Media and Public Share Good Governance Role

Sept 17th 2012

Social media, television news, community media, newspapers and development communication all play a vital role in monitoring and encouraging good governance, according to speakers at a recent forum organized by the Communication Foundation for Asia. The resource speakers, including Maria Ressa on social media, Luchi Cruz-Valdes on TV news and William Esposo on newspaper columns, also stressed the unique responsibility of media to make democracy work.

Titled Good Media, Good Governance, the forum brought together 120 academics, media practitioners, communication students and development communicators to the Communication Foundation for Asia auditorium on July 13-14, 2012. The two-day event concluded with a mutual demand from both media practitioners and media consumers to be stalwarts of democracy, good governance and accountability.

Students and teachers from St. Scholastica’s College, Philippine Normal University, Central Luzon State University, De La Salle-Lipa, University of the East-Caloocan, Philippine Women’s University and University of Santo Tomas participated in the discussions, and were active in the open forum that followed the talks.

The forum opened with Dr. Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. situating CFA and its parent organization, the Social Communication Center (SCC), as pioneers in development communication, which produce good media for the development of society. As a director-scriptwriter of SCC’s radio drama in the 1970’s, he recalled how its issue-oriented soap operas helped provide critical and analytical perspectives to societal problems. The show was paralleled by two socially relevant magazines, Now and Ang Tao, until Martial Law came and stopped SCC’s media production. After Martial Law, SCC metamorphosed into the Communication Foundation for Asia, continuing its original mission to create good media for development. It produced radio, TV and full-length films for development, and up to now, continues to publish Gospel Komiks and values magazines for nationwide circulation. According to Dr. del Mundo, the SCC and CFA experience tells us that creating media for the good of the people requires “painstaking development and unwavering commitment.” The goal of the forum, he said, is to present the connection between good media and good governance.

Beginning the discourse on good governance, Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, of the Ehem! Anti-Corruption Movement, noted that an act of an individual affects the family, which in turn, affects society. He challenged the audience to have individual accountability and to be involved in the fight against corruption, starting with our families but not ending there. The fight against corruption, he said, also entails being sensitive to the needs of the others, perceived from the others’ point of view. To future media practitioners, he urged: “Do not sell your news!”

Prof. Ben Domingo of the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) spoke about the present situation of community media, pointing out that the challenge for local journalists is to tell significant stories of the communities they represent and not just turn journalism into a business. He noted that some community newspapers earn a lot of profit from political ads and PR placements, aside from legal notices. He challenged the students to become a new breed of journalists who value integrity, honesty and truth in media.

The focus shifted to new media with Ms. Maria Ressa’s presentation on Citizen’s Participation through Social Media. She described how technological advances now allow the public to create their own news through tweets and facebook updates, which can then influence society’s take on various issues. As the executive editor of the website, Ms Ressa said that they have begun to “crowdsource” news, theorizing that when people are able to identify their emotions, they become more rational in their decision-making. In their site, readers are able to click on their emotions corresponding to the news they read. At the end of each day, the site is able to gauge the emotions and the general perspective of the public regarding the news of the day. She encouraged using social media for change because each individual has a network to be reached and influenced.

Ms. Luchi Cruz-Valdes of TV-5, in her talk “Walking the Fault Line Between News and Entertainment,” revealed that there is a tug-of-war between the networks’ goal of balanced, credible and meaty news, and the desire for high audience ratings. She related how good journalists find it very challenging to create angles in various incidents and situations to make them newsworthy. Sadly, she observed that the media outfits go for ratings because broadcasting is really a business, money-making endeavor. But if the public support “good news” through ratings, then there is hope that we can get more balanced primetime news in the future.

On the second day, Prof. Tess Bacalla of De La Salle University talked about investigative journalism, which, she believed, helps us to build a culture of accountability. Competent media that deliver credible news will have the support of the public, which makes good business sense. An informed citizenry is also an empowered citizenry and this is vital to democracy – which is why the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill must be passed.

Philippine Star writer William Esposo, who has a regular column as “the Chair Wrecker”, described how newspaper columns can influence public opinion. Columnists factor in the information supplied by TV, radio and social media and try to provide a more credible take on the news. While news broadcasters need to be balanced, columnists have the freedom to take a stand and, therefore, are able to bring people to a better understanding of situations, leading to more informed choices.

In his presentation on Media, Democracy and the Elections, De La Salle University Professor Gary Mariano emphasized the need for a more informed citizenship. Even during the campaign period, the election is based on recall and association and not on platforms or qualifications of candidates. The public, he said, had to demand more information from politicians and the media, which would make the candidates more accountable after they are elected.

A panel on development communication followed, with presentations on the theory and practice of devcom. Dean Ma. Theresa Velasco of UP Los Baños College of Development Communication presented the theory of devcom as developed originally by Dr. Nora Quebral in the 1970s. Dr Quebral, who was also present during the panel session, has recently come up with a devcom primer, which now defines development communication as “the science of human communication linked to the transitioning of communities from poverty in all its forms to a dynamic, overall growth that fosters equity and the unfolding of individual potential.” Dean Velasco explained that the university aims to produce graduates with the technical capability and the values to propel them to create media that will lead to development.

Completing the panel on devcom, the Communication Foundation for Asia made a presentation on its practice of development communication, which started when it was established 44 years ago. In a showcase of its recent communication projects for total human development, CFA focused particularly on citizenship education, which is one of its three priority themes. The projects presented included the “Good Trip” booklet on anti-corruption, multimedia materials on voters’ education and good governance (songwriting contest, music CD and video on DVD and website), and Youth Camp workshops on peace communication. CFA continues to use all forms of media training and production, including print, broadcast, film, and, increasingly, the new media, to empower people towards social transformation, and to encourage more groups to work towards the same goal.

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