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‘Momo journalism’


robert roque robroq firing line

THE public got a pretty good scare last week from the so-called Momo Challenge. For those who’d been hiding under a rock recently, it’s not something I’d recommend you to Google, much less, share on your social media accounts. The ghoulish face of the “moo-moo” may give you nightmares.

But if that doesn’t give you chills, you’d be horrified at the proposition of the online challenge: small sick tasks that build up from one vile act to another until the climax of a violent death – your own. And the target of this online suicide-peddling? The youth.

Alarmed, netizens were quick to spread warnings about the Momo Challenge, citing supposed testimonies of people they did not know; a friend of a friend whose neighbor’s child supposedly watched Momo suicide challenge videos on YouTube. Even US celebrity Kim Kardashian posted on Instagram about it.

Locally, what largely gave credence to the existence of the fatalistic social media game was a local TV station’s news report that linked an 11-year-old boy’s death to it. To date, the PNP is still investigating if any of these reports can be verified.

However, Manila Bulletin Tech News editor Art Samaniego Jr., an Internet research expert in his own right, has stood pat on calling this brouhaha, a hoax. “YouTube said that no video about it is in their servers,” he posted. And he quotes Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo M. Rio as having called it merely a form of cyberbullying without any proof of existence.

On the upside, Art cites how the trending topic made more people aware that dangers do lurk on the Internet and we, parents, should educate our children about them.

On the downside, though, is how mainstream media failed journalism by helping spread fake news. Whatever happened to fact-checking and accuracy? In this instance, it seems that news organizations have been sucked into the oblivion of what’s trending in social media – all in the name of being click baits or first in search engines.

As a journalist for the better part of my life, I also dedicated myself to teaching Journalism at UST. Let’s be clear: rumor-mongering is not news reporting. Yes, the times have changed and social media has become the general public’s main news source. But at some point, people who read-and-share will get tired of being misled and confused. They will have to depend on us, the mainstream media, because we’re the ones who do the legwork and research and uphold the journalistic values in order to deliver the truth. We don’t make up ghost stories.

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SHORT BURSTS. Kudos to former MB provincial news editor Nate C. Barretto and San Miguel Corp. for organizing “Ed Talks: A journalism training series for regional media.” I’ve been hearing good reviews about your advocacy to bring media practitioners together for lecturers on keeping journalism alive and dynamic in the provinces… For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column athttp://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/