There was some ugliness between news websites last week over a story on a PWD triathlete that was published on VERA Files and that later appeared on Rappler.
It has since been resolved, but you can read more about it here.
— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) July 20, 2015
These things happen and ideally are easily resolved given the nature of the platform. It takes a while and, as in this case and a similar situation that I was in with alternative news website Bulatlat.com, sometimes requires a lot of following up.
I have worked with people from Rappler and some of them have become friends and I used to contribute to VERA Files and work for yet another news website, so I have tried my best not to comment on the whole mess.
What rankles, though, is the needlessly haughty way that Rappler handled the situation. Here, for example, is a tweet from one of their editors:
— Chay Hofileña (@chayhofilena) July 16, 2015
Luz is Luz Rimban, who used to edit my stories and who is on the VERA Files board of trustees, and the tweet makes it seem like Lala, the editor who worked on the story that later appeared on Rappler, was out of the loop on discussions on the story and that the matter was settled.
She was not and the matter was not at all close to being settled until Monday, July 20, when Rappler finally took the story down.
Before then, they tried to deflect the issue by saying readers should instead focus on the plight of PWDs. It is an important issue, sure enough, but so is ethics in journalism. So is intellectual property rights. (As an aside, VERA has been reporting on PWDs even before I wrote for them from 2012-2013.)
Before then, this:
The editor’s parting shot was for VERA Files to “avoid accusatory language.” In a subsequent email, the same Rappler editor said that Rappler “stealing” (Rappler editor’s word) from VERA Files does not make sense.
As a reporter and editor, I try not to assume things (it has generally not served me well), but it is difficult not to read between the lines and see the implied rebuke that Rappler is too big to “steal” from VERA, which is a much leaner organization.
And this, I think, is the worst of the many cuts they have made. Until recently, Rappler was an upstart company struggling for legitimacy and credibility. They have improved a lot — we all have — in the years since they went live, and I have been among their biggest fans of late.
At one point, I sat one of our social media people down to explain that yes, Rappler is legitimate competition, and yes, they have done some things better than we have.
When they were starting out, an anonymously written blog sarcastically dubbed them “God’s Gifts to Journalism”, a moniker that some people picked up and still use (but that I never did).
In the aftermath of all this ugliness, the same Rappler editor tweeted a link to a story on PWDs with what might as well be a subtweet: “This is the issue.”
— Chay Hofileña (@chayhofilena) July 20, 2015
They may not claim to be God’s Gifts to Journalism, but some of them are, it would seem, infallible.
Writing this not as someone working for a competitor or even as a former VERA contributor (I still am one, technically, except I do not contribute), but as someone who didn’t make it to journalism school and has been working since Day One to be as legit and authentic as those who did.