Breaking news and breaking bones

On Wednesday, an accident at the Metro Rail Transit left at least 36 people injured. The wayward MRT coach was derailed and overshot the railings at Edsa-Taft station. People were shocked, to say the least.

My photo of the derailed MRT coach, several hours after the accident.

My photo of the derailed MRT coach, several hours after the accident.

I was at the media center at that time and was among the first who noticed the news. It was just a flash report, a four to five word breaking news head flashed at the bottom of the television screen. Reading the words aloud caught the attention of those seated beside me. For the next few minutes we scoured social media and found pictures and more reports on the accident.

Breaking news nowadays debut first on social media before being picked up by news outlets — unless it happened in an event where reporters were present.

GMA7, for example, was able to break the news through the help of its “Youscoopers.” Online media, on the other hand, utilized photos posted by readers and curated through Storify and other social media tools.

While social media and citizen journalism make it easier for media to monitor breaking news and gather material, PR Newswire’s media relations manager Amanda Hicken points out that such “immediacy also places pressure on the media to break news significantly faster than before – measured in minutes and seconds, 24/7.”

Achieving both speed and accuracy is the ultimate goal of online and broadcast media. And it is never really easy when confronted with the need to confirm and verify first before giving into the urge to break based on perhaps one unconfirmed report.

I remember last year when Bohol and Cebu and other parts of Visayas were hit by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. Our first break was based on a USGS alert, which took several minutes to be verified by Phivolcs. And it was only later – through photos posted by netizens on Twitter and Facebook – that those in Manila realized the extent and actual damage caused by the earthquake. The problem then, besides the race to break first was to confirm which photos were authentic and could be used on the website. Many netizens told us “Sure you can use that photo” only to discover that it was not theirs to begin with. We had to track down the original photographers and ask for their permission.

Nieman Fellow Hong Qu emphasizes the difference of journalists from netizens. While both can break news, the former still has the leverage when it comes to reach, as well as the credibility.

“The pace of the news cycle is quickening, but the fundamental responsibility of a journalist to gather and disseminate reliable news hasn’t changed, nor will it be supplanted by savvy social media auteurs. The only way for any person to become a good reporter — regardless of whether she has a degree or works for a news organization — is to consistently produce news stories in a way that is useful and engaging to consumers of news,” he says.

Last month we attended an informal seminar facilitated by the Associated Press. And they (the editorial staff) kept telling us how much they value their reputation of being accurate. They said that while it takes years to build a reputation, it can be demolished within minutes after committing a single mistake.



Here’s a nice guide from Reuters on how they break news: The Drill for Breaking News



Articles to read:

Ode to Sundays

On Sundays I wake up to the sound of my alarm then steal another 5 minutes of slumber. I close my eyes and imagine the nearly deserted roads outside. 

For a change, I’m in a good mood, taking time to chat with my mother. I remember the years I lived alone in the city, the simple joys of making pancakes and scrambled eggs during days when I am already gloriously late for work.

On Sundays I let my skin breathe — just a touch of powder and a swipe of lipstick.

There are no long lines at the terminal or at the MRT. I breeze past deserted streets in Makati while listening to the soundtrack of the day. No radio news for me, let me worry about that when I get to the office.

The newsroom on Sundays is a welcome sight. Except for interviews over the radio, politicians and government officials take a back seat.

Sundays are for features and world news. I get my weekly dose of wire stories while attempting to be omniscient — ears on the radio, eyes on the many television screens.

On Sundays I get to eat a pack of junkfood and ice cream for morning merienda. 

It gets lonely though…on Sundays. 

I scour the Internet for interesting news only to find posts of colleagues spending time with their families, having lunch outside or watching films.

My family asks me to take a day off on Sunday. I want to but I don’t want to.

On Sundays I am at peace with the world. 

Postscript: Working on Sundays keeps me sane — it saves me from working on Fridays or Saturdays (and you know how it is during those days). My weekend starts tomorrow and I am as happy as can be. Happy weekend!

Rewind: Estrada 1-2-3, De Lima’s inspiration and Nora Aunor

Looming pain

Did you know that loom bands can make your pets ill? To be honest, I have no idea how and why loom bands became popular among Filipino adults — to the extent of Senator Jinggoy Estrada considering taking it up as a hobby while in jail.


I surrender – Estrada 1

Speaking of Jinggoy, the beleaguered lawmaker on Monday surrendered to his father, former president and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. Smart move. Was it the Estrada camp’s tactic to maintain dignity and save face? But then, did it really make a difference on the public’s perception?



While President Aquino was busy meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim and Jica officials in Japan, comedienne-singer Cynthia Patag was apologizing to netizens for her earlier rant against “Yolanda” victims. Were all the victims “squatters”? But more importantly, after the unprecedented tragedy that hit the Philippines, don’t they deserve the right to seek government assistance and humane treatment? Fortunately, Filipinos were quick to accept Patag’s apology.

Instascrutiny – Estrada 2

Uh oh. Another lifestyle check via social media. Jinggoy’s son Jolo Estrada came under fire after allegedly posting photos of his “extravagant” lifestyle. Netizens have started comparing him to Jeane Napoles. Looks like our netizens are on a roll this week.


Elimination? – Estrada 3

We have no plan to eliminate Mayor Estrada” was Malacanang’s reply to accusations that it is backing the disqualification case filed against the former president. We’re feeling the election fever even before Christmas season starts.

Condo dues

President Aquino was in a good mood on Wednesday night, joking about his 25th wedding anniversary and Megaworld’s marketing tactics. But seriously, where do they get our numbers? I’ve received 4 condo offers through text since March.

Oh. And can you imagine the President working in the private sector after 2016?


Rain = Traffic

Everything is back to normal. School days, rain, floods and traffic. Even the Power Plant Mall got swamped. It was no surprise that Aquino was late for an event. Just 20 minutes. No biggie. His convoy even got there faster than his advance team, which got stuck somewhere in Manila.Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and President Benigno Aquino III


Ever wondered who Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s inspiration is? None other than His Excellency who she calls her “constant source of inspiration and courage in pursuing the truth without fear or favor.”


Walang himala

I’m not a fan of Nora Aunor but I am digging this article by Bayani San Diego. So the superstar promised to support Ninoy Aquino. Interesting.

What’s more interesting? NCCA’s claim that “some moles inside Malacañang released to the media what is supposed to be a confidential letter to the President.” Ok. If you consider Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. a “mole” then I guess that’s true. Coloma during a press briefing pointed out that the NCCA supported Aquino’s decision to drop Aunor from the roster of national artists. When asked for a copy of NCCA chair Felipe de Leon Jr.’s letter, he said sure. And that was during a televised press briefing. Hours later, Palace reporters (including me) were furnished with a copy.

In his letter, De Leon said media reports were misleading.


Rewind is a weekly compilation of news I find interesting (mostly topics and events I covered). My comments do not represent the views of my employer.

Bon voyage, Mang Lauro

Dear Kuya Lauro,


Kuya Lauro at San Juanico Bridge.

I had just arrived in Manila from a short trip to Mindanao when I received my editor’s message about your untimely death  caused by heart attack. It was the first message I received upon turning my mobile phone on.

My first thought was that you would have probably wanted to come with us…had you learned that we were going to the MILF camp in Maguindanao. The next was that I just saw you smiling last week.

I couldn’t really remember but I bet you had asked me about when we’ll be going back to Samar.

It was an indeed unforgettable trip for us. Our road trip to Samar and Leyte last November was like no other. It was an opportunity to learn about what our brothers in Eastern Visayas experienced during the onslaught of Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” what they were going through after the tragedy, and what we could do to help them. It was perhaps one of the most difficult coverages I had been through, especially since I was just a new reporter then. But you made things easier for us.

You not only drove us to our destination but also made the trip worthwhile. You made us laugh during an otherwise depressing week. You made sure we had something to eat and were comfortable in our sleep.

When we found ourselves stranded in Guiuan with no place to go, your presence of mind and goodwill towards others saved us. Everywhere you went you made friends or found old friends who freely offered assistance. You even introduced me to other reporters, making sure I was never left out.

I only had the opportunity to work with you once, during that fateful trip to Visayas, but I understood what you meant when you said that a driver and a reporter needed to work well together. You were not just a driver to us, but also a guide and a reliable partner that served as our extra eyes and ears. You had your feet on the ground and a good nose for news.

I am sure you will be missed badly by those you have worked with. I pray that your family remains strong amid such trying times. 

Bon voyage, Kuya Lauro. Wherever you are, I hope you are at peace. Remember us as you embark on your final road trip. We will miss your friendly banter and welcoming smile.




Mang Lauro worked as a driver for Radyo Inquirer 990AM / dzIQ

The bearer of bad news

I should be happy now that I’m doing what I have always wanted to do. But I can’t help but think of the terrible news we have been writing about. I don’t believe in the idea of having/being a “jinx” but ever since I started writing news, really bad things started to happen in the country — monthly.

In August, there was flooding caused by the “habagat” that inundated Metro Manila and nearby provinces. In September, the Zamboanga City clashes between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front. In October, the Bohol quake, which also hit Cebu and other areas in Visayas and Mindanao. And in November came supertyphoon “Yolanda,” which washed out many villages and killed thousands of people.

Guiuan, Eastern Samar two weeks after supertyphoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan) devastated the region with its terrifyingly strong winds and deadly storm surges.

Guiuan, Eastern Samar two weeks after supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) devastated the region with its terrifyingly strong winds and deadly storm surges.

What is happening to our country?

These do not even include the incessant media killings and blatant assassinations. Just a while ago, at least four people were killed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Meanwhile, politicians waste time mudslinging instead of tending to policies and laws that will improve the lives of many people.

I don’t know if I’m just more sensitive now because I monitor the news almost everyday but even the old people say that things are getting worse. I can imagine that it will continue to happen until…until change happens. Hopefully.

In the meantime, I ponder…Is this a good time to be a journalist? No. If you think about the killings and the lies and the lack of accountability in the government. But also Yes. If you’re going to write and report about the truth (the real truth, not the ones peddled by a few) and the real situation of the people on the ground. Yes. If you are going to be part of a group that is not afraid to question the status quo. If you are someone who is determined to explain the news to the reader, to enlighten the public.

It is a perfect time to be a journalist because it is a perfect time for change.

(If you are not for change then what are you writing for?)


It has only been less than five months and I feel that I’ve been through a year of stories. I have been learning a lot and I expect to learn more in the years to come. There are days when I love the challenge, others when I fear it. But I have also learned to embrace that fear and use it to my advantage.

To be honest, I am scared of what will happen next year. I am afraid to fail. I am afraid that I would get lost. Almost everyday I wonder if what I did was right. If I wrote that story the way that it should be. If I let myself be used unwittingly by spin doctors.

We are always chasing stories. Sometimes we are running so fast we fail to read between the lines.

I am young. I have my faults. But I’d like to think that I am not that naive.


It is true. We are the bearers of bad news. We count the dead in our stories — reducing the heroes, the brave, the martyrs and even the criminals (poor and rich) to mere statistics. But it doesn’t have to be that way always. Many claim to be objective, to the point of being indifferent. But I would also like to think that the straight facts and clear language that we use make people feel something about the news.

I’d like to think that we write about those things not for the shock value or the controversy or the views but for people to draw lessons and strength from it.

We are the bearers of bad news but I hope that will push people into doing something good.




P.S. If you’re a new reader, you should understand that I tend to write based on my stream of consciousness. I seldom edit myself when I write in a blog. But sometimes I do revise my work for the sake of clarity.

Some readings: The Story of 2013, Our Road Trip to Ground Zero (coming soon)

Changing lanes

Much has happened and changed this year. In fact, change is an understatement.

I’ve changed careers, relationship status (and back), and priorities.

It has been a rollercoaster ride these past few months and I struggled to deal with such big changes, mostly on my own.

Since I was a small child, writing has been my outlet. Now, I do it for a living. But there are still a lot of other things — some personal, some work-related — that I want to share with the world.

I hope that by reviving my blog, after more than a year of hiatus, I would be able to make sense of what I am going through and what is happening around me.