By Sylvia Hubilla
Round Rock, TX – I watched Episode 7 of Women’s World on the topic titled, “Ethnic Media in the time of Covid” two Sundays ago. At the end of it, I felt like I just stepped out of a class in Journalism. The presentation by Marivir Montebon, co-Host of WW and Executive Producer of the digital magazine, OSM!, was informative and interesting!
Media, known simply as the Press before, is the Fourth Estate. This tradition started in England, where the First Estate is the Clergy, the Second Estate is the Nobility, and the Third Estate, the Commoners. In the United States, the four Estates are the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial branches of the Government, and the Fourth Estate, the Press, all independent of each other.
The Fourth Estate serves as the watchdog. As such, the Fourth Estate’s role is to report, verify, and question matters of governance. And here is where Ethics of Media comes in. In an ideal world, journalists remain mindful of the purpose of their role as guardians of truth. Reporting facts with accuracy, offering no opinion, and ensuring a fair and balanced coverage – this is a professional obligation to hold true to its vital role.
Unfortunately, in the present society, the lines separating these four estates, become blurred by influence coming from everywhere. Big businesses, political groups, religious groups, groups of varying persuasions.
Mainstream Media a.k.a. Corporate Media like CNN, Fox, NBC, etc., and those in print and digital media, whose lifeblood is advertising, finds it now challenging to abide by the Ethics of Journalism. The content of the news now has become heavily influenced and of course, leaning towards what is beneficial to the advertiser. What is reported as true, now may not necessarily be the Truth. Bending the truth is what is now called Fake News. And proponents of Fake News now have a name of a mythical, evil entity – “Trolls.” These trolls gather and spread misinformation and fake news in all forms of media, in the hope that an untruth, if repeated and seen or heard often, becomes now the truth.
Media is a powerful “influencer.” It is the channel by which a message reaches the consumer. It can influence the mindset of society. Marivir opined that these days, media institutions are even more influential than the church and academe.
Sadly, media can also be influenced to bend the truth, for the right price. And this can have very dangerous consequences if it is used by powerful individuals to their own advantage.
With the onset of digital technology, the danger has blown up to mind-boggling proportions. News travels in seconds. World wide. And the audience reach covers all ages and demographics. Unfortunately, not everyone has a trained eye to spot fake or truthful news. No one bothers to check the source.
If it is interesting, current, and catches attention, it is passed on…again…and again.
These are challenging times we live in. But when I listen to Marivir, I am hopeful. I am hopeful for our young journalists who are full of ideals. We have to remain hopeful. Because we need the Media. We must be able to assume that we can have trust in the journalist’s professionalism in discerning fact from fiction, truth from fake, in reporting from a neutral and unbiased perspective. We have to be able to trust that ethics of journalism will always prevail. I am hopeful that the young journalists will remain to be our “Frontliners for Truth, ” as Marivir Montebon calls the Fourth Estate. #
(About the author: Sylvia Hubilla is a retired school teacher in Cebu City, Philippines and has moved to Texas together with her three grown-up daughters in 2007. She has an OSM! blog named Granny Gorgeous.)