MANILA, Philippines – Rappler on Friday night, November 11, celebrated years of doing journalism, connecting with communities, and using technology for social good.
It also took the chance to celebrate courage and its many forms.
“It’s been a surprising year,” Rappler’s CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa said at the #InspireCourage event on Friday, November 11. “For Rappler, this is the year we had to find the courage to stand tall. To stand firm. To figure out who we are, what are the values we will never actually move from.”
Courage to stand
As with previous years, Rappler continued to innovate in 2016. Developments include a wider, more mobile coverage of the presidential elections; and building RapRap and #NotOnMyWatch, bots that aim to help users get the latest news and report both the good and bad they see in the government through Facebook Messenger, respectively.
This was also the year when Rappler had to weather particularly trying challenges. First, it attempted to redefine the role of online media as it filed a case before the Supreme Court that challenged the limitations attached to livestreaming the presidential debates during 2016 campaign season. Rappler won the case in an unprecedented 14-0 vote. (READ: Rappler vs Bautista: SC allows livestream of debates)
“2016 is also the year where the wisdom of the crowd became an online mob,” Ressa said, recalling the incident where a student of UP Los Baños was attacked, harassed and threatened online after asking then-Mayor Duterte a question at a forum, to the point that a page demanding death for the student was put up. (READ: UPLB students to Duterte: Give us direct answers)
Facebook took the page down while the Duterte camp issued a statement urging its supporters to “take the moral high ground when engaging in any kind of discourse,” all within the same weekend. (READ: Duterte to supporters: Be civil, intelligent, decent, compassionate)
“But this was a harbinger of things to come,” Ressa said.
In August, Rappler started the #NoPlaceForHate campaign (READ: #NoPlaceForHate: Change comes to Rappler’s comments thread). Shortly after, it launched a series that looked at how the internet and social media were being weaponized. (READ: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the Internet)
“We knew that there would be consequences when you do things like this, and there were,” Ressa said, pointing to a death threat on the screen. “We had threats like this come through. But I realized that our reporters suffer this on a daily basis.”
#NoPlaceForHate provides a place “that can still give you the exponential power of social media,” Ressa said. “We use it for disaster risk reduction. Because all of these things still work and because when something bad happens, we turn to social media to show us what is actually happening.
“We cannot pollute the river that gives us this great power for development,” she added.
Safeguarding social media
Despite the bad, Ressa emphasized the need to preserve and protect social media, and to stand up to cyberbullying.
She recalled the story of Daniel Cabrera, the boy whose photo was taken while he was studying outside a McDonald’s branch in Cebu in June last year. (READ: Kid studying on Cebu sidewalk inspires netizens)
Cabrera’s dedication not only helped improved his life – he and his family now live in a house, his mother now has a job, and he now has enough money to study until college – it also inspired millions of people.
Speaking through a translator, Cabrera, who was present at the #InspireCourage event, spoke of his wish to have not only his but also his siblings’ dreams come true.
“There’s a lot of bad that we see,” Ressa said. “Daniel reminds us of the good. And it reminds us of the good in us. He inspires us in Rappler to inspire courage.”
Earlier in the event, Ressa said, “Technology moves at exponential growth rates, but people don’t change that fast.
“Regardless of what you believe or where you come from, it’s very clear that this is a time of great change. It is a time of creative destruction. And as destruction is happening, we’re also creating a new world. In order to deal with that, what do we need? We think we need courage.”
She talked about Rappler's #InspireCourage logo, which shows that courage starts with love, radiating outwards.
“We believe courage is viral. This is the trait that we’ve long thought journalists have had to have. But now, since everyone is a journalist, technically, we all need this viral courage,” she said.
Different forms of courage
Ressa took the opportunity to look back and share Rappler's milestones since it launched in January 2012.
In 2012, it was the courage to dare, start a team of 12, and define multimedia journalism from zero.
In 2013, it was the courage to build. It was the year Rappler made history as it held the very first marathon 24/7 online coverage of the May 2013 elections for over 4 days, as well as processed granular data on election results.
Project Agos, which was launched exactly a month before Super Yolanda hit the Philippines, combined crowdsourced data with updates from the government. Today, government agencies such as the Office of Civil Defense, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Education, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are part of Project Agos.
In 2014, it was the courage to innovate. It was the year #SharePH, where Pinoys shared their most favorite of the Philippines, and BrandRap, which is Rappler’s own innovative business model, were launched.
In 2015, it was the courage to grow. Last year, Rappler expanded to neighboring Indonesia to build communities and action through Rappler Indonesia and formed X, a platform where partners of MovePH can share their thoughts, and XChange, where partners collaborate. Campaigns #ShowThePope and #WHIPIT also made waves on social media.
Ressa predicted 2017 would be the year to dream.
“Daniel Cabrera is really that hope of what social media is. He actually gives me that courage to dream, which I think is where 2017 is going to go. We begin the cycle again,” she said.
Embracing technology, hand in hand
“It’s going to be a challenging future,” Ressa said towards the end, “I mean, technology is turning everything upside down and we have to adapt to it.”
In parting, Ressa had this to say.
“Thank you, our partners. And to the Rapplers, we have a lot of work to do. We have so much ahead of us. 2017 is going to be a challenging year in so many ways because technology is changing it so fast.
“How are we gonna cope? I hope we cope by being together. I hope we cope by inspiring courage in each other as we face the road ahead.”
The night ended with the announcement of winners of the 2016 Move Awards, 5 Filipino millennials who are making waves in their respective communities. – Rappler.com