>Journalists Have Responsibility to the Public


By Joe Espiritu
Columnist, Sunday Post
We could not help but watch. We could have switched to other stations but in our part of Bohol, we could only see one TV station clearly. A high ridge prevents other TV waves from curving down to our location and only one channel placed a relay station so their network could be seen in southern Bohol. So despite our dislike and in consideration to others, we have to suffer through the program despite our disgust.
We never liked show biz. Except for a few, most have a handsome or pretty face hiding an intellectual desert and with morals of an alley cat. Show biz personalities are full of philandering husbands promiscuous wives, single mothers or couples living together without the benefit of matrimony. They change mates as if they are indulging in a game of musical chairs. But our youth worship them. Any show featuring the so-called stars, would always be a hit among the young.
A Sunday afternoon talk show is devoted to featuring show biz. Two glib TV hosts invite aspiring actresses – they seldom invite men – to a question and answer session. Strangely, they seldom interview those who are already established. They prey on those who aspire to be noticed. No questions, no matter how personal or embarrassing, are left unasked. Interviewees either weep or squirm in humiliation and embarrassment but they must endure for the sake of exposure.
An aging matinee idol had a disagreement with his manager. It was said that the issue was about money. The spat could have been resolved without fanfare. But since this involved a come backing actor and an established show biz manager, the conflict was aired in this Sunday show. Another show biz character took the side of the actor and the female TV host backed the other side. While the principals kept their cool the backers went after each other’s throats. One word led to another until the quarrel escalated and decorum was thrown out if the window. As respectable persons threw up their hands in horror, the low life cheered.
Needless to say, the management suspended the TV host on the grounds that she violated company rules. It was not only company rules, which were violated as well; Freedom of expression was also abused. There is a delicate balance between the public’s right to know and the right of the individual to privacy.
A show biz person is a public figure; therefore any facet of his personality relevant to his profession is to be of common knowledge.  He could choose to be famous if he can achieve it or notorious if he works on it. Or mediocre if he does not have enough brains. However, it does not take away his right to be a private person. Any issue not relevant to the affair is not to be used against him.
A journalist, whether in print or broadcast media has a responsibility to the public. The journalist has a bigger responsibility than anyone else. The news reporter and the opinion maker can make or break reputations. True, the reporter may correct his error or columnist or commentator may retract his pronouncement in later editions but the damage had been done. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot restore a damaged image. The cracks will show. 

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