Reaction to Marites Vitug’s Genaro V. Ong Lecture

CFA 1st Annual Genaro V. Ong Lecture
CFA Lagerwey Hall
July 30, 2010

(Response to Taking Sides: Advocacy Journalism and Good Governance by Marites Dañguilan Vitug)
Manuel L. Quezon III

Please accept my deepest apologies for not being able to join you today… Let me add, by way of a caveat I’ve increasingly had to resort to as part of my adjusting to public service, that what follows are my thoughts and not in any way a reflection of official policy. After all, as of now I still do not have a formal appointment.

For the sake of brevity, allow me to refer you to a recent talk I on the subject of “New Media and Democracy.” To the points I’ve raised in that talk, I’d only like to add two things.

First, there is a generation gap within media, where there is a generation of veterans in their forties to sixties (and above) in senior positions and a much younger successor-generation in their twenties or early thirties: but there seems to be a missing generation, in their mid thirties to mid forties, who have found careers overseas. With regards to many of the life lessons and even ethical and career assumptions Marites has mentioned in her talk –how many among the successor-generation share them? This is something that calls for sober reflection in newsrooms and editorial offices.

Second, the crisis of readership and viewership. Add to this the trend in recent scientific studies that suggest, though do not, as of now, definitely prove, a change in the way people consume and absorb information. The kind of reportage Marites discusses –itself an evolutionary process for the individual journalist as it is a developing story, so to speak, in terms of the media itself- requires a citizenry with a vigorous civic sense if what is written or reported or broadcast is to have any positive effect. Underlying the efforts of the journalist is the assumption not one, but three, audiences will respond: government itself, the public at large, and colleagues in the profession. How much time do people really spend, not just reading, but thinking? This is the other thing that calls for sober reflection.

Since I personally believe everything is informed by one’s political persuasions, it is neither relevant nor necessary to discuss the inevitable clashes that will occur between those in government and those outside it, with regards to information. The reason is ethics, where a an ethical media engaging an ethical-minded government should have nothing to fear, and everything to gain, from an open relationship and the sharing of information on sensible grounds. Though of course the devil is in the details and what constitutes “sensible grounds” is really the subject of endless –but hopefully fruitful- debate.

Let me just close by pointing out the value of talks like the one given by Marites. It provides what is sorely missing in virtually all aspects of our national life, as our society becomes increasingly young, enraptured by novelties, and, if anything is still shared by Filipinos from all walks of life, communally worships at the altar of celebrity. And that is: mentorship.
Precisely because there is a generation gap, where the hard-earned lessons of the past could so richly inform the present and future; and because the way people access and understand information is changing, those who have something to teach have to seize absolutely every single teaching moment available to them. This is one such teaching moment, with the bittersweet aspect of a kind of hand-holding among a relative few compared to the ever-increasing many who may find sessions such as this one, rather puzzling if not outright quaint.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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