LA Times editor: Story proposals from PH 'an automatic yes'
LOS ANGELES, USA – "Every story that my reporters propose to me out of the Philippines right now, it's an automatic yes. We're just very interested, and so is our readership."
This was how Kim Murphy, assistant managing editor for foreign and national news of the Los Angeles Times, described the huge American interest in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.
Murphy, a 61-year-old journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, said they have never been as interested in the Philippines now as in the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Marcos drew the world's attention for the human rights abuses under his regime, the opulent lifestyle – including the 3,000 shoes – of his wife Imelda, and his fall because of the bloodless People Power Revolution in February 1986.
"I think that there's probably been more coverage of the Philippines in the last year or so than there had been since the time of Marcos," Murphy said.
Referring to Duterte, Murphy explained that it is "just because frankly, a lot of Americans were shocked at the measures that he was taking, the extrajudicial measures, to try to get the country's drug and crime problem under control."
"We're always, of course, very interested in some of the aggressive statements that the President makes, and we were very shocked when he admitted not too long ago that he himself had been responsible for taking out some drug criminals. We in fact used one of his quotes as one of our quotes of the year," Murphy said.
Duterte's war on drugs has killed at least 7,080 people as of January 31.
Still on Duterte, Murphy added, "We've been fascinated with following his administration, but more important than that, I think, is the whole situation now in the South China Sea and how all of those countries are gonna be aligning themselves."
The editor said this will become more interesting especially if US President Donald Trump "decides to take on China." She said that this is "probably the bigger and more important issue that we're interested in right now."
'Throwback to time of Marcos'
Murphy made these remarks when asked by Filipino journalists about the LA Times' coverage of the Philippines. The Filipino journalists visited the LA Times newsroom as part of a reporting tour organized by the Foreign Press Centers of the US State Department.
Murphy spoke from the point-of-view of a Pulitzer-winning journalist who served as the LA Times' Moscow bureau chief for more than two decades, and who covered countries such as the Middle East, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Northwest for years.
Her paper, the LA Times, has been around for the past 134 years, and is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the US, according to their website.
Her comments reflect the kind of publicity the Philippines has received due to Duterte's war on drugs.
The anti-drug campaign has extensively been covered, too, by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, Time Magazine, and other international outlets.
Like Murphy, LA Times managing editor Marc Duvoisin said that "people are quite surprised" at Duterte's brand of leadership. People, too, are "not accustomed to hearing government" speak the way Duterte does.
"It has some elements of a throwback to the time of Marcos," Duvoisin added.
Steve Padilla, assistant national editor of the LA Times, pointed out that stories on the Philippines nowadays "do pretty well online," based on their metrics.
"Then even just looking at something as basic as Google News, when you see stories about the Philippines and the President, they're always there. They're always trending for quite some time," he said.
Murphy explained that in the US, as in many other countries today, there is "a sort of fascination with the concept of a strong leader who's gonna take a chaotic country and bring it into control and solve all the problems."
She said Trump himself was elected with the concept of a strong leader as "one of his themes."
Murphy said, "There's a resonance there for us." – Rappler.com