POSTSCRIPT / May 5, 2011 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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A double-digit drop is a flashing red light

STRAY VAN: The Henry Sy group plans to build in the industrial city of Tianjin in China the biggest SM mall ever — a logical move considering the huge market on the mainland where it already operates four malls.

This small shopper, however, begs Henry Sy to consider putting up even just a modest-sized mall in Catbalogan City, preferably within walking distance of the Samar State University, so its officials need not drive all the way to Manila just to shop.

The other day, I spotted at SM City North-Edsa a Fortuner van with a red official plate. Resplendent on its side was the SSU seal above a “For Official Use Only” sign. Does that tell us that it was being used by a university official only, not by his wife or somebody catching the tailend of the SM three-day sale?

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DOUBLE DIGIT: Assuming poll surveys correctly reflect the prevailing public opinion, the latest report of the Social Weather Stations indicates that the Aquino administration may be in trouble. The report first came out in the BusinessWorld.

Reporting on its last March 4-7 quarterly poll, the SWS said the people’s satisfaction rating of the administration went down by 18 percentage points compared to that of the previous quarter.

It said 65 percent of 1,200 respondents nationwide were satisfied and 19 percent dissatisfied with the administration’s overall performance, leaving a net rating of 46 – a substantial drop from the last quarter’s 64 percent.

The double-digit erosion of pubic satisfaction was seen in all regions, except in the national capital, and in all socio-economic sectors. Some 16 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

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ALARM SIGNAL: Other surveys had shown also what is starting to look like a precipitous downtrend, sending administration strategists scrambling for solutions. Apparently, they have not found any.

Maybe Malacañang should call in all members of private media on the government payroll to justify their and their family members’ employment by helping put together a crisis public relations and communication program.

A steep drop in approval rating can be rationalized more easily over a one-year period, but a double-digit downtrend in just three months is a flashing alarm light.

I have talked with several people who consider themselves experts in analyzing performance versus perception. Most of them say that without a radical repackaging of the product, the best that could be achieved by yearend is a mere plateau-ing of the falling line.

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PALACE CONFIDENT: But Malacañang appears to be unperturbed (again assuming it believes in the surveys).

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda says, “We are confident that as the President’s programs for keeping transport costs down, improving the efficiency of agriculture, attracting investments and providing jobs further expand, the public will be reassured.”

I sincerely hope his optimism is well placed. In the final analysis, whatever successes our President chalks up will redound to our (the people’s) benefit. We are all on the same boat with him at the helm.

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MAGTRABAHO KAYO!: Talking of perception, we note the usual bias creeping into news reporting.

While some media led off with the two-digit drop in the Arroyo administration’s rating, others quickly pointed to SWS’s saying that the net satisfaction rating of 46 percent was still “good.”

Others went farther, pointing out that this latest satisfaction rating is higher than any level reached by previous administrations.

In my case, I focus on the precipitous two-digit drop, reflected even in previous surveys, to sound the alarm bells in case some people on the watch near the Pasig are asleep.

We look up to the government as we are in this together for better or for worse. We wish the President well, because his success in pursuing well-studied developmental programs will redound to the common weal.

Our worried, sometimes hungry, countrymen wish the bright boys of the President worked a little harder, and faster.

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WILLIE BACK SOON: Another case illustrating media bias is the reportage on the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board ordering a one-month suspension of the game show “Willing Willie” on TV5 for probable violation of the Child Abuse Law.

The innocent reader is led to believe that “Willing Willie” will be off the air for one month starting when the order was issued the other day.

The truth is that the show is set to bounce back on the TV screen on May 9, on Monday, or just FOUR DAYS from now.

It comes that early, because the voluntary self-suspension of the show by TV5 since April 11 was counted by the MTRCB as part of the one-month suspension. But some media buried this essential detail near the bottom of the story.

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NEWS VS VIEWS: Journalism as we learned it in school, on the beat and in the newsroom requires that we do not carelessly mix news and views.

Our editors used to admonish us reporters not to inject opinion into our news stories. Reporters are supposed to just report the verified facts.

But with the growing popularity of US newsmagazines that blurred the line between news and views, some of us were allowed to “interpret” the news, which can be loosely read as letting us give our considered opinion.

That was not across the board. In some newspapers, only selected senior reporters who had proved themselves over time were allowed to offer their opinion, of course in the guise of explaining the news.

Greener reporters were told that if the editor wanted their opinion, he would ask for it.

We are talking here of news, not column-writing. By definition, a column like Postscript is an opinion piece, so it is opinionated, whether the reader likes it or not.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 5, 2011)

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