The Butcher | The pretenses of State of the Nation with Jessica Soho

State of the Nation is GMA News TV’s flagship newscast anchored by Ms. Jessica Soho (left photo) and her news reporters include (clockwise from top left) Mav Gonzales, JP Soriano, Katrina Son, and Lei Alviz.

PHOTOS: @stateofthenation

State of the Nation is GMA News TV’s flagship newscast anchored by Ms. Jessica Soho (left photo) and her news reporters include (clockwise from top left) Mav Gonzales, JP Soriano, Katrina Son, and Lei Alviz.

Do we have too many news programs on local television? The answer is yes.


As a Matter of fact, there are more news programs on TV today than headlines that are truly news-worthy.


And the news that we see on television these days are all the same in the news programs of all networks. It’s actually sheer laziness on the part of news programs not to even bother to be different from the next newscast.


A news clip that you see in Unang Hirit, for instance, simply gets replayed in the succeeding news programs of the two GMA stations – Balitanghali, Quick Response Team, 24 Oras, State of the Nation With Jessica Soho and Saksi late in the evening.


There are even times when 24 Oras would show segments that had previously been aired in Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho – as if those features couldn’t be accessed on YouTube.


And what do we see mostly in our local news programs? It’s all about drugs – buy-bust operations and shabu smuggling/shipment activities of people who simply repeat the crime and never learn.


Another item that is always present in any news program menu are incidents of the so-called “riding in tandem.” Of course, the correct way to say it is “riding tandem.” I don’t know why no one else has pointed that out.


In fact, there are shows that do not know any better. And so one daily variety show once had a “Dancing in Tandem” competition. The Boobay and Tekla Show now has an ongoing “Pranking in Tandem” segment. Do you still wonder why television had always been called idiot box?  


And thank heavens for the barangay CCTV cameras, news programs always have a steady of supply of petty crime stories.


Welcome news these days are the clearing operations conducted by Metro Manila’s new breed of mayors: Isko Moreno of Manila, Joy Belmonte of Quezon City, Francis Zamora of San Juan and Vico Sotto of Pasig. Hooray to political will!


Another pressing concern among Filipinos is the Chinese military presence in the West Philippine Seas. The latest development regarding this matter is always duly reported by the local news programs – and that is truly appreciated by the viewers.


But otherwise, the stories in our local news programs are always about drugs  and we are tired of that.


A lot viewers actually tune in nightly to State of the Nation With Jessica Soho on GMA’s news channel because it is one news program that attempts to be different: It dissects the news. Or at least tries to.


State of the Nation had a slight reformat some three months ago. In time for the last elections, it underwent a cosmetic change by constructing a new set.


Anchor Jessica Soho now even has a new table and her silhouette no longer resembles that of the Knorr seasoning products logo.


I also noticed how Jessica has stopped claiming that so and so reporter is reporting “live mula sa Quezon City.” Of course, she wasn’t exactly lying there. Most of their reporters do report live from Quezon City – but only from the 5th floor of the GMA Network Building, which is in Diliman Quezon City.


Is that all for effect? Maybe so because that gives the impression that the show gets to cover the news at different points of the metropolis – if not the nation.


This entire exercise is actually ridiculous. It’s farcical. Why can’t the reporter just stay with Jessica in the same studio?


Of course it’s more dramatic to show the reporter outside of the studio – the better to stress how he or she worked so hard just to deliver a story. And there’s truth to that – especially since GMA news reporters do exert effort to get to the 5th floor of that building. To reach that open space where they do their live report, they have to take the slowest and most dangerous elevator in the world.


Believe me, that elevator once trapped all 14 Survivors of the first StarStruck   edition 15 years ago. It’s a deadly piece of mechanical contraption that the GMA news reporters have to brave daily. Talk about living dangerously.


Lately, Jessica has been shortening her spiels to merely “reporting live.” Of course, you still see “Quezon City” flashed on the screen to indicate that the reporter is still out on field – when, in fact, the reporter just went four floors up.


But for all that charade, State of the Nation With Jessica Soho is still a daily must-see for any viewer who wants to be updated on what is going on in the country – even in some parts of the world.


The strength of State of the Nation lies in the fact that Jessica gets to thresh out current events with the help of her retinue of reporters – yes, “reporting live.” Any issue that may still be unclear with viewers are explained and expounded on in this news program.


But while Jessica’s exchanges with the news reporters are much appreciated, if you think about it, again, all that is an act – for show.


The truth is, Jessica doesn’t even need to have a live communication with her reporters. All the reporter has to do is to create a truly in-depth and thoroughly researched news feature that needs no further explanation.


But State of the Nation has to have “live action” to catch viewers’ attention. And to show for dramatic impact how the news team is working so hard just to bring the latest news from around the country – fresh, as reported by their reporters “live.” No need to say that everything is merely coming from the building’s 5th floor at that point.   


Jessica’s on-air conversations with her reporters actually make her look like a know-it-all queen because every question she throws at them gets practically the same standard answer: “Tama ka, Jessica.”


Done repeatedly, the whole process becomes absurd already. I can imagine how the creative staff of Bubble Gang   must be itching to make a sketch of State of the Nation.


Scenario 1. From a reporter who just had a bad breakup: “Tama ka, Jessica. Lagi naman ikaw ang tama.” How’s that for a hugot line?


Scenario 2. From a reporter who had a bad day at work: “Tama na, Jessica! Tama na! Tama na! Tama na!”


Fortunately for State of the Nation, Bubble Gang or any other entertainment show is forbidden to make fun of news and public affairs programs because these are sacred as far as GMA network is concerned.


And so the State of the Nation moro-moro continues.


About two weeks ago, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno banned establishments near educational institutions from selling liquor. A news clip featured the interviews of two students who complained about not being able to go on a drinking spree anymore after school because of that ban.


Jessica had a reporter on standby that time, but to my disappointment, she didn’t pontificate like she sometimes does and didn’t bother to lecture those students about how most parents work so hard to send their children to school. And here they are – wasting their allowance on booze.


To my relief, the same news clip later made the rounds of other GMA news programs and the gang of Unang Hirit, led by Arnold Clavio, told those students off.


Jessica Soho to me is still the best thing that ever happened to the Philippine broadcasting industry. She is incisive, bright and fearless. Her credibility is beyond question.  


But her State of the Nation nightly newscast is fast losing steam. To begin with, her staff should start monitoring the other GMA news programs. A month or so ago, she asked her stand-up reporter a question about a crime that happened in a Southern Luzon province.  Since there was a few-second delay in their communication, I was able to blurt out the answer first to Jessica’s question.


No, I was not at the crime scene. But I did watch Unang Hirit 14 hours earlier and the same case was discussed. That’s a point against Jessica because she is supposed to know more than the viewer and not the other way around.


Is it also possible for State of the Nation not to use the same news clips that had already circulated in other GMA news programs? The show should stop shortchanging the viewers.


These past weeks, State of the Nation just looks like any other other news program on local TV, especially since TV Patrol and 24 Oras also have stand-uppers who communicate live with their respective news anchors.


If you ask me my view regarding our local news programs today, I have to say that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen all.


And that is the current state of news programs on Philippine television.




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