New technologies expand automated election coverage

October 7, 2010 at 8:03 PM Leave a comment

N.B. – This is a revised version of  the news article originally published in UPIU on September 4.

Evaluation: Corinne Renes said that the lead was “sufficient enough to explain what the article was about” and that she liked how the different points of the speakers were separated into parts. A clear error committed, however, was the failure to properly name COMELEC before abbreviating. She also suggested that a link be provided in the last paragraph so that readers would have greater understanding of what the phrase ‘failure of the elections’ refers to.

Representatives from television, print, and online media emphasized how the emergence of new technologies has maximized the coverage of the first automated elections in the Philippines during a forum held yesterday at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC) auditorium.

Titled “Retracing the Campaign Trail: Assessing Media’s Role in the 2010 National Election Coverage,” the forum marked the start of the Mass Media Awareness Month which is an advocacy of the UP CMC Student Council aimed at an immediacy for awareness in the existence, presence, and importance of media.

Speakers of the said event include Patrick Paez, TV5’s Head for News Production; Ellen Tordesillas, main writer and board member of VERA Files; and Howie Severino, one of the leading broadcast journalists in the country and GMANews.TV’s editor-in-chief.

New, shiny toys
Paez said that the elections have always been a major endeavor for different news organizations and often entail buying of latest toys and broadcast technology.

“This huge expense is justified by the money that the networks will be making from all the political ads that will be coming in,” he said.

Although touch screen graphics and holograms are considered ‘cool’ toys, Paez said that these made no difference in the type of reporting and had no impact on the quality of news being broadcast.

He also pointed out that elections are almost always about numbers, but networks trying to beat each other when reporting the first 10 or 20 votes cast in a particular precinct fail to realize that these figures aren’t essential as they represent only a small portion of the voting population.

“To report numbers that matter and have meaning instead of bombarding the audience with news and information is the challenge for us in media,” he said.

In this age of information, Paez stressed that the traditional media must make sense of the news and take advantage of their privilege to choose what to report and what not to report.

Re-training necessary
Aside from the high-tech tools and computerized system, Tordesillas said that many things have remained the same in the coverage of elections this year as far as media are concerned.

“Media remain the major battleground in winning the hearts of voters,” she said.

For the first automated national elections, VERA Files tied up with the Philippine Press Institute to conduct re-training for media practitioners and with several non-governmental organizations to promote more active citizen journalism.

Tordesillas explained how journalists help in empowering people by providing correct information that will guide them in deciding who to vote for.

“Media cover elections because elections, like press freedom, are an important component of democracy,” she said.

She also reminded members of the media to resist material temptations from candidates whose campaign they are following by adhering to the core values of journalism that comprise truth-telling, independence, fairness, humaneness, and accountability.

Online media’s edge
Severino said that the new media can do anything that old media can, but there are a few things that the new media can do well which the old media cannot.

“In online journalism, the question that we ask is how we can add value to the comprehensive coverage by broadcast media,” he said.

Among all the strengths of the internet, Severino focused on the breadth and depth of information as the edge of the new media over traditional media.

He explained that online media are powerful tools for presenting information because the web is a natural home for databases and is not limited by either airtime or space, thus allowing for the complete listing of candidates who are running ahead or falling behind the elections.

One of the challenges of web reporting, Severino said, was developing their own program that would automatically convert information from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) into a format that they needed for their website so as to display election results as soon as possible.

Severino also mentioned that instead of always thinking about doomsday scenarios like failure of the automated elections, the media must give equal attention to stories of success as these may actually constitute the real news.

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