As the country woke up to the great news that Mary Jane Veloso’s execution had been postponed, the President’s Daily Inquirer had a nasty scoop: nope, the poor domestic worker was actually dead. Because as the paper’s banner headline screamed, “death came before dawn” for Veloso whose scheduled execution by firing squad had whipped up a storm of condemnation here and even in Indonesia.
Did the PDI know something that the rest of us didn’t? What were they thinking? We know.
This is what happens when people running a traditional news medium go reckless while trying to cope with the demands of the 24/7 news cycle. They resort to guesswork while forgetting about what they and their colleagues had been preaching all along: never assume. And who was it who told us to get the story right first?
The mighty PDI editors could argue that the brutally misleading headline referred to the eight other inmates who were not as fortunate as Veloso and another convict, a French man. The body of the story itself was probably accurate. But taken together, the headline and the text of the story made the unmistakable conclusion–Veloso had been executed.
Veloso’s plight had all the elements of a great copy. Driven away by poverty back home, she pushed her luck abroad but only to be duped (as her defense claims) into becoming an unwitting drug mule. She was jailed and sentenced to death while those running the drug syndicate remained free, a victim of ugly circumstances and for which she was condemned to die.
But then came the 11th hour miracle, one that PDI’s print edition could no longer accommodate because of the inherent limitations of the medium. What could possibly prevent the execution when another PDI article declared that President BS Aquino’s “last chance” appeal and strategy had failed?
Well, PDI might have given up on its hero, BS Aquino, but the strategy, coupled with a Filipino recruiter’s decision to turn herself in, apparently worked. Guess the paper failed to guess that.
The Veloso execution fiasco should encourage PDI editors to put more trust in the news organization’s online platform (and even its trailblazing radio station) to deliver real-time news.
It reminds us of the infamous “Dewey Defeats Truman” blunder by the Chicago Daily Tribune of ages past. But we know PDI is going to survive its latest gaffe and continue (whether bitter Rappler likes it or not) dictating the national news agenda.
So influential is PDI that an event is not a story until it comes out in the paper, its editors love to boast.
We submit: take it from PDI, Veloso was executed until the paper says she wasn’t.