Legacy media face a difficult battle ahead under a Marcos administration.

Congress has not proclaimed Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos as the official winner of the May 2022 presidential elections but his spokesman, Vic Rodriguez, has given journalists a taste of what to expect from the new government.

He ignored legitimate and valid questions from a journalist and would rather entertain “friendly” questions from “friendly” media entities and from vloggers and social media influencers.

He also avoided controversial questions, like the Picasso painting seen at the house of Marcos’ mother, Imelda, choosing to attack former Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Andres Bautista, who pointed out that the artwork disappeared when Imelda’s house was raided by his agency.

The Marcos family has started to display its wealth even though Bongbong has yet to be sworn into office as the 17th president of the Republic, confident the government would no longer touch its ill-gotten wealth.

Legacy media will have a hard time reporting on the Marcos wealth issue as they may face stonewalling from the incoming administration.

The late dictator’s family stashed away an estimated $10 billion but only a little over $4 billion has been recovered. More than half are still under litigation or are still hidden.

There is uncertainty on what will happen to these forfeiture cases and graft cases at the anti-corruption Sandiganbayan court. Will these cases go away, dropped or dismissed under the Marcos administration?

Legacy media may no longer be free to report on the ill-gotten wealth issue as they may never get a decent answer when they ask about it.

Throughout the 90-day campaign period, Bongbong Marcos was never transparent and avoided accountability in facing the media.

He only gave a single news conference during the campaign trail in Cagayan de Oro, but invited only a select group of journalists who were not prepared to field tough questions.

He rarely answered questions during chance (ambush) interviews.

His media office selectively accredited journalists and he only appeared on “friendly” broadcast networks for interviews, avoiding to discuss the past, particularly the martial law period under his father.

Vloggers and social media influencers were given unrestricted access during the campaign sorties and rallies while legitimate journalists were cordoned off away from candidate Marcos.

Bongbong Marcos may adopt President Rodrigo Duterte’s template in dealing with the media, a valuable lesson in controlling the narrative.

Duterte bored the media with his long monologue, which did not give meaty answers to questions during rare press conferences, which often were held at midnight or early morning.

He also employed social media influencers and micro vloggers to discredit critical media, eroding public trust and confidence in the legacy media.

Legacy media’s credibility suffered as the people relied more on social media, like Facebook, Youtube, Tiktok, Instagram and Twitter for information.

Disinformation and propaganda spread so much that no amount of fact checking done by the media could change how people perceived reality.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it worsened because it became a one-way street; there was little or no interaction at all with the media.

Duterte used his weekly “Talk to the People” as a media event because journalists could no longer ask him questions face-to-face.

Duterte hijacked the narrative, boosting his popularity, which remained high during the pandemic. It did not matter how frivolous his statements were, but it’s the only information that came out from the government during the pandemic.

Duterte may have actually gotten an idea from Bongbong Marcos in running a media strategy by favoring vloggers and social media influencers.

Bongbong Marcos has been seeding social media with lies and propaganda long before Duterte came into power in 2016.

When he succeeds Duterte, Bongbong Marcos will have a big advantage over the former leader. He will not have a vast army of trolls to boost his image and could even surpass Duterte’s popularity, but he will have solid support from legacy media owners.

Duterte won by 16 million votes in 2016 but Marcos won with 31 million votes, almost twice the number of people who elected Duterte into office.

His maternal first cousins, the Romualdezes, own several tabloids and broadsheet newspapers, like the Journal publication and Manila Standard Today.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is controlled by a family whose daughter is married to Philip Romualdez, eldest son of the late Benjamin “Cocoy” Romualdez, who is the brother of Imelda Marcos.

The other newspapers, Manila Times, Daily Tribune and Manila Bulletin, are supportive of Bongbong Marcos. The big broadcast networks, like GMA7 and CNN Philippines are less critical of Bongbong Marcos.

There is a possibility of the return of the crony press, which was seen during Bongbong Marcos father’s period when his cronies, like Robero Benedicto and Benjamin Romualdez, controlled TV and newspapers.

People at that time relied on the “mosquito” press for reliable and accurate information devoid of propaganda from the Marcs government.

Only a few legacy media companies will stand against Bongbong Marcos if he commits any wrongdoing or carries out policies that could be detrimental to the people’s interests. How many legacy media entities will remain critical and serve as a watchdog against public interests?

Worse, some of the social media influencers might be legitimized as crony media entities start hiring them as newspaper or tabloid columnists or radio commentators. It has actually started. That would be the real prostitution of the media industry.

The legacy media’s tasks ahead are really difficult and dangerous. If media owners are willing to work closely with the new administration, how would journalists do their jobs of unbiased truth-telling?

The challenge ahead is very daunting. Journalists cannot retreat but must face the challenge head on. Journalists must show tenacity, get their acts together, push back and demand accountability. These are exciting times. This is the best time to become a journalist.