ZAMBOANGA CITY–Their movements were all on record. It was like they had been followed for weeks. And then, the crucial moment.
Three days after the Zamboanga airport blast, investigators finally put out what we had been anticipating since we landed here.
They caught the images from closed-circuit cameras in the airport and in the hotel where the bombing suspects stayed.
After mere mug shots and pictures of the aftermath, people saw the deed unfold.
On television, to see is to believe, and to be shocked.
It’s the power of the camera and its ability to tell stories.
Notice how TV news reports tend to be bland and incomplete without video support. They lead a viewer on, then leave him asking, “So, where is it?”
The gravity of the Maguindanao massacre in November 2009 only came when crews reached the off-road site in Ampatuan town and then sent the pictures back to Manila.
It explains some of TV news’ best outputs, like the memorable shots of typhoon Ondoy.
It also accounts for “huli sa bidyo” items, usually of natural disasters, accidents, and yes, crimes.
What the camera shows and doesn’t show affects a story’s impact. Its presence subtly changes the story too. So does the presence of a reporter.
In broadcast, “on cam” means that–the reporter or anchor’s image on the screen.
Seeing the reporter on the scene is another variable that lends greater credibility to a story. With a spiel or stand-upper, a reporter further owns his or her work.
The viewer then senses the urgency and immediacy of the story when the reporter goes live from the location.
The ingrained need for video proof has also presented an ethical question: Should people always know they are being shot on tape? It’s a problem for “investigative” shows that thrive on hidden cameras rolling illegal activity.
The commonly-agreed credo is that discreet cameras should be used as a last resort after all means of producing the story are exhausted. Good video, however, is still good video, which makes it a line difficult to toe.
Available video can only go so far. What happened after the Zambo suspects were seen walking away from their hotel and before the so-called “human bomb” stood in wait for his fate is still a mystery to authorities.
We’ll leave the sequel to our colleagues in ABS-CBN Zamboanga.