Cebu’ s traditional media is once more celebrating Press Freedom Week. I am no longer with SunStar Cebu although I still write a once-a-week column for the paper. Retirement in the Philippines is a struggle, more so for a longtime traditional media practitioner like me who married late and who is dependent on regular earnings. Add to that the emergence of social media and you can imagine how difficult a life dependent on meager pension is.

Post-martial law Press Freedom Week, therefore, should be more of an economic discussion. Which is intriguing considering that our president now is the son and namesake of the man who declared martial law in 1972. But I may have to borrow the assessment of a former government official about the Bongbong Marcos presidency. The official, an ally of the Aquinos, noted that Bongbong is even more liberal than another former president, the late Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Meaning that, unlike his father, PBBM is more of a liberal democrat so there is nothing much to talk about the suppression of press freedom. What concerns many of us now is the economy. For the press, there is the additional problem of a runaway social media that needs to be reined in if we want to restore a level of decency to public discourse. Losing to social media in this regard would be the worst thing to happen to the practice of journalism.

Social media is both a boon and a bane to public discourse. The new technology has allowed more people to participate in public discussion. The problems now surfacing in the use by individuals of the new technology show us that it has become more of a bane for now. But on this, I may have to use water as an analogy. Sooner or later the water will find its level and settle down.

Here, traditional media should take the lead. We have seen how people in traditional media are increasingly taking the reins of social media platforms. The first step was to counter ignorance with knowledge. Traditional media practitioners are currently taking the lead in correcting errors and lies spread in social media by forming groups of fact checkers. There were people, like former US president Donald Trump and even billionaire Elon Musk, who initially benefited from the derailment brought about by the new technology but more and more people are now using the new technology to counter the falsity being spread by the fanatical and the ignorant.

Traditional media practitioners should therefore start crossing the bridge to the other side. Instead of battling social media, they should instead learn how to dominate it. In the process, they should make do with the democratization that the new technology offers even in the spread of revenues. Traditional media outlets no longer control the finances. Advertisers no longer differentiate traditional media outlets from social media influencers. Social media platforms now allow everybody to earn from the advertisements that creators generate.