(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Sept. 23 edition)
WHILE the Cebu media community is celebrating its Press Freedom week, there's an interesting issue brewing in Manila--a sportswriter was banned from all PBA activities for his actions on social media.
It all started when a model-slash-round-girl confessed about having an affair with a PBA exec in a radio show, the writer picked it up and then interviewed the host is in his own radio show. He also dealt about the matter in social media, where he supposedly maligned the concerned official.
Days later, he got banned and the PBA also warned that any official, coach or player who talks to him will be sanctioned, too. A move that shows how vindictive the league can get.
The ban has been slammed, and rightfully so, as the official--a public figure--has legal remedies for their Twitter spat, instead of running to the PBA and in the process, strengthening the belief that the San Miguel Group holds considerable sway.
What this incident also highlights--and it may be alarming to some--is how behavior on social media can get a media-worker in trouble. Having had some online mis-steps in the past, I am more careful now. But if a journalist gets critical of a sports official or a sports figure online, should one be sanctioned for it?
While media outfits have a lengthy process that ferrets out any bias in stories, there's none for any tweet or post by a sportswriter in social media. And sometimes, he or she is just posting as a fan, not as a journalist.
After a full day’s work, one’s allowed to tweet out any frustration if one feels like doing so, right? Yes and no. Like any fan, a sportswriter is entitled to his or her own opinion, but unlike ordinary fans who stay in the sidelights, sometimes the writer and the subject of a writer’s rant online meet in real life, and if the subject happen to read those rants, then it becomes awkward.
And for a subject, especially a sensitive one, the journalist only has one persona; a writer’s persona, and not that of a fan or an ordinary worker who wanted to vent.
So yes, social media behavior can get journalists in trouble, and that’s one lesson we can learn from the Snow Badua episode. That ban is extreme and for me, one that shouldn’t be handed. And if any Cebu group does the same, I’m confident the local sportswriters will band together to fight it.
Tweet away sportswriters, but be careful, tweets, in this day and age, are no longer ours. Even with a disclaimer, anyone can interpret it as an official stand of our outfit.
Tread carefully, unless trouble snow you out.