Small Scoops

Manila South Harbor

Manila South Harbor

Further in things that are turning how I see this profession on its head: A piece on The Atlantic argues the age of online news has given us more information about the world than we know what to do with, and less local information–information that we can actually do something with.

If the news media’s health is measured by how much high-quality content is available, the cost of consuming that content, or the amount of accurate, relevant information easily accessed on subjects as diverse as international finance, war, national politics, science, or technology, the web era has brought about all of the dramatic improvements that Yglesias claims.

But what if the news media is judged on these metrics: How well does it provide citizens the information they need to govern themselves? How effectively does it fulfill its role as a watchdog?

Looking out my window, I can see the monolith of the SM Blue Residences on Katipunan Avenue and Aurora Boulevard, a high-rise condominium building that the community says is being built against zoning regulations and without consent from residents of Barangay Loyola Heights. I did a story on it but, because we were busy with shenanigans at the Senate, didn’t follow it up. (It will stand there for years, a testament to my shame and a cause of heavy traffic.)

The piece continues:

As a curious person who enjoys learning about the world, the rich store of readily available information about Cyprus thrills me, but it does very little to help me better fulfill my civic obligations. Were I living in Rancho Cucamonga, California, a veteran city-hall reporter who improved my understanding of local affairs by just 10 percent would increase my civic utility far more than if I completely mastered the intricacies of events in Cyprus over which I have no influence.

Your typical Metro page in Manila, though, is mostly about crime (over which readers have little influence) and press releases from local governments, which, considering Metro Manila has 17 component cities and municipalities, is pretty much all you can really hope for.

To really cover a city will require street-level reporters, and there are just too many streets to cover. You’ll need someone willing to sit through 17 sets of city council sessions and to care about how single-figure millions–instead of billions–are spent.

It’s an exercise in futility and will be even dirtier and more thankless than covering national politics, and I might just be your huckleberry.

*I enjoy coverage on crime, though. I once started a filter blog on Manila’s most brutal crimes and then sort of scared myself. 

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