Ria Tanjuatco-Trillo is CNN Philippines’ newest anchor

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The journalist shares her breadth of experiences as a reporter, what it was like covering the 2016 elections, and what journalists can do to filter out useless information online. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Starting out as a courtside reporter in 1997, Ria Tanjuatco-Trillo has since covered a multitude of journalistic beats — from sharing entertainment and lifestyle stories to reporting hard news.

“When I [started] reporting on the hard news, it was definitely a shift for me,” she says. “You certainly have to have a more serious persona. You can't be as playful but it doesn't mean that you can't present the news in a way that's engaging.”

She was the anchor of Studio 23’s “News Central” for six years, which bagged her and her team two KBP Golden Dove Awards. She then went on to host ANC’s “Shoptalk” for another six years, where she got to interview Filipino entrepreneurs about how they try to scale their businesses and grow them in a highly volatile market.

As “Shoptalk” enabled her to see enterprises that are thriving in the Philippines, she was witness to the the courage of Filipino entrepreneurs, such as the owners of Manang’s Chicken and Papemelroti, in carving their own paths and disrupting traditional business models.

“I really grew my appreciation for the creativity and innovation that's actually innate in Filipinos that we don't often shed light on,” she says. “There's a lot of ingenuity in the Philippines and I think it's something that we need to invest in and really give more energy to, especially for the younger generation so we can build up more creative people.”

While in ANC, she also became part of ANC’s in-studio coverage of the 2016 Philippine elections, where she reported on social media reactions, allowing her to follow the kind of rhetoric that was seeping through different social media platforms. Now, she joins CNN Philippines as the co-anchor of “New Day” and the anchor of the eight o’clock edition of “Newsroom.”

Photo-3 (14).jpg "Information is a powerful thing and I'd like to think that most of us use it to empower others, to educate others, to warn them of danger, but not just speech for the sake of speech," says Ria Tanjuatco-Trillo, CNN Philippines' new anchor. Photo by JL JAVIER

Tanjuatco-Trillo sat down with us to share her breadth of experiences as a reporter, what it was like covering the Duterte win through social media, and how journalists can filter through all the noise on the internet. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.

You started as a courtside reporter and then you transitioned to reporting broader topics outside of basketball. How did you prepare for that?

In a way, the courtside reporting prepared me because it was a lot of interviews. There's no script for that. It's really a lot of thinking on your feet. So when I transitioned into the morning show [Studio 23’s “Breakfast”], it was sort of, in a way, the same skill set, but you know, with different personalities, and obviously not sort of in the field, so to speak, or in a basketball court, but in a studio.

And then you started reading the news, right? News in itself is a completely different beast. What challenges did you have to face and overcome?

When I got into “News Central,” I was first there as an entertainment correspondent, so I basically wrote and produced my segment, which I actually enjoyed because I love to write. And I like that aspect of it. [The challenge was] really just having to keep myself informed and really have a very broad view of everything, like literally everything that's going on, and it was a lot of reading and a lot of research and a lot of asking on my part because there might be an issue today but you wouldn't really fully understand it unless you knew the history from five months or five years back.

While in ANC, you were the social media correspondent during the 2016 Philippine elections, which was a controversial and interesting time in Philippine politics. What was that like?

Yes, it was really exciting because the network at that time brought in a social media watching platform, so you could really see through the interface of that program because it would produce graphs and what not of what people were talking about [online] at a particular time. So I remember, we saw these Leni Robredo spikes when ... at first it was Senator [Bongbong] Marcos who was leading the [Vice Presidential] race and then when she overtook him, you could really see the rise in everybody on Twitter and social media talking about it because we were tracking the hashtags.

We would also identify which words, which topics, were most associated with particular candidates. The way the graphic was presented was like you would have the face of the candidate, like a planet and then you'd have other planets revolving around that candidate and in those are the different words.

Photo-8 (9).jpg "I think every person, whether you're a journalist or an ordinary social media user, you take responsibility for what you put out there," says Tanjuatco-Trillo. Photo by JL JAVIER

You were in a position to see what people were talking about online. Duterte has been called a social media president in that his win was supposedly propelled by the internet. Did his win surprise you at all?

No, not at all. It was pretty clear [that] in the weeks running up to the election that he was going to win. Social media-wise, he was getting a lot of mentions. People really liked his platform, and there was a lot of young people voting and they were very excited about having their voice heard.

A criticism surrounding this win though was that it fed hateful rhetoric among internet users. Have you seen those kinds of extreme discourse during your coverage?

People were always saying how they were unfriending people on Facebook because there was a lot of fighting going on on social media because it was such a polarizing election. But you know, no matter how a person feels about President Duterte, he won fair and square.

Taha Yasseri, a fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, said that tweets with “very extreme words either positively or negatively” tend to be shared more. Did you see that happening during the elections?

Yes and I think that's especially true in the Philippines. When we're face to face with another person, we would never speak so harshly. But social media gives us this wall we can hide behind and say things we would be too scared to say in front of other people. It's a good and bad thing. It gives people a voice. It gives them more courage to speak up. But then it goes the other extreme and people become really rabid and disrespectful.

Photo-11 (10).jpg Tanjuatco-Trillo on hate speech on social media: "When we're face to face with another person, we would never speak so harshly. But social media gives us this wall we can hide behind and say things we would be too scared to say in front of other people. It's a good and bad thing." Photo by JL JAVIER

How do you think can people navigate around social media being able to feed misinformation and hate speech?

I think every person, whether you're a journalist or an ordinary social media user, you take responsibility for what you put out there. It's really just people checking themselves on a really personal level. You know, [asking yourself,] am I going to regret saying this? Is what I'm putting out there helpful or am I just trying to look smart and clever or passionate about something?

Information is a powerful thing and I'd like to think that most of us use it to empower others, to educate others, to warn them of danger, but not just speech for the sake of speech.

There is this book called “Politics and the Twitter Revolution” and the author, John Parmelee, says that “Twitter can set the agenda for what journalists are covering.” How can someone who reports the news filter through all that noise on the internet, particularly on social media?

I think we need to be mindful about putting out information that's really useful to people. You know, there are things to consider like ratings and number of followers and number of retweets or shares. But we really want to put information out there that's useful to people. Of course, we want to put out things that are entertaining as well but I think for any outfit to maintain that journalistic integrity, you know, we have to put our own personal agendas aside.

It's not easy because we're all people and we all have biases, but you know, if we all check each other and, I think, if we really see the responsibility and the power that we have and have the desire to not misuse that ... I think we could be closer to where we want to be in general.

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Catch Ria Tanjuatco-Trillo on CNN Philippines’ “New Day,” which airs at 6 a.m., as well as the 8 a.m. edition of “Newsroom.”