Bets avoiding mainstream media hurt odds – analysts

Political analysts say candidates who snub mainstream media interviews and debates mean missing the opportunity to lure undecided voters to their side. (INQUIRER.net stock footage)

MANILA, Philippines — Political analysts believe that in hotly contested elections, candidates who refuse to participate in mainstream media interviews and debates do so at their peril.

While candidates may have a following on social media where they can promote their own narrative, snubbing interviews and media debates means missing the opportunity to lure undecided voters to their side and can erode the message they are trying to achieve. to push through, says political science professor Maria Ela Atienza.

Survey favorite Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was the only presidential candidate invited to snub an interview with veteran TV reporter Jessica Soho for alleged “bias,” and Atienza believes that slowed his momentum.

The son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos said he preferred to talk about his plans for the country rather than talking about “35-year-old issues” – a reference to his father’s martial rule and rights abuses.

“You Could Still Lose”

Atienza says that while Marcos Jr. may have a solid base, there’s no certainty it’ll be enough to secure his victory in the May election.

“Based on the polling history, at this point, even if you’re ahead, you could still lose,” Atienza said. “In this sense, if you do not appear [in interviews] or if you refuse to participate for any reason… this has an impact on undecided people. And you need every possible vote to win as president.

Here are more observations from Atienza:

• Refusing to be interviewed by Soho made Marcos Jr. evasive. “The backlash here is that he avoids certain questions. He’s not responsible, and that’s one of the things people are looking for. If you are the president or any other official, you are accountable to the people. »

• An allegation of bias on the part of the interviewer is not an excuse. “So what? If you’re ready and have the answer to the critics, even if the interviewer is biased against you, you can show how you answer the questions. So he missed an opportunity to explain the problem.

• Marcos Jr.’s reasoning seemed arrogant. “You can’t rest on your lead in the polls because the polls, of course, only reflect a snapshot, and you don’t know if that will change. Many things could change people’s opinion.

• Refusing to face Soho contradicts Marcos Jr’s message of unity. “How can you be united if you don’t talk to people you call anti-Marcos?”

‘Misstep’

Victor Manhit, founder and chief executive of the political think tank Stratbase Group, describes Marcos Jr.’s Soho snub as a “misstep” that the candidate’s camp is working to remedy.

“Maybe it was a collective decision. They didn’t realize the impact [of] avoiding the biggest television network and a popular host who was never considered biased. The reason I say it’s a misstep is because they did their best to frame the story differently,” he says, noting that Marcos Jr. has since given interviews to d other media and personalities, including TV host Boy Abunda.

The Marcos Jr. snub issue gained traction because Soho has a big following, and the backlash showed that “the public is worried,” Manhit says.

“It’s very important to people because you project you’re the most qualified, but you can’t show up. There is a contradiction in the minds of voters,” he said.

Ex-journalist Armand Nocum, a “volunteer consultant” for Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, another presidential candidate, said Marcos Jr.’s decision to skip the Soho interview was ” misguided” because it was eroding his base of “indulgent voters” who expected him to personally answer questions.

Nocum says people are interested in presidential interviews and debates, especially now that they are mostly staying home due to the pandemic.

“Right now the biggest movies, the biggest ‘teleseryes,’ are the debates and the interviews, and…they squandered that opportunity,” he says.

Marcos Jr. has since granted interviews, but the impact of the first interview for presidential candidates was different and set the tone, Nocum says. “[He] should have seized the moment to confront all the demons on his side once and for all. He can’t hide forever. Anyway, he has good lawyers and good campaign experts.

‘Come clean up’

Nocum thinks Marcos Jr. has a chance to recover by giving an interview to a “very credible” outlet and answering all questions posed to him.

“What he could do is tell the truth and deal with all the issues,” Nocum says. “Yes [he’s] able to answer questions, future debates and interviews will seem less interesting.

Chances are such an interview could be disastrous, but Marcos Jr. can always prepare for it, especially since he has experts on his team, Nocum says.

Atienza says that while Marcos Jr. has resources to help him recover from the backlash of the interview slur, there’s not much they can do.

“You can have a big budget [for] social media, but if that’s the only thing you stress about, you can also underestimate people,” she says.

It’s important for candidates to participate in media interviews and debates, she said, citing a Pulse Asia survey indicating the continued strength of mainstream media, especially television.

According to survey results released in October, 91% of Filipino adults get their news about politics from television.

Atienza says debates and interviews are important because voters rely on their perception of personalities when choosing their candidates.

People want their leaders to be visible, which is why in the aftermath of calamities, the public looks for the president, she says.

It’s also important to combine social and traditional media and even a bit of old-fashioned campaigning to get as much support as possible, says Atienza. “Every vote counts.”

“To ask these questions”

Manhit says mainstream media is more relevant now in the age of social media because interviews and debates allow candidates to flesh out their claims and promises.

“That’s where the media comes in: to ask these questions, not [merely] accept what he says; provide the alternate source of information; … [to] put meat or stuff in those empty spaces,” says Manhit.

He recalled that during the 2016 presidential election, voters were able to attend several debates organized by the Electoral Commission in collaboration with the media.

It was a “higher rung” that required candidates to be more approachable and responsive to issues, and allowed voters to appreciate them better, he says.

Manhit says the media, as representatives of the people, should pressure candidates to speak up and explain themselves.

A candidate may find it worth avoiding debates or interviews, but it’s up to ‘the critical media to make sure it’s not worth the risk’ because the people’s choices are at stake, he says .

“We deserve better than candidates who ignore questions and limit us to slogans,” Manhit says.

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