Rappler: anchored to a different standard than other mainstream media

Rappler’ CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa (Photo source: planetphilippines.com)

By Joe America

What makes good journalism? Good journalism is:

  • Objective news . . . with correctly labeled opinions and interpretations important for deeper meanings. We have to read or watch multiple sources to get good balance.
  • Well-written and well-presented.
  • Informative, which generally means it has context and facts that clarify.
  • Authoritative, which means sources are documented and trustworthy.
  • Helpful, which has a moral quality that assumes we accept the values stated in the Constitution and an ethical quality that says journalists ought to provide a professional bridge between State and Citizen.

Philippine journalism is under duress. It’s ownership and editorial chiefs are a part of the cultural “good old boy” network, where power and influence, and personal relationships, often define editorial policies. Journalism ethics fall to the side.

Certain outlets or journalists are mouthpieces or even propaganda resources for the Duterte Administration. Others try to bridge both positions, pro- and anti-Duterte. I put the Inquirer in this group, as headlines and articles are written as if President Duterte were just another earnest and high-principled President, while opinion columnists are having apoplexy over EJK deaths, the Administration’s malice, and contradictions that abound.

Most television news outlets shade pro-administration because friends and resources are government people. Duterte staff get a lot of air time. Critics, not so much. Plus, reporters have faced or witnessed the sting of President Duterte’s words and don’t care to receive them any more. Interviews with government officials tend to be meek.

The one outlet that seems not to hold that the State is the sole agent of information and authority is Rappler. Rappler is an on-line news publication. I think an objective outsider would not find Rappler to be anti-Duterte, although recent State-sponsored personal attacks on Rappler’s CEO and Executive Editor, Maria Ressa, might give a lot of people the mis-impression that Rappler is an attack publication. If you read the on-line news reports over a period of weeks, I think you will agree the publication strives to be relevant, not political.

Facts and truth do seem to rile up a government that is trying to control its audience by putting out messages that are often confusing and contradictory, if not outright false.

If Rappler is media enemy number one for the Administration’s propaganda program, Maria Ressa is villain number one, a perceived threat so great that Administration troll leaders orchestrated a vile and personal social media attack on her.

I think it was the following article that put Ressa in the spotlight way back in October of 2016: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet.

Had the article appeared in the US, it would have been well received as timely, revealing, and informative. In the Philippines, it – and other Rappler articles – have generated months of relentless attacks from Government agents and supporters working both in social media and in Rappler’s own comment threads.

Yet, Rappler editors and staff carry on, doing journalism as if the high-principled deans of Western democratic journalism – Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite – were looking over their shoulders.

For sure, they do not cower to power. Editor-at-Large Marites Vitug wrote this thought-piece a couple of weeks ago: The year of living with autocracy and incompetence.  Here’s how she ended it:

From the drug war to foreign policy to terrorism, Duterte wings it, propped up by his aggressive propaganda campaign on social media and elsewhere. This PR machine – plus the survey ratings that show him still enjoying public support – may lull him into a false sense of complacency. Past surveys show, though, that presidents usually get good ratings in their first year in office as the populace unites behind them.

Will this last? It will be largely up to the President and the people.

There are a lot of deferential people in Philippine government and media. Critics call them sycophants or even cowards.

Rappler, and her editors and staff, are not among them.

Here are members of the Rappler Board, with excerpts taken from the on-line profile. I apologize that I have intentionally kept it brief, and it does not correctly reflect the power of professionalism, experience, education, and awards given in the full write-up. You may wish to review the entire profile if you have doubts that this is a strong board well-suited to manage a top-flight electronic news publication:

  • Manny Ayala, Chairman of the Board. A founder at Hatchd Inc., a technology incubator focused on building great Internet and mobile brands, and the Managing Director of Endeavor Philippines. He was previously a managing director at IRG Ltd, a HK-based M&A boutique focused on the telecoms, media and tech industries.
  • Maria A. Ressa, President. A journalist in Asia for nearly 30 years – nearly a decade as CNN’s bureau chief in Manila and another decade as the global network’s Jakarta bureau chief. She became CNN’s lead investigative reporter focusing on terrorism networks and in 2003, the Simon & Schuster group published her first book, the first from the region documenting the growth of Jemaah Islamiyah and its links to al-Qaeda Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia.
  • Glenda M. Gloria, Vice President. Studied to be a journalist during the Marcos years. Revolutions and transitions shaped her career and temperament. She worked for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Manila Times, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and for international news agencies. In the dying days of the Estrada administration, she co-founded Newsbreak, which started as a weekly news magazine and became one of the Philippines’ leading investigative reporting organizations. From 2008 to January 2011, she managed ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, as its chief operating officer.
  • James Bitanga, Treasurer. A legal consultant, entrepreneur, and investor in the technology space. His expertise includes alliances, digital partnerships, data privacy, and strategic commercial support for outsourcing, systems integration, software licensing, and cloud services, across all major industries in Asian markets.
  • Nix Nolledo.  Digital entrepreneur with businesses in mobile applications, web marketing and e-commerce. He’s the CEO of Xurpas, Inc., a large mobile content provider which develops mobile marketing programs and applications for several telecommunications firms in the Philippines as well as other emerging markets.
  • Felicia Atienza. The founder and President of the Chinese International School Manila. She has more than a decade’s experience in finance.
  • James Velasquez. Technology veteran in the ASEAN region having held key local and regional positions for IBM over the last 26 years. He is currently the GM and Director, Service Lines for IBM Global Technology Services in ASEAN.
44 Responses to “Rappler: anchored to a different standard than other mainstream media”
  1. Bill In Oz says:

    Joe, A great article and a needed one !

    By pure synchronicity this article about Rappler & Maria Ressa was published this morning here in Oz :


    It’s clear that Facebook is being used to promote hate, violence and threats in the Philippines. Facebook has a major responsibility to stop, remove and prevent such trolling. And if Facebook will not do so, then it’s ‘license’ to operate should be blocked globally.

  2. edgar lores says:

    Patricia Evangelista’s “Impunity” series on the anti-drug war is riveting journalism.

    This is a must-read for supporters of Duterte’s war and for Duterte himself. It should move them to regain their humaneness. What was once lost can be found again.

  3. andrewlim8 says:

    Good thing you included the list of the board of directors. Just like their reporters and contributors,
    these people have good credentials.

    This is what I keep telling people who keep falling for fakes like the Duterte blogger trolls and Uson: CREDENTIALS MATTER.

    Do these professionals get it right all the time? No.But there is a mechanism for correction and there is accountability.

    On the contrary, the ones Duterte hires for his press team absolutely have no credentials (and they resort to class-based arguments when attacked for this, as if poverty and lack of relevant experience could substitute for performance and integrity).

    One tell you can notice if a Duterte spokesperson is lying: the well-modulated baritone gets amped up. (previously thought to be camouflage for thick Visayan accents, but also a camouflage for the truth) 🙂

  4. karlgarcia says:

    Ma. Ressa had been a war correspondent. As we salute all the field reporters covering Marawi for their very dangerous job, they still get maliciously bashed for allegedly posting the real time location of soldiers, etc.

    Ress has faced all the potential dangers of sniper bullets and shrapnels, but online malicious posts can be more deadly than bullets and shrapnels both figuratively and literally.

    • parengtony says:

      “From the drug war to foreign policy to terrorism, Duterte wings it, propped up by his aggressive propaganda campaign on social media and elsewhere.”

      Sounds exactly like The Donald.

      Could they be using the same playbook from the same handler?

  5. Jonathan Effemey says:

    Being a Brit, I can’t say that the Mail, Express and Sun in the UK are worth the paper they are written on. In your country you have Fox news Mr Joe, so it is not just here.
    Rappler is excellent, maybe the Inquiry is OK. The Rappler is often my first port of call as well.
    Aljazeera from Qatar, is under attack now. Its documentary on the Tondo was outstanding.
    The psycho boys and girls in power hate an open media where ever they are.

    • Bingo. You nailed that last line. Truth and power seem not to find peaceful co-existence.

      • Rappler is the Philippine equivalent to Al Jazeera – modern and high-value. Of course it is something the powerful don’t like.

        At the same time, PTV-4 (government channel) is undergoing sort of a purge in the last few months: https://changescamming.net/scandalous-govt/krisis-sa-ptv-4-mass-firing-palakasan-system/ – Kathy San Gabriel, Kirby Cristobal, Prof. Xiao Chua..

      • Bill In Oz says:

        Al Jazera is owned and controlled by the Quatar governing royal family. In any news relating to Islam, and the Middle East it is a propaganda arm of that family.

        Truth & power do not find an easy co-existence in Al Jazera either.

        If you watch it’s programs for a while you will notice that it subtly downplays Muslim terrorism and up plays the grievances against governments which supposedly lead to the terrorism…Bah !

        • ivyemaye says:

          But I have seen some very open discussions between Israeli’s and Palestinians. They dont down play terrorism at all. Yes, they report from the Arab point of view the same way that CNN takes an Israeli line.
          They have done in depth reporting on the Philippines, I mentioned their documentary on the Tondo. A whole series on local democracy in China recently
          They remind me a lot of the old BBC. It is no accident that a number of ex BBC and ITN reporters are now with Al Jazeera .
          You need a number of world class stations. CNN is fine, as is Al Jazeera. BBC World is just not cutting it for me .Excellent reporters, possibly lacking resources

  6. chemrock says:

    Special mention goes to Dante Ang,owner of Manila Times, who is a BFF of the president, whose paper loves regular contributions from guys of networks past their expiry dates who take pride at umbrage at people doing work they themselves failed to do in prior admins, aka Tatad, Tiglao, Diokno, etc.

    And now new kid on the block Philippines News Agency, the govt mouthpiece, whose opinion segment consists of THE opinions of one guy — Jun Ledesma, from Davao of course, whose caustic articles are libelious attacks on personalities camouflaging as opinions from Mindanao.

    Someone ought to conduct a course in Philippines on how to write an opinion piece without seeming to attack personalities.

    • popoy says:

      “Someone ought to conduct a course in Philippines on how to write an opinion piece without seeming to attack personalities.” Chemrock.

      Not to differ but to add to that suggestion many here in TSOH didn’t have the need to take that course. If anything has gone to the dogs, A Doberman will fight and die loyal to his master, a pit-bull will kill for no reason at all, few are more beautiful than a docile adoring poodle.

      • chemrock says:

        What do you call the 6 executives from Imee’s office who prefer to stay locked up in Congress rather than simply produce documents requested by the Congress inquiry? Loyalty or stupidity? Loyalty to what?

        • popoy says:

          Sorry but at the moment I ain’t calling them names. I do beat around the bush when I told my colleague from the North, Tacloban could happen in the Ilocos and mentioned what history did to the people in other climes and their ruling dynasties.

          People could be clueless lasting hundred or more years until nature intervenes to end the benevolence of masochism. Politics has a macro in the formula: FD = (VB + M)2 , a copycat formula of Enistein’s : E = mc2 . For whatever their worth people for their well being do physical as well mental exercise. That’s mostly what I am doing now, till the end of days, just exercising. .

          • popoy says:

            Ah yes, inadvertence on the Formula of FD. Can one imagine vote buying and mendicancy multiplying exponentially (algebraically?) over the years and ending what they no longer seemed to be?

        • Edgar Lores says:

          With Duterte threatening the SC for a probable rejection of the factual basis for martial law, and with Alvarez threatening to impeach the Chief Justice for advising the CA judges to defy the “show cause” order… I sense any of these contrived “constitutional crises” can be the pretext for imposing a revolutionary government.

  7. Gemino H. Abad says:

    Long live Rappler! More power to Maria Ressa and Pat Evangelista!

  8. popoy says:

    Written twelve years ago for ladies who now. long sit around a conference truth table, this poem appeared in a book of poems.

    Listen Lady Journos

    NEVER FEAR should be
    your motto, where women
    writers have solid balls, where men
    writers are at times cockerel capons.

    In Philippine journalism money
    is deadlier than bullets. A score
    had been shot, their souls to
    their peace rewards. Whereas Journos
    killed by money lives the living
    death of shame, of dishonor.
    of wanton distortion of truth.

    With palms outstretched
    they “die as many times before
    their death,” in the eyes of God
    and the sadness of their children.

    Your readers hope that neither
    money nor bullets can kill you,
    as befallen others. For truth and
    Justice you can opt
    to die but once, so never fear.
    August 8, 2005

  9. popoy says:


    The Philippines Supreme Court . . . . .

    Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of Canada
    “I think we in Canada are very fortunate to have inherited a good justice system based on the rule of law, in a country where fairness is treated as a fundamental value and where we recognize that justice is not just something for the rich and powerful but something that every man, woman and child in Canada is entitled to.”

    Filipino Generals . . . . .

    Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire, humanitarian and former senator
    “I’m not sure we realize the enormity of the responsibility that our society has within the construct of humanity — that what we have garnered in our communities … in our education systems, the values and references that we have and our desire and our comprehension of hard work … are essential tools to move us and humanity from an era of trying to survive what’s happening to us, to an era where we can help humanity thrive. And we can be a leading edge because we haven’t even approached the full potential of what this nation can do in the world.”

    Our very own Katutubo, the real and true Filipinos, What politicians has DONE FOR THEM
    . . . .
    Perry Bellegarde, Assembly of First Nations National Chief
    “There is still that debate between Indigenous peoples: should we be celebrating (Canada’s 150th)? Or should we be saying ‘No, we are not going to celebrate that. It’s all about colonization.’ But I say this: we are going to celebrate that 150th birthday. Why? Because we are still here. And we can still hear Cree being spoken, we can still hear Ojibwe being spoken, we can still hear Mi’kmaq being spoken, we can still hear Mohawk and Blackfoot . . . So in spite of all those things that we’ve endured for 500-plus years … we are still here as Indigenous peoples and we are embracing the diversity across Canada and we are going to keep making it a better and richer country than it is.”

    What Filipino Presidents think of their country’s natural wealth . . . .

    Adrienne Clarkson, former governor general
    “I always say in Europe you have countryside, in Canada we have nature, and that’s a very, very big difference. Nature has formed us. I think that’s what really will always hold us as long as we are a country. It’s not just because of the climate, although that has also characterized our nation, but it’s because we are really a people who know what it is to be able to get out and be by yourself.”


    please read again CHANGE THE WORD Canada with the word Philippines and think of the answers to Quo Vadis Philippines.

    • popoy says:


      What the Philippines and the Filipinos really are . . . . .

      Hazel McCallion, former mayor of Mississauga
      “The topography of Canada is fantastic. We have the mountains, we have the rivers, we have the streams, we have the beautiful coastlines, Pacific and Atlantic. It’s so natural. Yes, we have our urban centres that are growing rapidly, but it still has beauty. And it has such a variety of beauty … every province is different and every part of the country is different and even the people are different. There’s a difference in the people who live in the West to those who live in the Maritimes. And so we are blessed with uniqueness, second to none.”

      • popoy says:

        Mayor Hazel’s words fit the Philippines best: “The topography of the Philippines is fantastic. We have the mountains, we have the rivers, we have the streams, we have the beautiful coastlines . . . passim.

        • popoy says:

          Changing just a few words could make the truth devastate sensibilities of a sector of the population even without the intent to plagiarize the words of Chief Justice. Beverly

          “I think we in (the Philippines) are very (un)fortunate (not) to have a good justice system based on the rule of law, in a country where fairness is treated as a fundamental value and where we recognize that justice is not just something for the rich and powerful but something that every man, woman and child in (the Philippines) is entitled to.”

  10. Juana Pilipinas says:

    Kudos to Rappler. Along with ABS CBN, Inquirer and GMA 7, it is a favorite target for Pro-PRD and social media trolls (flying monkeys?). More power to their board and journalists for not glazing over the truth.

    “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

    ~ Albert Einstein

  11. Juana Pilipinas says:

    Tulfo is now part of PTV-4. He will frolic with Andanar and Uson soon. Is it time to retreat to the panic room?

  12. karlgarcia says:

    The SONA will be about exposing the PDI about its tax related issues and asking kadamay to occupy the Mile Long building.


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