What makes it news?

We define a news story by its elements: it must be relevant, timely, and unique. News is usually defined as something NEW — information that hasn’t come out before, and which the people need to know now. But that can be misleading.
Relevance does not always mean that the information is new. Timely might mean only that the story is presented when it should come out, not necessarily that it is new. For sometimes we forget things that we need to remember.
Ellen Tordesillasstory on the 2004 elections and the allegations of cheating that surrounded it is not new. The story has come out in bits and pieces — the Garci tapes, the SAF operation in Batasan, the minority report, and the making of fake ERs. They have been denied, too.
The only new information in Ellen’s story are the names and some more details provided by the SAF officers she has talked to. Yet the story remains relevant because this is the first time that someone has put the pieces together in one story and told it in a simple one-two-three style. It’s timely because it came out on the day of GMA’s 8th State of the Nation Address.
Ellen says she has been asked what is new in the story, what makes it “news.”
Long ago, when I was asked to write yet another rape story, I asked my boss: what’s the point? There’s nothing new; it’s just another rape.
The fact that it continues to happen makes it relevant. And that’s what a news story should be, my boss told me. I realized he was right: the fact that women were being raped every day does not make it normal; nor should it become ordinary. Just because it’s not new should not make it less of a “news.”
The allegations of cheating were made — and denied — long ago. But they have never been presented in a proper forum, disputed and proven to be false. They were denied, and the people were told to accept the denials as truth because that was all they were going to get — a denial. Until now the issue haunts us all — the government and its people, the public officials and their constituents.
Until the allegations are proven false — in a transparent and convincing way — they will continue to haunt us, and the story will continue to be relevant, regardless of how many times it has been told, or how long ago it was.
As my former boss pointed out, a crime remains a crime, regardless of how many times it’s been committed. The fact that it continues to happen should make it more “newsy,” not less.
The fact that the allegations have yet to be proven false, four years after the elections, should make it more relevant, not less. To forget it would be to allow the criminals — either those who cheated or those who smeared reputations by alleging the cheating — to get away with it, and so encourage others to do the same.
Considering that we’re just two years away from the next presidential elections, the story deserves to be told, and retold.


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