Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A moral responsibility

29 marzo de 2009
Cogito, DCHerald

One time I was requested by a journalist – a national paper correspondent whom I came to know during my one-year sojourn in DCHerald – to conduct a three-day spiritual retreat to a group of journalists. The idea did not materialize for some unknown reasons. But one thing struck me when that journalist told me: “Father, you can choose any topic you want. But please just don’t try to preach us what to write or how to write our article.”

Then, the journalist proceeded with an explanation that in the past, they had a retreat master who simply preached them some DO’s and DON’T’s in Newswriting or what to write or not to write, etc. But they don’t need this. What they need is something that touches the other dimension of their lives.

What struck me was the fact that among those who are working in the mass media, there is great hunger for spiritual (and of course, moral – the two being inseparable) nourishment. I wonder how we could lend them a hand.

* * *

There are media correspondents who think that their newspaper would sell if it is stuffed with sensational – although hardly truthful, if not half-truth – stories. Readers – they say – would go for what is sensational and controversial, rather than what is true.

I think those who maintain such argument may have enough knowledge about the readers’ psychology but very little about anthropology. Man, by nature, is attracted by the truth and is repelled by falsity.

If readers buy newspapers that contain sensational stories, it is simply because – in the first place – they presume that such newspapers tell the truth. Once they discover that the newspaper they are reading only misleads them by telling them half-truths and sensational stories, they would never buy and read that paper again. Same is true with TV and other mass media.

To those who say that there’s money in sensational stories, I’d say, “only if there’s truth behind these stories”.

* * *

But another question emerges: “If there’s no truth behind a sensational story, then, let’s create that ‘truth’.” Or at least, facts are altered and modified so that a certain sense of “truth” may serve to maintain the spectacle. This process is called “sensationalizing the story”, so it would sell.

The process starts with the author of the story himself. It is understandable that a news writer, for instance, should make his/her story interesting so to win the approval of his/her editor. Nothing is wrong with that. But if he/she does it at the expense of truth, an injustice here is committed against the public. The public has the right to know the truth of the story.

* * *

But not all kinds of stories – just by being truthful – have to be divulged: only those that will help achieve the common good of the society. The public has the right to know the truth of the story. But it doesn’t have the right to know all stories even if these are truthful. I think this is another facet that is left forgotten nowadays in the media: “Has the public right to know this kind of truth? Will it benefit the public?”

Will this story that I am writing benefit the reading public or benefit only the bank account of my editor? I am sure most of our modern-day journalists possess the best intention of contributing for the welfare of our reading public through their articles. Most, if not all, of our writers nowadays surely are thinking of the benefits the public could get from reading their stories.

But another set of questions arises: What kind of good the public could get out of the information (or the truth) that I write? Is it beneficial to all concerned or only to a certain group or individuals? Even if what I write is true, is this truth beneficial to all? Will it help build better relationships among all concerned?

* * *

We have seen that being a journalist is NEVER a mere profession: it involves the whole person of the writer. Writing an article for a newspaper, for instance, involves the whole moral gamut of the writer, so that one cannot say: “Trabaho lang, walang personalan.” Being a journalist is a moral responsibility.

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"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.