MEDIA has undergone drastic changes from the time the term was coined. From the tribal ages, to the print age, to the modern digital age, media has evolved and is currently evolving. Becoming more convenient, faster, compact, and efficient. More so, it is already getting recognized as a powerful instrument to societies today because of its specific function of easier mass communication.
Particularly in democratic societies, media has a role as the voice of the citizens and as an information provider, but it can silence citizens as well.
Media is highly crucial today because it creates opportunities for citizens by connecting, informing, and becoming their platform to express their concerns about governmental issues. It enables people to engage civilly by informing citizens about what is happening in government and what it plans to do, and allow open commentary of citizens toward them. Hence, media becomes their voice. This prevents officials from doing actions that may cause the public, their source of support, to lose trust in them. The moment something reprehensible goes out to the public about them, their political careers come crashing.
In the Philippines, media is like a minefield that politicians have to cross carefully by saying and doing the right things, at least, publicly.
Meanwhile, despite the positive role of media in society, we must concede to the fact that media has not always been used for the good. We see the horrors of media rose during Hitler’s era or even our own Marcos’s. Media served as the gatekeeper to censor certain content from getting public. Media became a thief, which muted the voices of those who were suffering. It is in these situations that we see that media does more harm than good.
Along with the massive potential, the borderless reach, and the convenience of media, comes the absolute threat it poses to our society. How do we know the media we have right now is the truth? How do we know our voices are being transmitted the way we want them to?
Today, we can even observe that those who run as political candidates strive to take control of media because doing so would mean taking hold of the State. Like a golden snitch, controlling media would lead them to victory, and we, citizens, become victims of their oppression, without even realizing it. Thus, because of this crisis, we see the cruciality of becoming media literate.
John Culkin, the father of Media Literacy, once said, “The attainment of (media) literacy involves more than mere warnings about the effects of the mass media and more even than constant exposure to the better offerings of these media. This is an issue demanding more than good will alone; it requires understanding. And training in understanding is the task of the school.”
Culkin didn’t glorify media’s functions, but placed caution tape around it, and such is what we must do as those who are primarily affected by it. (By Marion Sanchez, SHS-Ateneo de Cebu)
(Read full version in www.sunstar.com.ph)