events.