Review: State of the Nation with Jessica Soho

By | Tuesday, October 23, 2012

There's been a lot of competition these days, and a lot of choices for news viewers. A decade ago, viewers were either watching TV Patrol or Frontpage: Ulat Ni Mel Tiangco. Today, you have the Big 3 evening newscasts: 24 Oras, TV Patrol and Aksyon, an english newscast on TalkTV, and newscasts over the Big 3 news channels. The choices are just limitless and only proves that there's more room for news programming.

The long history of our local evening news is filled with "doom and gloom" news, just enough to entertain the viewers, create noise to attract them for ratings sake, shall we say. Informing, is at times, second. We have to understand though that at the end of the day, they're an enterprise and the financial health of the entire network is really important.

24 Oras and TV Patrol, while still remain #1 and #2 respectively, have been getting some flak for their tabloidy approach. More often than not, both newscasts open with police news stories, or like what we've been saying over the past year — news that majority of viewers don't really care about.

When GMA News TV was launched last year, expectations were pretty high especially for its flagship newscast State of the Nation, anchored by Jessica Soho, who at that time was rumored to be joining 24 Oras. State of the Nation's approach was pretty simple — harden the newscast with more substantial news and topics, get the newsmakers on the newscast and hear them talk with Jessica Soho, and utilize the GMA News correspondents in their live reports. The result: a solid and credible newscast.

Our expectations for the newscast were met. Not only did it up the ante for evening news, but it strayed away from the formulaic approach of 24 Oras and TV Patrol. What we were looking for the newscast at that time was how it would be different from other GMA newscasts, whether it be on the content, presentation or the exterior look of the show. SONA didn't disappoint us. Soho and her team clearly have a sense of what's important and it's reflected in the quality of broadcast they present each and every night.

In SONA, GMA News correspondents have more airtime, with Soho showcasing them in a live debriefing, every time they end their reports. The correspondents should be ready to answer Soho's relevant and direct queries in a language that people could understand. It's like she makes it sure that the viewers understand the news, and the reporters know what exactly they're talking about.

The must-watch portion of the newscast is the Q&A segment with Soho (later copied by Solar Network News with Pia Hontiveros). In its almost two-year run, Soho has interviewed the likes of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, the day that the House of Representatives voted to allow the impeachment proceedings against her to proceed, to DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno, the day he announced his resignation and Senator Ping Lacson, days after he came out of hiding.

Soho also conducted a memorable split-screen interview between two opposing views, when she had CGMA spokesperson Elena Bautista-Horn and Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda. Her most recent coup was an interview with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Founding Chairman Nur Misuari, the day the draft framework agreement was signed. Soho handled the interview very well, and it was her persistence in knowing what Misuari had to say that made it even better.

Soho's interview with MNLF Founding Chairman Nur Misuari

SONA works in a lot of reasons, but mainly because of its anchor. As anyone in the business, we have the uttermost respect for Soho. She's the #1 reason why Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho is of high quality and why her viewers hold their loyalty to watch her show every Saturday night. As a journalist, everyone, even her harshest critics can agree that she's a force to be reckoned with when it comes to getting the news. She cut her teeth doing the hard news, been through war zones, interviewed presidents, politicians and even celebrities.

Soho is undoubtedly the smartest interviewer on TV today. When she grills her subject, she's like proving her audience that she's one of them, asking questions that viewers would ask. It's like she takes her viewers to "what would you ask" moments. Her Q&A is anything but Boy Abunda's Ikaw Na on Bandila. If you're looking for a smart, engaging and deeper conversation, here's the newscast you should watch. 

You may remember that almost a decade ago, GMA-7 switched Saksi to late-night slot, giving its then late-night newscast Frontpage the primetime slot. For years, leading up to the switch Frontpage and its anchor Mel Tiangco received praises and accolades for its fast-paced approach and sense of what's important. Tiangco then was known for her hard-hitting style when interviewing her subjects. Police stories weren't seen until the second block of the newscast, and even hired Unang Hirit anchor Rhea Santos as the segment host for GMA Action Force in its later years. Interestingly, both Frontpage and SONA have a similarity other than being highly-praised — both newscasts carry the name of their casters.

It would be no surprise if we see some switching once again, with 24 Oras and SONA. It makes sense right? It's time for Filipinos to be presented with a smart and intelligent newscast once again. That reason alone should be enough.

  • We like how SONA's theme music sets the mood every time it opens the newscast, accompanied by an opening billboard that features a montage of some of the important stories Soho did in the past two decades. The theme music sounds very patriotic, with trumpet sounds and drums, as if an actual State of the Nation is taking place. 
  • The graphics team behind SONA played it safe, but it's notable for its simple yet sophisticated look. There are only three basic colors present in the graphics package: red, blue and white, making it the most minimalist looking package of all the GMA newscasts. One issue I have is the usage of a wrong typeface for its lower third graphics and ticker. It's a bit too informal for a serious newscast. They should have picked a much cleaner san-serif font, and made it bigger so older viewers won't have a hard time reading the L3 headline.
  • The set features a number of LCD monitors and large projector screen that is somewhat a reminiscent of the ones used in 24 Oras in 2006. Soho's anchor desk appears to be big, and can carry at least two more anchors. We liked the idea that there's a space in front of the desk that's reserved for interview portions. It gives viewers the impression that Soho is ready for a deep (or even a heated) conversation.
  • Ultimately, we liked the overall look of the newscast. Simple, isn't too distracting and minimalist. We hope though that they make some simple tweaks, so it can match the quality of news they're presenting.

Question: Do you watch SONA? Do you find Jessica Soho credible? Share us your thoughts by posting your comments below, or on our Facebook page. You can also tweet us at @medianewserphil.