By Pachico A. Seares
Public & Standards Editor
Sun.Star Cebu and Sun.Star Superbalita [Cebu]
Two recent incidents highlight run-ins of news reporters and camera crew with news sources during coverage.
Last May 17, Police Insp. Maria Gutierrez “scolded” reporters who wanted to interview her about the rape of a girl, 14, allegedly by her grandfather, 80.
The cop refused the request because, she said, she was busy. Whether she actually scolded the journalists was not determined. Her chiefs, not wishing to strain relations with the reporters, transferred Gutierrez from the Women and Children Protection Desk (WCPD) of Minglanilla, Cebu to the region’s Police Community Relations (PCR).
Last June 17, Judge Oscar Andrino of Branch 55 of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) “scolded” reporters and camera crew of three TV news stations for taking footage in court without his permission. They were covering the trial of a teacher accused of hitting a deaf-mute student with a hammer.
What is ‘scolding’
Both news reports used the word “scolded,” which must mean the reporters writing or providing the information saw it as a scolding. Scolding involves anger or severe language, not the gentle reproach or advise.
Reporters and photo/video journalists sent out to the field are trained to face rejections and rebukes from news sources. Thick faces, along with patience and extreme tolerance, are part of their equipment. Usually, they don’t complain about doors slammed on them and insults thrown their way.
Part of the work: risks that are a lot better than a lawsuit filed in faraway Pagadian or a bullet from an assassin. Journalists usually leave over-sensitiveness at home or at the office; it’s rough out there.
Even more so in a courtroom where a judge can scold a lawyer as freely as a monarch can shame a subject. Journalists aren’t treated better than others in a courtroom that a judge may choose to run like a tight ship.
Breaking or bending
Why do journalists covering a trial break or bend a rule when they can? That’s their job to go around the hurdle. They use enterprise and, short of murdering anyone, they seek ways to get their material.
In the six o’clock TV news on that day, after the judge’s scolding, reports of the trial were broadcast, complete with video clips.
If you wonder why few papers ran a story of that day’s trial, nothing much happened in the courtroom, except that the teacher said he’d like to settle the case and the deaf-mute victim refused.
Print media generally wants a specific turn of the story and is even more demanding on photos. They must be new and interesting; otherwise, archive photos will do.
TV news, on the other hand, usually don’t run a story without video support and fresh clips are usually preferred to file video. Besides, there’s the quota of material for the news team to fill, which the station news desk must get to fill that long half-hour.
Both the Minglanilla and MTCC incidents turned out well.
There was no showing the journalists were being arrogant to the policewoman and wanted to be treated like special people (which they are not).
In the dialogue that police officials called, the cop admitted she was new in media relations and in the briefings of WCPD officers from all over the province, they were taught how to deal with media.
After the MTCC incident, perhaps the executive judge can persuade judges under him to set clear rules for news reporters and camera crew.
While taking pictures in the courtroom is regulated, individual judges are given discretion in enforcing it, which has produced varying policies from court to court.
Some judges, especially the telegenic who don’t mind seeing themselves on TV, let reporters and camera shooters alone. Others, usually those who insist on privacy, rigidly enforce the rule. And there are judges who’re strict or lax on video-taking, depending upon his mood at the moment.
Check that mood as you check the lighting needed for the shoot.