state of the nation

Manila, 23 July—All this time, I have only been able to make sense of the present by piecing it together as a creature built from the past. Whenever I have to think deeply about something, my mind always goes the way of context: From what place does this come? 

There was a time when it made complete sense that when the time comes around for the President to deliver the State of the Nation Address, his promises from his last SONA would come under scrutiny. From what place does today's speech come? What has happened since the last one? 

This makes little sense now with a President who has continued to make and break promises (or even flaunted that he has not made any). 

And so these days, we have to find better ways to make sense of what this administration is doing, in addition to reporting what the Palace says it has done. (There's even an entire report of that in PDF, apparently.)

I'd like to share a couple of things my old teammates have done, like this monitoring of Cabinet turnover and this update of last year's Presidential tracker of public appearances and travels. Both are by Ana Roa (Twitter: @anamgroa), thank you for sharing these! 

While I do not exactly miss doing SONA-related roundups, I do miss having Presidents who at least could be made accountable to their word. At the time, we thought it was even a baseline sort of thing—for what worth was a person who couldn't at least do as they said they would? After compiling the lengthythings, we'd go: O, yung mga sinabi pa lang niya yan ha. Paano pa kaya yung mga dapat sinabi niya, pero hindi?

Now the baseline has moved, repeatedly. This is the nation of At Least: At least nga may nagrereport pa eh.

(ANYWAY: Here's this year's update on the President's promises from the always reliable Inquirer Research team.) 

Anyway: Today, in hills I choose to die on

The Associated Press has opened up their polls and surveys guidance for journalists heading into coverage of midterm polls. It's open, no subscription required, until August. In all, I think it's a good, level-headed read for anyone who wants to be more informed about surveys.

I used to have this document taped on the wall near my work desk. This has been important to me since I started writing survey stories in 2007. It was a frustration for me, and for my workmates who still pen survey stories as intelligently as possible, that sometimes, even editors do not seem to understand the place of survey stories in journalism.

Perhaps it is best for the readers themselves to be informed, para hindi tayo mag-aagree lang basta-basta when someone insinuates that a net ratings poll is similar to a pre-election poll and should be computed similarly, or when someone's glorified assistant asks why net ratings must be computed by subtracting the proportion of those dissatisfied from those satisfied. It hurts my brain. I do not assume that these people do not know what net ratings are, but I assume they know that they are willfully misleading and misinforming their followers who might not know better. 

I still go back to this piece I wrote with my boss a while back, to look back on President Arroyo's nine-year term (what the fuck, right?). We wrote this in time for her last State of the Nation Address in 2009. In this article we tracked how SWS and Pulse Asia's regularly released surveys on the President's satisfaction, approval and trust ratings rose and dipped in accordance to the times.

I feel for survey firms a lot, in the sense that their results are validated and invalidated depending on the tide of things and the popularity of whoever's on top, apparently, even as they do the same thing, with the same methods, over an extended period of time. 

tl;dr Don't be that person. Personally, I believe in surveys, even when I don't agree with their results, because I understand and believe their methods to be sound. You don't just take one and go to town with it when it sounds good for you. That's called being an asshole.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.  

Anyway, where's the party at this afternoon?

Wherever you choose to go—I just hope you choose to go. It may be exhausting loving this country, and our hardworking friends in the media need our support.