By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
“A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news.”
– Don Keefer, HBO’s The Newsroom
Near the 10-wheeler truck that rammed a row of stalls in the New Taytay Public Market in Rizal on June 14, one of the sellers who escaped the accident was telling her companion:
“Sabi sa TV, isa lang patay. Pa’no mo paniniwalaan yun e andaming nakabulagta rito kanina?”
(On TV they said only one died. How can you believe that when there were many bodies lying around here earlier?)
It was on Facebook that the first images and details of the noontime crash broke and spread. The accident was in a public place and people with cellphones swarmed the site. The dozen-plus vehicles dented and crumpled by the truck and the bloodied bodies of victims lying on the ground led witnesses to believe the crash was way deadly.
Their hasty conclusions spread fast online. As many as 16 were reportedly killed. Even a popular motoring issues social media account parroted the info (They later corrected the post). Because there were pictures and they were being shared quickly, the shocking details were passed on too without being verified.
It came to the point that when Taytay residents lit candles later at the site, a bystander asked another taking pictures with her phone how many died. She answered: “Thirty-nine.”
Meanwhile, reporters like ABS-CBN’s Jeck Batallones and his team arrived in time to see authorities clean up the scene. They talked to one of the investigators about what the police found out so far. Jeck interviewed eyewitnesses, foremost among them was a woman who lost her eatery and had a brush with death.
Jeck could have stopped there. But they also went to the police station where the errant truck driver was already detained and asked for his side. The driver, who covered his face, claimed he was only running at 25 kph.
At the same time, another ABS-CBN news crew followed the injured to hospitals in Taytay. They interviewed survivors about what they saw and heard.
A check with the authorities and Jeck learned that this was not the first, but the third accident in Taytay this month.
The details he gathered taken together, Jeck had his script gone through by editors in the ABS-CBN News desk by 4p.m. He and I were going through the video interviews to get sound bites by 4:30.
We soon transmitted a partial edit of the video report to the station, where a producer there would add in the first images from social media that revealed the extent of the crash.
But Jeck did not stop there.
Before going on the air for TV Patrol, he confirmed if the identity of the woman who died from the accident could already be reported after the family was informed.
He got that confirmation, and so by 6:30 Jeck went on the air to say for sure that one person, and not 16 or 39, died in the Taytay crash.
As for the complaining seller, her companion answered: “Magpasalamat na lang tayo isa lang ang namatay! (Let’s just be thankful only one died!)“
Crowd-sourced news on social media has proven to be reliable for first pictures or video of breaking events. But it can fall prey to wrong information and spread it faster.
The minimal death toll could have relegated this story to a lineup much lower than the top story. But that wouldn’t mean the details would be gathered less seriously.
They’re not as heroic as the emergency responders and police officers who helped the injured. And their output is not always perfect. But the journalists who dove to the field to cover this were just there to do their job.
And that is to get things right and to get it out.
If they didn’t do their jobs, you’d still be thinking it was a bloodbath that happened in Taytay.
* Watch Jeck’s live report here:
* This piece was first posted on Facebook.