Armie Jarin-Bennett talks CNN, journalism, 'bias' in digital age

By Media Newser Philippines | Monday, October 24, 2016

Photo: JL Javier
Nine Media Corporation President Armie Jarin-Bennett has been featured in the lifestyle section of The Philippine Star over the weekend.

Written by Don Jaucian, the feature tackled Jarin-Bennett's storied career as a CNN journalist, as well as her take on the accusations of media bias in this digital age.

Recalling her early days as executive vice president and managing editor of CNN Philippines, Jarin-Bennett said: "I didn’t want to come in and say ‘I want to change this, this, this,’ because it’s very different from where I came from. I understood the many challenges that people were facing. I sat down with people, hindi lang yung from a distance, I immersed myself. I wrote scripts to understand how hard or easy it was. I produced shows so I understood how the equipment worked, or didn’t. I went out in the field to see how difficult it is to fight traffic to get to the story... I tried to speak even to the drivers and the rank and file and everyone so that when I made the changes, meron akong credibility, na alam na because I didn’t want to do that.”

Read portions of the feature after the jump...

What’s the biggest challenge of the job?
In the 18 years that I worked with CNN I really feel that my training was very strict. You know exactly what news is. It has to be accurate, it has to be fair, it has to be balanced. We’re so particular about (that) when we interview people who represent two or three sides of the story, even on the air we make sure they get equal airtime. If we are judged —  the audience will constantly judge you and people will always have opinions, they will say, “You phrased your questions in a certain way that made you sound like you’re partial or you’re not fair....” But at the end of the day, CNN is always able to prove, to either critics or fans, that we’re always fair and balanced and I think if you don’t veer away from that, if you really uphold that, you’re doing your job. There are no opinions, no side comments, just the facts.

Is bias a constant thing that you keep in mind, especially now that people are talking more about it, or are you just focused on telling the news accurately?
My training is, it’s just the facts. Wala namang bias kung hindi ka nagbibigay ng opinion. So if one side has this, I make sure that I have the other side. If at a particular moment I can’t get one person to explain their side, I am at least telling my audience “We tried to call Person A for his side of the story and unfortunately, he’s not available but we will keep trying.” That for me is transparency. In the absence of balance at a particular moment, at least my audience knows I am trying to balance things out by talking to the other person. That’s why transparency is a key for us.

A lot of people saw the potential of CNN Philippines when they watched the vice presidential debate during the election season. How do you think the channel has upheld those kinds of expectations so far?
We’re very fortunate that in this digital age, our audiences can talk to us directly. When we fail, or when they think we fail, they’re not afraid or shy to tell us that. So that keeps us in check. That’s why I really stop and take the time to read comments, good or bad. What I try to do is to keep the emotions out and understand why. What I’m discovering is that they just get so passionate sometimes and their intention is not always to attack you.

(Read full story here)

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