UPDATED #Frigate Deal: Bong Go decries Rappler old headline as #fakenews , does not deny documents as basis of news

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UPDATED: Bong Go for the second time slammed Rappler anew minutes ago for its breaking story headlined : “Bong Go says his office ‘endorsed’ frigate supplier’s complaint to DND”

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#Frigate Deal: Bong Go decries old Rappler headline as #fakenews , does not deny documents as basis of news 

   Special Assistant to the President Bong Go decried the Rappler headline  “Bong Go intervenes in P15.5-B project to acquire PH warships” (Jan. 16) as “fake news” but did not belie the authenticity of the documents on which the news report was based at today’s Senate hearing. 

       “As I said earlier, fake news ito. Kaya ko nasabi na fake news ito because as stated in the article, “Bong Go intervenes in 15.5 B project”, una sa lahat wala naman akong na-intervene. You can ask all the gentlemen seated here,” he stressed, reading from a prepared statement at the Senate and flanked by Cabinet secretaries.

     The documents on which the Rappler report was based are:

       1)a Post-it Note with a handwritten note from Defense Secretary Lorenzana stating “1-12-2018. To: Admiral Mercado. Ronald, This was given to me by Bong Go. Go over it and make a report/rebuttal to be submitted to the President. (SGD) Delfin Lorenzana“, pasted on a white paper endorsing a supplier of the Combat Management System (CMS) that was to be installed in the ships

2)a letter from the Presidential Management Staff inviting the Navy officer in charge of the project to a meeting in Malacañang about the CMS selection
3)a report submitted by the same Navy officer addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte and Go himself.

    So, how should the headline have been written? 

     (image rightclicked from Rappler, used here non-commercially for academic purposes)

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      haven’t read the frigate contract and so  cannot comment on the legal aspect, except to say that under ordinary procurement rules, the end user, in this case, the Philippine Navy, has to accept the equipment and sign for it; if the end user does not accept the product supplied, it cannot be forced to do so.

        On the Bong Go action: based on experience with long meetings in  government offices, the comment is: To be fair, yes, for prompt action, one usually hands over a document to be acted upon to a colleague across the table and says “sa iyo ito” (“this should be for you”) and the SOP is to staple a reference slip to it and check one of the boxes there: ⌈_⌉ For your prompt action ⌈_⌉ For your endorsement ⌈_⌉For your comment ⌈_⌉For your information. Then, the recipient is asked to sign as “received” the “receiving” copy. But Bong Go just handed over  a document arising from a P16 Billion contract to the Defense Secretary who represented the Philippine Navy — and we don’t know what he said while handing over the document.  At best, he was clumsy and careless; at worst, he was exerting subtle pressure on Defense Secretary Lorenzana to act in favor of the proponent .

     So.,, How would you write the headline?

   Headline-writing is fun. The headline should capture the “action” of the story, at the same time, catch the attention of reader. The best editors write a dozen or so headlines and choose the best. The secret is in the action words (the verb) which informs readers in one line what happened, but at the same time,  catches attention. That’s why layouting and headline-writing are part of any journalism course, of any editorial exam, and any process in evaluating news pages and choosing editors.

      In other words, there are no more straight news stories — all page one stories are interpretive news: the editor will use an action word that shows why the event is newsworthy. An experienced editor does not write a headline that says “Bong Go hands over frigate docs to Defense Chief” — that headline does not say anything, it doesn’t show you why it’s newsworthy; a reader who sees this will say, “eh ano ngayon? balita ba yan?” … How is newsworthiness here determined? Is Bong Go an ordinary clerk? of an ordinary government office? handing over a worthless piece of paper? to an ordinary government official? 

    Very powerful people are involved and P16 Billion in taxpayers’ money will be spent — that’s  newsworthy. The editor would try to capture why the special assistant, or  representative, of the most powerful government official, interacting with the Defense Secretary over a P16 Billion contract — is newsworthy. Perhaps it was unusual because it wasn’t his  job to do that, so Rappler used the word “intervenes”.

    Some other editor would have written the headline as: “Malacañang asks Defense Sec to comment on frigate issues”. Strictly factual but weak, not contextual, and wouldn’t sell.

   In other words…

    This isn’t about fake news. There’s no fake news here.

    It about news values and  Headline-Writing 101 — 

       The headline should: 1.capture the action of the story; 2.catch attention; 3. show why the report is newsworthy; and…

      4.it should sell.

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