Power of the word
BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2018 - 12:00am

All of our colleagues in print, online, and broadcast media – journalists, researchers, columnists, editors, publishers, directors, cameramen, anchors, and all others – join hands in this blessed season to wish a Merry Christmas to all those who continue to believe in the power of the word.

This is for the victories, big and small, in the name of a better humanity that had been won by the word, whether they had been waged in newspapers, magazines, web blogs, television, or radio.

This is for the new bridge that has been constructed to ease traffic flow in a congested city. This is for the new school that was built in a far-flung barrio. This is for better salaries for our public servants. This is for injustices that have been righted. This is for abuses that have been stopped. This is for the fake news that has been weeded out.

Thank you to all our readers and believers. You continue to inspire us to work harder to spread the right word, from anywhere in the world.

Recognizing the power of the word, what challenges do we face as this year comes to an end, and a new one starts?

The printed word

People may regard social media as today’s first choice for communications, often relegating newspapers and other print media forms as tools that have lost their relevance in today’s fast-paced and increasingly reliant society on the digital world.

Yet, for more than four centuries, the printed word was king in spreading news, shaping opinion, and expanding and furthering the knowledge of humans.

The printed word has had its share of challenges, with many of them sadly unresolved through the ages. Censorship, for example, continues to be an issue as governments attempt to control the content of publications and shape their citizens’ thinking to conform to state interests.

Persecution of journalists also persists, and in some of the gruesome ways. The latest high profile incident involved Washington Post’s Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, a 60-year-old Saudi Arabian dissident believed to have been killed inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate last Oct. 2.

Remembering Ampatuan

The Philippines is also no stranger to harassment, intimidation, and execution of journalists who try to safeguard the truth and expose wrongdoings. It has earned the distinction of being the deadliest country in Asia for media people.

We must never forget those journalists who lost their lives in the fight for truth. The worst incident, perhaps, would be in Maguindanao, now known as the Ampatuan massacre where at least 34 journalists are believed to have been summarily executed in a politically-motivated maneuver.

Fake news has also been a problem that print media has had to contend with, and even as there are now many reliable publications that act as gatekeepers of reliable information, there are still some dubious stories that sometimes find print in a daily publication.

Perhaps, the biggest problem that print media faces today is its financial sustainability. The digital explosion has severely eroded its revenue sources, and the last few years has seen many newspapers and magazines, often decades old, shuttered or sold off at junk value.

Online channel

These days, readers and business increasingly prefer online news and digital advertising. However, their rise in popularity has spawned its own set of unique challenges.

There is still repression and censorship when controlling news and opinion, largely experienced in predominantly autocratic governments, but its application on social media is a clear manifestation of a wider scale of self-expression curtailment, and a repression of one of the most basic human rights.

Social media has also brought in a new breed of information purveyors – high-profile bloggers on Facebook and celebrity endorsers on Twitter and Instagram, and on the extreme end, trolls that propagate fake news, and are often paid to advance self-interests.

How they have influenced people’s thoughts is unprecedented, and will likely remain a major force in future channels of communication. Even this columnist has recognized the importance of new media, and continues to try to understand the significance and role of emerging technologies for news dissemination.

Fake news is a big problem that has been exacerbated by the speed at which people pass on falsities. Social media channels like Facebook and YouTube now recognize the innate problems that fake news poses, and are trying to tweak their respective platforms to weed out undesirable news mongers and manipulators.

We will see more changes as the digital age further develops and matures. These are exciting times, indeed.

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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