By Marisa A. Gutierrez
I couldn’t believe what I read when a copy editor from the philippines, Jojo Malig wrote to Mallary Jean Tenore, from Poynter online, that “Reporting live from hostage scenes is standard in the Philippine media setting. Viewers/listeners/readers expect media interviews with hostage-takers, kidnappers, and tourist groups.” I found this so disturbing because the idea has to run through your mind, when you read the article, about the former Philippine police officer taking 15 Hong Kong tourists hostages and killing eight.
The fact of the matter is that the suspect at the time, 55-year-old officer Rolando Mendoza, wanted the media and journalists to cover his story. At what point, he even wrote on a piece of cardboard stating, “Media Now.” Which basically told journalists to come and cover his story. Manage director, Maria Ressa from ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs stated in an interview that, “Every country has its own tradition of journalism and culture, which can change the way journalists operate.”
What has happened to journalism and media alike? Are some of us not using common sense anymore? Do journalists and news media people no longer have a code of ethics? In this situation, I strongly, and passionately feel that it was the news who media who made this ending a disastrous one for all to remember.
Not only did the media cover the entire hostage situation, but one local radio station even did a live interviw the gunman, that wasn’t televised until after the chaos. In addition, local news stations and media in the Philippines also covered the moment where the gunman’s brother came to the scene. The media put the camera in the gunman’s brothers’ face, and basically showed the gunman every single word he said and displayed the moment in which he was shoved into a police car. At that very moment, everything took a turn for the worse and gunshots were fired and heard from within the bus.
My thing is, journalism is like a super power right? If you are a journalist, or a part of the media in some way, you have the power to change every situation, whether it be for better or for worse. Sometimes I feel, when media gets in the wrong hands, can it be both taken for granted and used for evil, in this case, probably to entice viewers.
As Poynter author, Bob Steele said, “always assume that the hostage take, gunman, or terrorist has access to the media.” It is our job as journalists to be sensitive to the situations that involve hostages, whether it be ‘standard’ or not. We all have a power, especially those geared towards a journalism or news media career, and that is the power of visual and print. So, remember with power, comes great responsibility!