What they want vs. what they ought
I WAS gratified to read the pooled editorial of the Cebu newspapers done on the occasion of this year’s Press Freedom Week. There were many things that they dropped there for their readers to chew, but one statement immediately caught my attention.
It’s when it said: “Figuring out what people want to know, and what citizens should know, is one of journalism’s finest burdens.”
That definitely is a mark of maturity, a sign of progress, a certain sophistication and nuanced thinking meant to blow the bubble of naivete, simplism, herd mentality, sensationalism, etc., that have also afflicted local media for long.
It seems to say that journalists these days are now more courageous and responsible to present things even if these things are unpopular as long as they believe these things are what their readers ought to know. It’s a very difficult position to be in.
If truly meant and sufficiently supported by an abiding program of continuing formation, then these words can give us basis to expect a press that would really serve the common good, not only in terms of closely monitoring events, but also and more importantly of creating a healthy and vibrant public opinion, one committed to truth, justice and charity.
It cannot be denied that more people are becoming more discerning and discriminating of what they read and see in the media. They know when they are tricked. They can easily detect spins, gratuitous claims and badly researched reports.
They know when a newsman, columnist or editorial writer is biased or not, reckless or not, engaged in shallow and trigger-happy ways or is doing serious, responsible work.
More, they now have greater power to answer back, clarify and even correct erring journalists. Or they can simply turn off and look for many other alternative sources of news and information that they consider more balanced and fair. And thanks be to God, we have many of these alternatives now.
And so media practitioners, given their immense power of influence, should feel it more sharply that they too, like everybody else, are in need of a deepening formation to be able to carry out their task and mission with utmost sense of responsibility. This is, of course, a very serious duty, not to be taken lightly.
We know that these days many of our journalists do not have a clear idea of where they ought to base and root their sense of right and wrong, good and evil, just and unjust. They, of course, simply reflect the general trend we sadly see in the world today.
Many are just in some fishing expedition with regard to their beliefs and convictions. “Way klaro,” as we put it in our dialect. And so many of them just get contented with what may be considered as politically-correct, or socially or culturally-correct. Nothing beyond that.
They just depend on some popular consensus, but not anymore going further to see whether such consensus is truly right and fair. And these days, the “vox-populi-vox-Dei” theory fails more often than not.
It gives messages and signals that are more uncertain than certain.
We need to remind everyone, journalists or not, to really go back to basics, go back to the origin, and that can only be God, who is the ultimate source of everything that is good.
But do you think religion is taken seriously by many media people? I really wish that it were so, but pieces of evidence are aplenty showing a cavalier attitude toward religion.
Some even give the impression that religion is what causes biases and prejudices. They prefer to be guided solely by their own reasoning, their own thinking, their own bank of data and information
Many fail to realize the import of what St. Paul once said about charity which is the very essence of God, and the ultimate criterion for our knowing, judging and reasoning, and in fact, our whole behavior and life.
“Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail. Or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever. And knowledge, too, the time will come when it must fail.” (1 Cor 13,8)
When we, people in the media, are not really inspired by charity, that is, by God, but simply by some worldly value or our own estimation of things, then we are yet in the imperfect stage, just as St. Paul again affirms:
“Our knowledge is imperfect…but once perfection (charity) comes, all imperfect things will disappear.” (13,10)
By: Fr. Roy Cimagala
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