Social media

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

Back in the late 60s or over 50 years ago, our journalism professors at the UP Institute of Mass Communication had this itch to erase from the minds of their eager and idealistic students that there is in fact freedom of the press in the pure essence of the concept. Freedom of the press, they constantly drill into our subconscious, belongs to the owners of the printing press.

It was kind of confusing to many of us who have chosen to be journalists because of a strong sense of mission to fight for the downtrodden and fix everything that is wrong with our country. Since our professors were practicing journalists themselves, what we were being told was somewhat disconcerting. And that was how cynicism about everything establishment was bred into our generation of journalists.

Through our years as practicing journalists, we learned how to express our strong feelings for social reform without too much regard for the interests of the owners of our newspapers or broadcast networks. We were not surprised to learn that the supposed ogres who owned media as well as other business interests actually allowed us a lot of leeway. We were able to preserve our self-respect as we gave vent to the original idealism which got us into journalism in the first place.

Then martial law came which ended all pretensions. Media served no one but the interest of the Marcos dictatorship. Marcos Sr.’s media handlers checked the page proofs of the next day’s papers before anything was sent down to the printing press. Broadcast media was totally under the thumb of the dictatorship and the only thing viewable was an animated cartoon, The Wacky Races.

As the dictatorship deepened, we learned to get news from foreign media. Clippings of articles datelined Manila were photocopied and passed on several times. The Xerox machine became the symbol of press freedom. And as the dictatorship started to wind down, there were a few brave souls among our colleagues who published unauthorized news and opinion items. They were called the mosquito press, constantly under threat of being swatted by the minions of the dictatorship.

Then EDSA came around and free journalism, as we knew it, started to blossom again. The early leading newspapers were owned by the journalists and it was good for a while until the reality of journalism as a business started to be felt. Big business started taking over and the original journalist-owners cashed in. We were back to square one.

With the internet came a major revolution in how people consumed news and other information. All of a sudden, everyone could be a publisher. That was good and bad at the same time. It became messy as folks felt they had the right to publish anything and many did so irresponsibly. So, people are no longer sure what they are reading off the internet is true. The era of fake news started and its impact on world politics and social developments has been huge.

Unfortunately, the internet also started to cause the demise of traditional media.  Even long respected newspapers and broadcast networks had to quickly recognize the threat to their existence. New business models must be quickly developed to prevent extinction. Go digital or die.

Social media and digital technology are totally attuned to our times. We have shorter attention spans, as little as eight seconds and we are predisposed to jump into quick impressions. Truth became a matter of opinion…people talked of alternative truths. We no longer want to think but only to be entertained. We are oblivious to how social media can mess up democratic processes like elections. With no intervening gatekeepers to news and information, public opinion can be formed in a flash.

It is sometimes called bashing but bashing has its good and bad sides. Reputations can be damaged if wrong information gets thrown around millions of times on social media. On the other hand, obviously wrong doers have no place to hide. Take the recent incidents on the busway.

Our high and mighty public officials think they are a class above everyone. They see a clear lane on the busway, and they take it even if they know only buses are supposed to use it. But netizens are quick to use their mobile phones to document such transgressions and the offending officials have no recourse but to apologize. Recent examples are Chavit Singson, Chiz Escudero and a driver of MMDA.

Social media has made it impossible for the high and mighty to use PR or other means to exert pressure to suppress an unfavorable news report. So many people are out there ready to use social media and will not be censored.

The busway, with the help of social media, is proving to be a good way of training our people, specially those who lord it over the hoi polloi, to respect rules. It is probably a long shot, but if this keeps up beyond the busway, we may yet be able to train an ungovernable lawless nation to respect rules out of fear of being bashed. Even police officers, who would in the past settle a traffic violation with a bribe, behave.

Maybe, community journalists out there should start to document shoddy farm-to-market roads and other obvious consequences of corruption so we can identify and bash the offending public officials. Social media may yet accomplish what teary-eyed young journalists wanted to do 50 years ago but couldn’t always do.


Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on X or Twitter @boochanco

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with