1/16/2018
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.

Accept other viewpoints. How come it's always "biased" when one outfit has an editorial line - that doesn't just mean opinion columns, but also an editorial direction - that offends what you believe in? How come it's always "objective" when one outfit confirms what you are not willing to let go? This one's difficult, but accept other viewpoints. I don't mean make them your own, but accept that they exist, and accept that they have something to say.

Be critical of journalists the way you are critical of those in power. Be critical of the way they cover the news the same way you are critical of television dramas for constantly zooming in whenever there's a moment of high tension, or of radio stations for being so pervy so early in the morning, or of variety shows for being "mindless", or for pushing a crap love team (your words, not mine). Of course, journalists are not doing everything right. Television news rely on soundbites and drama, rather than explaining implications and presenting context. Same thing for radio news - radio can be more powerful because it's intimate and only has sound effects. Newspapers can be elitist, particularly when editors have hubris. Call them out. But don't broadly paint them as the enemy, the same way we try not to paint the government as the enemy.

Again, don't broadly paint anyone as the enemy. That narrative is what leads us to suppress freedoms we take for granted. Those pesky kids getting in the way of progress... that mindset, an incapacity to think critically... all right, to discern. "Think critically" sounds elitist and exclusive. You can think. You don't have to decide now. A lot of things are at stake and you don't need to decide now. And you can change your mind in the future. That's why journalists are there: the proper ones, at least, try to explain, to make you understand, because they have to explain it to themselves, too. They have to understand it themselves, too. It's a shared journey, for all of us. Unless, of course, you're perfect.

And your responses...

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