Daily Archives: May 8, 2018

Doing journalism in a dangerous time

PJRC 2018

The real highlight of the first part of the Philippine Journalism Research Conference, held at the main campus of the University of the Philippines, was the McLuhan Fellows Roundtable with Tess Bacalla, Lynda Jumilla, and new Pulitzer prizewinner Manny Mogato; the thoroughly engaging discussion was moderated by Kara David. They struck the true keynote; I merely picked up the tune, and some of their themes. 

It is a privilege to speak at the Philippine Journalism Research Conference, and a pleasure to be back at the University of the Philippines; I was very happy here, when I taught a class in opinion writing for a few semesters. Some of my students became my colleagues at work and in the industry; I hope some of you will become journalists too. Not just from UP, but from the University of Santo Tomas, from Visayas State University, from Southern Luzon State University, from Ateneo de Manila, from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila, from Wesleyan University, from De La Salle University in Dasmarinas—and I’m just listing the schools where this year’s finalists are from. We certainly need you and others like you in other schools. We need you, in our newsrooms and in the field, in this turbulent, dangerous time.

I would like to raise three baseline questions today, and the first of these is specific to our time: What does it mean to be a journalist, or to do journalism research, in the Duterte era?

It means fighting back against “fake news” and other forms of disinformation. It means doing journalism at a time of hyped-up hostility against journalists. And it means countering the brazen lies about journalism, press freedom, and free speech that President Duterte and his subordinates propagate. These lies become myths, and are used to justify all manner of suppression of dissent and criticism. We must, all of us, each of us, debunk them. Continue reading


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The Pope and the Protectors


At about 45 minutes long, it was the longest speech I had written—I teased the participants (some 200 nuns, third-order members and other lay persons active in ministry, plus a handful of priests and seminarians) that it was going to be like doing penance, except it would be them doing it. But I was grateful for the chance to reflect at necessary length on Pope Francis’ Message on “fake news”—and on the journalists (“the protectors of the news,” he called them in English) whose special responsibility it is to inform the public. It was my first time at the central house of the Pauline community in Pasay City, but as I told Sister Pinky Barrientos, I felt immediately at home.

[Good afternoon.

You honor me with your invitation. Thank you; I am delighted to be here. I received Sister Pinky’s invitation with a mixture of optimism and a creeping sense of fear—the exact combination of feelings I get when a priest invites me to confession! Only, in this case, and because I prepared a rather lengthy speech, it would not be me, but you in the audience, who would do the penance. My apologies in advance!]

My focus today is on “The Pope and the Protectors of News.” My perspective is that of a believer, in both the purpose of journalism and the faith that gives life purpose, but firstly, principally, my point of view is that of a practitioner—I am a practicing journalist and a practicing Catholic. Continue reading

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