1/05/2012
The problem with newspaper columnists getting what they want

I read the newspaper daily. Or, at least, the days when there's a new newspaper in the house. Of course. I'd like to think of myself as politically-aware, and there's no better way to keep up with things than by reading the newspaper.

Then again, my newspaper reading habits don't exactly suggest that. The first thing I read is the comics. Next, the entertainment section, even if there isn't really much worth reading there. If it's Thursday, I absolutely have to read the food section. On other days I'd probably pass by the other lifestyle sections, except if it's Friday or Saturday, during which I skip the whole thing - fashion's of no use to me, I'm not a teenager anymore, and no, stop being such a pop culture smart ass when you only found out about Adele from me, thank you very much.

And then, when I decide I'm ready to eat breakfast, I take the main section and read it. Again, I might skip most of it - it's either stuff I've already seen on TV, or stuff I'm not interested in - but there are things I have to read. The main stories. Any interesting historical feature. And the opinion columns. Of course, the opinion columns.

Newspapers are supposed to be objective, but that doesn't stop them from publishing opinion sections. That's the only space where they really have a say (ideally) about the rest of the things they're writing about. We disagree with this, but we agree with that, that sort of thing. Thankfully, a newspaper's opinion section isn't limited to one viewpoint: the many columnists there would wreck havoc with their thoughts on certain things (within reason, of course). Or, if they're not exactly commentators, then they'd write observations about things going on.

The idea might go along the lines of "there's something for everyone" - if you like segregating conservative views from progressive ones, maybe - but I see it more as an exercise of explanation. I have opinions of my own. I'm obviously not fond of Noynoy Aquino, but I'm not fond of Gloria Arroyo either. I may or may not disagree with what you're saying, but I'm interested still in why you think that way. I don't expect my opinions to change, but I expect to understand you more. Unless, of course, you make it quite frustrating for me to understand you.

I used to regularly read Conrado de Quiros' column in the Inquirer. His activist background (I think) and his literary flair has led to often eloquent arguments about current events. A few years back, when Arroyo was still in power, I enjoyed reading him rip apart what the then administration was saying and suggesting that they meant the opposite. The downside is, he tends to repeat himself; then again, when the bottom line after nine years is "get Arroyo out" over and over again, you'd understand.

I didn't stop reading his columns when Aquino assumed power, despite knowing that he'll start writing differently from that moment on. His columns passionately supported the now sitting president, the usual rhetoric about him being the Philippines' great hope. Again, I disagree, but I want to see why you think that way.

The past few months have been frustrating, however. I'm not getting the arguments. Most of his columns go a particular route now: mention a current event, connect it to Arroyo, call her pure evil (she isn't pure evil), call Aquino pure goodness (he isn't pure goodness), and then hope that pure evil gets swallowed by some sinkhole. I'm not seeing arguments anymore. I'm seeing putdowns. He's eloquently putting down anybody who's on the other side now.

That's the problem with newspaper columnists getting what they want. When they get the thing they've fought so long for - the things they passionately defended, the things they adamantly hoped for - they start feeling really good about themselves. I did it, or something like that. Then they get blinkered, and suddenly they're not so fun to watch argue. Perhaps that is the downside to being so into something.

I'm not sure, however, what Patricia Evangelista wanted and got. A multimedia empire? I used to read her Sunday column - it even got mentioned on this blog - and then her essays felt preachy, felt very holier-than-thou. Independent journalism should be my thing, but the tone just wards me off.

Perhaps it's me perceiving it that way. This coincided with my friend applying for an internship at Storyline, the ANC documentary series (look, ma, no narrators!) she co-produces. As the story goes, my friend was personally told she doesn't have any TV experience because she worked for an entertainment program beforehand. Never mind it involving going to far areas and looking for stories to tell, nor the fact that said friend's brilliant - she worked for an entertainment program, it's of no use.

Her column, I've completely avoided. I still read de Quiros' from time to time, hoping it's not another blinkered attack on anybody who disagrees with him, perhaps me included. I read the other columns, and I either stay for the arguments, or leave for one. Or maybe I'm reading my opinion columns the wrong way.

And your responses...

Post a Comment