EVEN in the age of the evolving digital landscape with the development of artificial intelligence (AI), media practitioners will continue to play a role in shaping society and strengthen values that unite and rejuvenate the community.

Fr. Mhar Vincent Balili, rector of the Seminario Mayor de San Carlos, shared this message to the members of local media in his homily during the holy mass for the opening of the Cebu Press Freedom Week 2023 on Sunday, Sept. 17, at Robinsons Galleria Cebu.

Balili said that in today’s time when people have instant access to information through the internet and phones, the role left for the media to play is to shape the consciousness of society.

“At a time when information and communication are approaching full democratization, what is left for the newsperson, the columnist, the newscaster and the reporter to do? Will media’s relevance be reduced to pure entertainment value?” Balili said.

“I think, however, that media practitioners will continue to play an important role in the shaping of society because while the internet and the cellphone connect individuals at the personal level, media practitioners connect them at the communal level. While emails, cellphones, and group chats allow people to talk to each other directly, mass media still determines what they will be talking about,” he added.

Balili said the internet has transformed the world into a global village, and individuals must learn to adapt to the values the new situation has brought.

He said while communication and information technology can change people’s lives, “they are still means to an end.”

As a means, Balili said such technology, including AI, should be treated as tools, which are something useful but do not impair the person’s gift of intelligence.

Balili said that media is a “powerful” instrument in setting agendas, disseminating trends and ideologies, and cultivating behaviors and lifestyles.

He then challenged the members of Cebu media to do their tasks, which are to affirm the values that bind a community and to reconstruct the values that have been lost.

“When a community loses its values, it also loses its identity, its cohesiveness, its capacity for meaning. It is the role of the media to provide meaning to the events that are happening in and outside the community they serve,” said Balili.

Members of Cebu media will have a week-long press freedom celebration starting on Sunday, Sept. 17, and it will culminate on Saturday, Sept. 23.

The mass was then followed by a singing competition among members of the media. Preciosa Bacalso of The Freeman was proclaimed as the winner; Arkeen Larisma of SunStar Cebu placed second, Recca Romulo of CDN Digital and Clint Lantaco of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, placed third and fourth, respectively.