POSTSCRIPT / April 17, 2022 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Christ has risen, but remains with us…

There was an atheist couple with an only child. They never told their daughter anything about God, or about Jesus.

One night when the little girl was five years old, she was roused from sleep as her parents had a violent quarrel in the room. At the height of the fight, the man shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself. The poor girl saw it all.

Kids take part in a traditional egg-hunting activity as part of the pre-Easter Sunday celebrations. Photo: PHILSTAR/ Jessie Bustos

The orphan was sent to a foster home to start a new life. Her foster mother, a Christian, took the child with her to church.

On the first day of Sunday School, the foster mother told the teacher about the girl’s background. She also mentioned that the girl had never heard of Jesus, and advised the teacher to have patience with her.

Later in class that first day, the teacher held up a picture of Jesus and asked, “Does anyone know who this is?”

“I do,” the girl said, “That’s the man who carried me in his arms the night my parents died.”

We’ve been told that faith is believing what we don’t see, and that its eternal reward is seeing what we believe. The girl did not have to believe, or maybe her innocence was faith itself. Whatever it was, Jesus has always been with her whether she consciously believed or not.

Happy Easter to all who believe! (This intro is based on notes culled from our Easter Sunday Postscript of April 23, 2000.)

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Coming out of the Lenten break, some readers may have realized that they could go on with life – in fact, might even feel relieved – without the “bad news” syndrome of mainstream, cyber, or whatever new-fangled mass media are streaming into their daily life.

With the internet following us everywhere, we have become victims of the mind-conditioning effects of the lies and hate in mass media littering our way to May 9 to elect the officials to lead us in the next six years in recovering from the pandemic-economic crisis.

Our return to the campaign trail is a good time to remind ourselves and readers of some basic facts about mass media that have shrunk the global village in many aspects.

After decades of being a newsman – which means having been a reporter, editor, and now an op-ed columnist – I still feel awkward being called a “journalist”, a tag that strikes me as somewhat pretentious.

We still encounter readers who expect or demand that they be served only “objective” columns and news.

But there is no such thing as an objective news story, much less an objective opinion piece. A story is the result of a subjective process involving witnesses and sources, the reporter, his editors, and others who had a hand in producing the end product.

In organizing data and inserting explanations where needed, the reporter exercises value judgment. In so doing, he adds light and color – some readers may see this touching-up as bias – to the picture ultimately presented to readers or viewers.

With that, how can the story be objective? But that is not because it was deliberately distorted or slanted. It is simply that it was the product of a subjective process requiring value judgments.

We must keep in mind this subjectivity, which is not necessarily a bias in the pejorative sense, when assessing information generated during the campaign, including stories on debates, speeches, rallies, and the bio-record of candidates.

More care must be exercised when the media material is strikingly negative or scurrilous about a person. Reading the opposing narrative, if available, may help balance the picture.

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We live in an imperfect world. Thus, we see ourselves, warts and all, when we look at the mirror that media hold to us, to society in general.

When not “holding a mirror to society”, media’s job performed with utmost professionalism and in good faith is sometimes likened to being a “watchdog” in the community.

When somebody butts in and demands to know who installed us to be a watchdog, we go back to history, including that part that refers to the press as the “fourth estate”, which term is sometimes mistaken to mean a “fourth branch” in a government setup like ours.

This notion expands the role of modern mass media whose roots are traced to the earliest print media or what has come to be referred to as the “press”, to which the community has given not only essential freedoms but also a kind of checks and balances function.

Imbedded in our social contract is this concept of a free press being a watchdog helping to curb excesses or abuses of government officials and other persons who hold inordinate power without corresponding transparency and accountability.

Abuses could work both ways, as when members of the press morph from being watchdogs to lapdogs or, to use a more colorful local term, “tuta” (literally “puppy”).

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We in the old school believe that private media must not operate in cahoots with government or public officials. That concept was corrupted by the then-dictator Ferdinand Marcos who introduced “developmental journalism” with his cronies in media.

The Marcos idea was for private media to be a partner of government in pushing development in all areas. Its limits were never defined until his fall in 1986.

In fact, the practice continues to this day with some members of private media or media organizations occupying positions in government agencies and corporations or receiving regular pay from a government official or his office.

It did not take long for the so-called developmental journalism to be bastardized into ”envelopmental journalism” which refers to the handing of pay envelopes to selected mediamen collaborating with officials or doing public relations and allied services for them.

The corruption of private media goes to a higher level when it is no longer only the workers, but some media moguls themselves openly prostituting their outfits and staff for the mutual benefit of their administration friends and their own businesses.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 17, 2022)

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