Emotional distance in news reporting

Fallen 44 photo Credit by Rappler
Fallen 44 photo Credit by Rappler

In late January this year I watched the news on the Filipino channel about the massacre of the Philippine police commandos. Forty-four members of the Philippine Special Action Force (SAF) were killed and left as many as 250 wounded. The massacre happened after the operation to arrest a notorious al-Qaeda linked terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan went awry.

It was awful to watch various images of dead police officers lying in the cornfield. Videos of some officers were also shown officers being shot at close range even if they were still alive.

The Filipinos were very angry at the authorities with the deaths of the elite commandos. Some blamed the president for failing to effectively support the SAF commandos because he was reluctant to wreck the peace treaty negotiated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2012. The treaty is intended to end the conflict between the Moro Muslims of Mindanao and the government by creating an autonomous Muslim region called Bangsamoro.

For days I monitored the news on television and followed updates in social media. I can’t help but notice the public’s anger even the reporters as they report the massacre. The random smirking was very obvious. At first I just ignored it until one night at the very end of the show I was stunned with the emotional ending.

I get it that night’s news was very heavy. Watching the 44 caskets with Philippine flag draped on it I can’t help crying as well. Adding insult to the injury the president was not there at the Villamor airbase instead he was at the Mitsubishi inauguration smiling while the whole nation was mourning.

As a Filipino I am bothered about many things. I am bothered about the fate of the commandos, the BS explanation of the president’s whereabouts and washing of his hands. It is pretty clear that high profile operation like that it is highly impossible that the president was not aware about the operation. But there is one thing that bothers me as well I am bothered the fact that a TV broadcaster got emotional on television.

Reporters cover various kinds of stories all the time even worse than the massacre in Maguindanao. Sometimes you witness hit and run or you see a fetus in a microwave oven at a crime scene and it’s really hard to detach yourself and not be emotional but you are not there to solve a crime.

Although journalists are humans we get emotional and we sympathize but we have to remember that our first priority is to report without bias. We try to be as objective as we can, avoid getting affected and fall in love with your story.

We have the responsibility to the public the way we handle news stories. If we get emotional the way we deliver the stories how do we think the public react to that? Keep in mind people trusts us so if we get emotional like that crying on television I wouldn’t be surprise if the public gets furious and resort to take actions on their own.



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