Friends were inviting me to join them watch Batman Rises last Monday. I couldn’t miss watching SONA live, I said. There was a particular thrill in watching it real-time, despite doing so alone in my room – a particular feeling of one-ness, perhaps, knowing that all around the Philippines, my fellow countrymen were hanging on every word our dear president had to say. It was after all, as he would say, a “Report kay Boss.”

Being part of the hype: tweeting and retweeting news

Twitter was flooded with updates, the SONA2012 hash tag and my timeline even so – having been following a number of local news accounts and politically eager friends. Tweets I read for around two hours extended from meaningful quotes, to who arrived and what they were wearing, where PNoy was, previous news stories on an issue that the president mentioned, and even to friends’ side comments. Tweets provided me with the behind-the-scenes too, as some friends who were on the ground rallying were also sharing thoughts through their personal accounts.

#SONA2012 tweets ranged from facts about the speech, to meaningful quotes, updates and opinions

As an assessment of the news coverage, I’d say the media fared well. Not bad, but not perfect either.

News analysis shows invited guests to talk about local issues and to provide their opinions, but broadcasts also took time featuring what SONA attendees were wearing – time which could have been used better by providing more information and background on the issues expected to be tackled by the president. Protesters, as always, were shown in a bad light. How I dream of a time when media would provide these demonstrators the opportunity to sit down and explain their side – why they were there and what they were fighting for. I keep seeing comments from news readers criticizing the supposed lack of principle of these protesters. Despite the widespread belief that these people just mindlessly ostracize the president, however, I believe they were there for a purpose – to show a different side of the story and to tell people that there are issues that need to be addressed which weren’t, and that statistics do not mean anything without the proper background.

On a positive note, I think it was commendable how news analysis shows invited political analysts and economists to talk about the current local issues. These speakers provided an in-depth background on the issues, which the roughly an hour and a half speech could not. These individuals also helped in putting into layman’s terms the statistics presented in the SONA. In social media, I particularly found Rappler’s tweets helpful. Rappler’s twitter account provided links on previous stories done on a particular issue mentioned in the SONA. For example, context on the proposed increase in budget for the SUCs, land distribution and increase in local tourism.

The Rappler twitter account simultaneously tweeted previously published articles to provide context on issues being tackled in the SONA.

Broadcasts, despite sometimes dwelling on the trivialities of the SONA such as who was wearing what, also provided meaningful information on current issues through their invited guests. Social media, in particular, played a great role in its reportage by providing highlights of the speech and in some cases, simultaneously providing links to articles which could provide deeper context on an issue.