By Igal Jada P. San Andres
“Why do you want to study abroad?”
That question was posed to me during an interview for a scholarship December of last year. I had thought of my answer beforehand, so I said, “I want to be part of the change in the realm of Philippine journalism.” This had been a topic of discussion in my other Journalism subjects, and it was hard not to be concerned.
One of the three interviewers asked me why; what was wrong with the media situation in the Philippines? I told them there were a lot of issues plaguing it, and pointed out several – you know, the usual bribery, sensationalism, etc. I have no idea what they thought of my answer; their faces were always stony, hard to read.
I didn’t get the scholarship, but I did realize one thing more vividly: that there was a problem with the Philippine media.
Last May 24, again as part of our internship, we took part in a discussion about the Philippine media situation with Professor Luis Teodoro of the College of Mass Communication, University of the Philippines-Diliman. Having been part of the media for a long time, he was well-acquainted with how it works.
One of the topics he talked about was how the press can be a catalyst for change in our society. “The Philippines needs to change,” he said. No one contradicts that. “But what is the role of the media?”
Beyond reporting what was happening, the press also needs to explain what was happening – to give context to the situation. Because of this, he said, the alternative press is important.
Throughout history, he said, the alternative press has had the better hand in truth-telling, an important ethical obligation of every journalist. The dominant (or often what is called mainstream) media has always had connections politically and economically. Because of this, they are restrained – serving the interests of the corporate bosses.
The Philippine dominant media has turned into a business, Prof. Teodoro said.
Additionally, reportage in the dominant press, he said, is lacking. They only provide amusement by sharing stories about celebrities’ daily lives, scandals, funny pictures, etc. They show us clips of government officials eating out in fancy restaurants. They display legal documents which narrate how officials are really spending the taxpayers’ money.
But do they explain it?
Most of the time, they don’t.
The lack of explanation, he said, is one of the reasons why the Philippines has not changed at all. The press is “the pillar of democracy” and in order for democracy to function well, the press has to do its job thoroughly and effectively: to report what is happening and why it is happening. Only then can the Filipinos be truly knowledgeable about the issues facing the country.
The 1987 Constitution states that the Filipino people are sovereign, which means that the national leaders must work to serve the interests of the people. However, the contrary is happening.
In order for this practice to stop, the press must do its job. It must spread the truth behind the faces, the events, and the issues. The Filipino must be well informed in order to be able to effectively wield this sovereignty.
After the discussion, I mulled over what Prof. Teodoro said. I remembered my answer to the question.
Then I realized I didn’t need to study abroad to be part of the change. I only need to know the facts and put it into practice.
What Prof. Teodoro told us may be idealistic to some, but with serious effort and dedication, I’m sure we could reach that pinnacle. But without the help of the press – both the alternative and dominant realms – it will not happen.