A Question of Accreditation
The beauty of “citizen journalism” – for purposes of this entry, bloggers who do journalistic work on the side – is that it works from the periphery. The “citizen journalist,” in the case of something like “Boto Mo, Ipatrol Mo” or BlogWatch.ph, for example, was that it never needed accreditation to create news and commentary; that even the simplest tools can be used to document newsworthy stories.
The blog is an intensely personal medium fortified by friendships and networks, the most formal being very loose associations, but there was never a need to “accredit the blogosphere;” the handful of those actively seeking accreditation not (and never) representative of the entire population of bloggers in the Philippines.
As a blogger, I understand where Tess Bedico (in invoking Regina Bengco) are coming from: more than territorial pissing, it’s to uphold journalistic standards in the Malacañang Press Corps. Sure, a passionate blogger would have all the right to get all riled up and perhaps even insulted with being called hao-shiao (to drive the point home, fake journalists), but it stops at the swipe. The rest of the rant, where “blogging is the future of reporting” and “some journalists are hao-shiao anyway” fall under the category of conjecture.
It’s a tired line from those making noise in the periphery (including myself), but again: journalists can be bloggers as bloggers can be journalists. The relationship between bloggers and journalists is a matter of difference, not inferiority or superiority. That comes with the caveat that every blogger who writes about current events and politics is a consumer of “traditional,” or “mainstream,” media; an opinion-maker in a symbiotic relationship with the journalist.
If by hao-shiao we mean that flak-vest wearing usisero who is a journalist by virtue of the occasion where he or she happens to have a media pass or a press ID, then the derogatory statement is not without basis. Hao-shiao applies to bloggers as it applies to journalists in pretty much the same contexts: freebies, perks, the buffet table. That said, it is insulting, and perhaps Miss Bedico and Miss Bengco went overboard with that. No matter how small the audience for blogging is, it is still an empowering tool for citizens to disseminate information, views, and opinions. And yes, there are bloggers out there who adhere to the standards and ethics of journalism, and there are journalists who blog.
Moving forward, I suppose the minimum expectation of the Press Corps reporter is to write the news, report on the hour, by the hour, everything newsworthy that occurs in the beat: something that bloggers with other commitments and responsibilities cannot fully commit to. There are codified standards of objectivity, detachment, accuracy, and style in journalism that run counter to the “anything-goes-it’s-my-space-so-it’s-my-opinion” styles in blogging. If a blogger, or a group of bloggers, under independently-funded associations and online publications could accomplish the barest minimum, then well and good.
Sure, there’s merit in putting commentary writers on the Malacanang Press Corps if Ricky Carandang sees it fit to put them there, but how can the MPC police its ranks and uphold its own standards to people who aren’t journalists? The absence of, and the recalcitrance towards, all-encompassing “bloggers’ associations” should be that clarion call that blogging is, at its worst and at its best, an intensely personal medium. Everyone with a blog has a stake in that word and in that practice, so if you accredit a blogger as a blogger then you might as well accredit every applicant and let them in State functions as a matter of “fair coverage.”
Accreditation is not a matter of granting permission, but institutions recognizing institutions (a lot like the relationship of CHED with colleges and universities). It is hubris to think of individuals as institutions, or such a diverse group of different people with diverging opinions writing in their own personal spaces could be lumped under an “institution” without their prior consent. They have as much right to the word “blogger” as everyone else who has a blog, whether they mind their own business in a space called the blogosphere or fight for some higher abstraction beyond the individual (like society, polity, the economy, and so on and so forth).
On a question of accreditation: my stand is no. To accredit one is to accredit all, so tough luck finding that “all,” whether we encourage bloggers to form their own media agencies or whatnot should be a challenge to whoever seeks that holy grail. It’s about adhering to standards, following practices, and living and working by a code of ethics: the things that make journalism a profession as much as it is a vocation. As parochial as it may seem there’s the matter of paying your dues and earning the respect of your peers once accredited: the by-the-hour, on-the-hour reporting expected of every member of the Press Corps, pulling your own weight under the merciless world of news, looking for the best angles and distilling the information as best you can. We need not do that when we blog, where – outside the requisites of civility and magnanimity where necessary – there aren’t any rules.
It’s a “when-in-Rome-do-as-the-Romans-do” thing: that the moment your lanyard bears a media ID meant for journalists, it behooves you to act like a journalist and practice that vocation for as long as you’re with them covering. Otherwise – and this is just my personal opinion – there’s nothing wrong with the Aquino administration inviting bloggers to Malacañang every now and then for the President to share his thoughts, to learn from people who have opinions, and basically be the welcome host to his (hopefully regular) guests, the bloggers of the Philippines. Maybe it would do him some good to listen to empowered citizens from where he is, more than being covered by them wherever he is.
Let me get back to that “periphery” and “difference” thing I was rambling about earlier. I think that coming to terms with that periphery has more importance than writing “in protest” of mainstream media. There will always be a need for the journalist to report the news as comprehensively and objectively as possible, as much as there’s a need for the blogger to interpret the content of the news to as far as his or her personal biases will allow him or her to do so. For the blogger, I think it is from the periphery where he or she has the most freedom, and therefore the most power. To move to the center is to give up a lot of that freedom, a lot of that movement and dynamism, and in effect become part of the old guard.
In that periphery, where the rules have nothing to do with how to write and what can and cannot be written about, the blogger has the ability to influence and to empower. Perhaps that freedom, when used wisely and prudently, has far more value for the citizen journalist than an MPC accreditation, don’t you think?