Competence and press freedom (This should be read with the editorial)
By Atty. Antonio P. Pekas
There was that invitation the other day from the Philippine Information Agency for press people to gather and talk about press freedom, including work related difficulties experienced during this pandemic. Too bad, I had a court thing scheduled at that time.
A big factor for a quality press or media outfits are the quality of its people. In the print media, good writers are indispensable. Such, however, are very rare, and they come far in between. And when they do, they are kinda expensive. Well, good things don’t come cheap. This places the well capitalized outfits at a big advantage.
If you noticed, the biggest national papers here, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star, are partly owned by the biggest names in Philippine business. The PDI is partly owned by Manny V. Pangilinan or his group . The Star is partly owned also by Pangilinan and his group and Ramon Ang of the San Miguel group.
Indeed, money begets money. Want the power of the press? If what you only have is good intentions for the common good, that does not qualify you. Media businesses require humongous amounts of money. With such investments, they have to make money for the owners, often as promoters of, or defense mechanisms for, their vested or business interests.
Ideally, a media outfit should be for the public interest or the common good. But that is so honored only in the breach rather than in the observance. A very big example of these are the biggest news networks in the USA, supposedly the bulwark of press freedom, CNN and Fox News. As we have seen during their most recent presidential election, these networks clearly showed their true colors—traditionally Fox News is Republican while CNN is Democrat.
Did they cater to the public’s interest? Nope. They catered to the vested interests of their owners. One of them (CNN) might have been more subtle in going about this, but Fox News did it in a very crude way.
The more independent the people behind a media outfit are, the more independent would be the viewpoints expressed there. In this country, the independence of journalists is directly proportional to their financial independence. It is reflective of the people’s economic conditions.
It can also be directly proportional to their competence. Even in our impoverished situation, competent journalists are paid enough, if not well. They have opportunities even to work for several employers as when they write for local and national papers at the same time.
So while an ideal press freedom is impossible to achieve, it should be worth aiming for. For journalists, if only to have some contentment in their work which an only come with independence on how they do their job, they have to be competent in what they do. With competence comes respect.
When a journalist has the respect of his superiors, they would think many times before asking him to bend the truth. Chances are, he would say no.
While there are respectable journalists around, most are just a dime a dozen. Is it any different at Fox News?**