SINCE the time of the early scribes and medieval town criers, painters, caricaturists, publicists and early reporters has played an important role in chronicling events that happened in the past. From clay tablets, hieroglyphs, ancient cave paintings and the Gutenberg press, the constant development of communications technology has also changed the way we live and interact with others. The introduction of various forms of media from print, radio and television broadcast during the last century was also responsible for making people aware of every happenings around the world from political unrest of nations, the melting of the ice cap at North Pole and discovery of new things or breakthroughs in science. While many question the role of the media as providers of doomsday stories and sometimes unproven conjectures, many praise them for their worthy news and information that they provide to guide and help people in their day-to-day living.
Analysts say that in order for a nation to be considered stable and politically mature, these places must project a good image to the whole world untainted with negative publicity or issues like epidemic and war.
Nowadays, anybody can be a chronicler of events and there are numerous so-called media platforms by which one can disseminate, share or post his or her journals, observations, feelings, visual images and even advertisements.
I spent hundreds of hours in two universities teaching media, methods and techniques to communication students since the time when desktop computers still used the cathode ray tubes or CRT up to the time when LCD or liquid crystal display became common. I used to cite Microsoft’s WYSIWYG or “what you see is what you get” to illustrate the improving capabilities of digital technology as compared to the now obsolete print and television media that uses what we call “bare-bone method”. However, there are important learnings from the old format that students today do not clearly understand.
The nationally televised debate of Kennedy and Nixon and man’s first landing on the moon in the sixties, the first satellite-fed concert of Elvis Presley from Hawaii in the early 70s, the media coverage of the death and burial of Princess Diana and the terrorist’s attack on the twin towers of New York are among the most widely publicized news items that anyone can review today just by asking Siri from iPhones or by simply typing names or hashtags in smartphones.
Today, netizens openly interact with almost anybody who is in the loop with various social media applications using a most common gadget called smartphone that can also be used for varied tasks such as voice recording, still image capture and even movie production. Almost all of the world’s population can get so interconnected that even my seven-year-old grandson created a Skype chat group involving his dad’s family members and that of ours. Reminding us “Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten,” I later learned that this quip comes from a social card from a 2002 Disney cartoon movie.
As media play a vital role in shaping people’s mind and drawing public opinion, reporters and even pseudo-journalists can also subject an institution or country to a global ridicule and shame just like a recent news report of a teacher trying to deliver learning modules to a community across a river by swimming because he has no access to a boat. When said news item of teacher Moises Palomo went viral in social media, it was later found out that the feat was actually scripted and directed in connivance with some individuals to earn popularity on social media.
I remember what Fox News used to carry in its opening billboard “We present you to decide” which makes me opine that the global community are left with their own opinion whether these may be adverse to ours in the case of the river swimming teacher.
As a government information officer, we practice what we refer to as developmental communication or DEVCOM. We do not engage in day to day news gathering for scoops or breaking news reports. We do not sensationalize an issue or glorify personalities. As public officers, our mandate is to make information work for the people. I was once asked by a graduating class of Mass Comm students to give a pep-talk and I said… “Should you want to engage in mass media, you can start by using what you have learned as a tool to solve the most pressing problems like waste disposal, water shortage and other real threats to people living in your community. We are already living in the future. What is happening today was written about some fifteen or fifty years ago. We have to access technology to be able to be at par with our fellow citizens of the global village.”