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The news of our times

Sometimes, a headline is all it takes to tell the most unforgettable stories. I distinctly remember the days when it was a routine to gather at the family table once the newspaper was in. We would rush to see the front page, then pick up our favorite section to read with our morning coffee. Back then, people trusted the news, and it changed how we connected with each other and the world around us.

As ubiquitous as it was, the newspaper has been scarce lately. The past decade has seen a steady decline in readership, mainly due to the progress of technology. Radio and television may have competed with the daily broadsheet, but a different kind of technology appears to be overtaking it for good. Between “scrolling” and “browsing” at the touch of a finger on a mobile device and waiting for the newsprint the following day, it is an easy choice especially for the young. Thus, it is not hard to speculate that the declining interest in printed material per se could be directly related to the advance of digital media.

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However, embracing the fast and modern life afforded by technology does have a price. While access to information is critical, the integrity of what is written must be maintained. Social media may just be the best innovation to connect people; it can bridge lives, advance ideas, promote commerce, and deliver the news faster than any newsboy. But, unlike traditional newspapers, social media space is free and unlimited. And, with no fact-checking editors, there is little or no accountability for spreading false information to sow confusion. The freedom the internet allows must be enjoyed responsibly and regulated closely, so everyone can be answerable for their actions.

As democracies are slowly being eroded, countries looking to suppress dissent will try to control and restrain certain freedoms. The right to be informed is intricately tied to our understanding of what transpires around us, and what we read affects our lives and communities. While no law can be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, independent newsmakers still suffer from repression. Fortunately, history tells us that no amount of restraint can subdue the media completely, even the humble newsprint.

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Lately, nothing has been in the news more than the current pandemic. It slowed the movement of people and the circulation of the newspaper as well. We may see less of the front page, but we must remember it is not the medium that makes the news relevant. Rather, it is the writer with the passion to tell stories accurately that matters. Significantly, despite the challenges it has brought, technology will allow the news to spread even farther and to many more people.

Being avid readers, we continue to subscribe to the daily newsprint. It arrives at five o’clock every morning, and the crisp crackling sound of the paper can still be heard at home. We want the children in the family to grow up seeing their parents or grandparents reading the broadsheet, as we saw our own when we were younger. Until a few years ago, the paper published many items that catered to various interests. The excitement of looking up what movie to watch next, or the latest installment of our favorite comic strip, gave the newspaper that simple yet endearing quality.

During this critical time, we all need to be informed and inspired to contribute meaningfully to society. When adjusting to change is the only option, we must ensure that the new norms we will welcome are those that affect us for the better. What we choose to read is personal to us, but our better judgment should always choose what is right and true for ourselves and others. And, for as long as there are journalists with the courage to pursue and write about the truth, and faithful readers who can discern what is factual and true, the news of our times will always be told.

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Lorenz R. Defensor is Representative of the Third District of Iloilo.

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TAGS: Commentary, freedom of speech, Lorenz R. Defensor, news, newspapers, press freedom, right to information
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