I know there are far more important events and issues going on right now in my country but indulge me one last time on this Christopher Lao controversy.
In response to criticism of its recent statement that practically sided with GMA News, the network that aired a report that in turn caused the vicious online bullying of Lao, the media watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility sent out this tweet:
Re: Lao controversy- @cmfr did point out that @gmanews focused solely on Lao in its report. But please note that @gmanews recognized its mistake, apologized for it, & withdrew the report in accordance with the ethical principle of recognizing & correcting errors promptly.
Fine. (Although, again, GMA News deserves at least “jeers” for its handling of this story. Just because the network recognized its mistake, apologized for it and withdrew the report doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be criticized for it.)
But if GMA News were really contrite, it should now do several things to help Lao put his life back together.
* The network can start by pulling that silly “Think before you click” in-house advertisement. Showing that ad in the middle of the Lao controversy is either hypocritical on GMA News’ part or it shows that the people running the network are tone deaf about this whole thing.
* In lieu of the “Think before you click” ad, it might want to air an in-house ad against online bullying, which is becoming increasingly common in the Philippines.
* The network might also consider appealing directly to Facebook to remove the hate page against Lao.
* I don’t know if the network already interviewed Lao but it should try. Let him open up about this whole thing, allow him to explain the context of his comments. The guy obviously has a story to tell.
This whole Lao controversy offers invaluable lessons to the mainstream press. It underscores the fact that, as journalists, our way of doing things is no longer the same. For one, obviously, we cannot just file a report without considering its impact on other media.
I’m also stating the obvious here, of course, but the social media has not only broken down barriers in communications — it has demolished certain assumptions in newsrooms, among them the idea that the public will silently consume what we feed them. As this controversy has shown, they also bite back.