Six ways to defend press freedom

Buy an actual newspaper. It doesn't matter which side of the political spectrum it leans, if there's such a thing as a political spectrum in the Philippines to begin with. Whether it's low-key Dutertard or out-and-proud yellowtard, buy a newspaper. Buy one regularly. Get a subscription if you can. Just get a newspaper that makes an effort to invest in proper journalism, rather than one that just pushes a preferred narrative, something you often see when new newspapers pop up in the months leading up to an election.

Turn off your adblocker. You don't even have to do this to every news website you visit. Sometimes the best of sites have ads that can harm your device; these things can be tricky these days. Just keep in mind that journalism is expensive. Even me writing an essay explaining the latest industry trends involves me going out and about to experience the thing I'm writing about, and that means money. What more time? A lot of time goes into journalism, whether it's from a beat reporter, who has to cultivate relationships over a long period of time, or from an investigative reporter, who has to sniff leads and spend weeks digging through trawls of material.

Change a few perceptions. We've been raised to think that journalism should not take a side. That's both true and false. Yes, journalists should be fair and objective. Journalists should present all sides whenever possible, as equally as possible - although calls for "equal time" are tricky. But a journalist is there not to just tell us what one side said, and what the other side said. A journalist is there to figure out what's true and what isn't, and most times that means one side will get stepped on. And that side will call "bias" and "fake news". That's where things begin.

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Be absolutely infallible

The message, in a nutshell, is "agree or be shut down".

Arguably, however, the message is more insidious than that.

It's also a little bit more complicated. But then, that is our shortcoming. We're too eager to paint one side, broadly, as a villain, and the other as a hero. But then, that is convenient. With so many things going on, so many things to juggle, who has the time to sit down and think? Or, who has the motivation to sit down and think, especially now that thinking is, for all intents and purposes, frowned upon? For every one person looking to unpick a complicated web, there's three, maybe five, who has arrived at a conclusion and will hold firmly to it no matter what. And that doesn't apply to every situation.

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The undeserving

Most people don't go to college with the express goal of getting Latin honors, but you keep it at the back of your head once you're made aware of just what it takes.

In my case, it's keeping your GPA at a particular level across all your terms as a student. I wasn't really aiming high. When I missed out on the Dean's List in my second term as a freshman, because algebra is such a formidable enemy, I was convinced I was out of the running for any Latin honor. I just did as well as I could, and considering my supposed reputation as a good student, I just, err, coasted along. I did well on some subjects, and did just fine on others. I remember the 2.0 I got for anthropology, despite it being a class I found myself particularly interested in. Same with photography, which, as an essential subject to getting my communications degree, was a class I should have really worked harder on. But then, I felt inferior compared to my classmates who were into photography for far longer than I pretended to be. I only took candid photos for social media, not portraits and landscapes for publication.

Still, I got a Latin honor. I wasn't surprised; one can't help but keep track of his GPA, especially since that statistic stares you in the face whenever you enroll. By the end of the eighth term, I knew I was in a comfortable enough position to graduate cum laude. (By then I already knew that missing out on the Dean's List that one term did nothing to affect my chances. It was a belief I held for two years, I think.) There were eighteen of us communication majors graduating on time. Some of them got honorable mentions, but I was the only one who got a Latin honor. Of course, I'd be giddy.

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You be you

The moment you turn thirty, you relinquish a few things.

For one, you give up the right to call yourself "young". Sure, thirty is still relatively young, but thirty is a relatively major threshold, the same way twenty is, the same way ten is. It's a landmark that says, or should say, so much about you, and one that comes with expectations, even more of them. One of them isn't "you're young" - and even if you have prepared for it by investing in all these products, nobody will still see you as young. You'll just "look" young, and that comes loaded with its own set of expectations and assumptions. Either you're genetically blessed - that's a rarity. You're probably just vain, or rich, if you're impatient.

You also give up the right to have little to no idea about what you want to be in life. Yes, one song did say the most interesting people are the ones who have no idea what they want to do in their forties, but it's a luxury not everybody can afford. That happens only if you're so filthy rich you can afford to spend the rest of your life, or most of it, trying out passions and seeing what fits you best. No, at thirty you're supposed to not just have an idea of what you want to be, but to have gone quite deep along that route that you can say you've achieved something. Anything different and you're really close to being a hopeless case.

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I can't read

All these options... well, these aren't all, and there aren't a lot, come to think of it.

I had at least two chances of getting myself a Japanese magazine. Both of them were when I was in Taipei; both of them were when I was at the flagship branch of Eslite, the one in Dunnan, the one you likely know as that 24-hour bookstore. It has a lot of them - not a diverse range, mostly fashion magazines, but still, a lot of them - unsurprisingly for Taipei, a city that seems to embrace a lot of Japanese things without being outright Japanese. It's still got its Chinese character, but if you can't go to Tokyo, Taipei somehow is a good substitute.

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