Lessons from Julian Martir’s allegedly fake scholarships: Media literacy is a must


How could the public and media outlets especially be fooled by a fake international scholarship story?

This was the internet’s heated discussion from May 19 and 20 as Julian Martir’s story about his supposed 30+ scholarships from international universities trended earlier in the week.

News sites picked up his story as it’s a heartwarming rags-to-riches tale. A son of a tricycle driver and vendor being able to nab big scholarships from the US and UK? That’s something people will want to read.

But some netizens found his story dubious.

They did the math regarding his alleged P106 million in scholarships, wondering how he could have afforded the application fees to 30 international universities. Eyebrows were also raised because some of the schools mentioned didn’t offer full rides.

In exclusive interviews about what he was planning to take up, Julian’s aspirations sounded something out of a Marvel movie, according to some users online.

Questions about the authenticity of his story piled up more after DZRH did an interview with Negros Occidental High School about Julian’s scholarships. The school’s Assistant Principal for Senior High School, Donna Bella Atosaga, told the radio network that they are still verifying his scholarship claims.

“Nag-ta-try kami na i-email yung mga nabanggit na universities sa US and sa Europe kung totoo nga na siya ay nabigyan ng scholarship. Hangga’t wala kaming nahahawakang dokumento na nagpapatunay, hindi kami mag-coconfirm,” she shared, saying that they’d be happy if the scholarships were legitimate.

So what is the truth?

Over the weekend, people started “clowning” Julian and media outlets that fell for his story online, raising concerns about how media tends to go for sensational stories for clicks. Previous articles and interviews with him were deleted from some sites.

Whether the student was fraudulent or not about his scholarships remains to be proven. An inquiry by 8List found that he was accepted at Alfred University in New York.

While the online vitriol has been directed at Julian, netizens should keep in mind that it hasn’t been confirmed that he was 100% lying about the scholarships. Check the facts, too, before you call someone out.

People on the internet are being more skeptical and that’s great.

It’s great that users were looking for other proof of the scholarship in the articles besides the interviews the publications did with Julian. It’s great that people dissected the application letters he posted and pointed out some discrepancies with them, that’s media literacy skills being put to use.

This energy and sleuthing skills from netizens should also be put to use when we’re talking about other the next government officials we are to elect. This kind of scrutinizing should be done with them, too.

It’s great that people aren’t as quick to believe anything they see anymore on social media. The goal is, at the end of the day, to be more vigilant about things we see online. And it’s fair to ask this of our news reporters as well, even if it’s supposedly “just a feel-good story.” After all, it’s these news sites that we go to for trusted, verified content.

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