The fact that we are celebrating the 31st anniversary of Cebu Press Freedom Week means the journalism industry lives on. But is it in fact dying a slow death?
What challenges threaten journalism and the media? We can name both old and new.
First are those who feel threatened by the truth and seek to silence those who wield it. Journalism continues to be a dangerous profession for some, as evidenced by the death of radio journalists Cris Bundoquin, Renato Blanco, and Percival Mabasa, among others, since our last celebration of Cebu Press Freedom Week.
Misinformation and disinformation, the old enemies of journalism, are also still present. The former is merely getting the facts wrong, but the latter is worse because it is a deliberate attempt to mislead people to whatever gain by those who do it.
What makes these two even more of a problem now is that they are being enabled by the fast sharing of data, thanks to the internet and the various forms of social media.
Then there is a challenge of a different sort, a new kind. Some people believe that the very advance of technology will soon threaten journalism. Specifically, the artificial intelligence (AI) that can be used to produce written content closely mirroring human logic.
This is no longer the realm of science fiction as we can glean from the ongoing Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strike against AI taking their jobs.
Of course, challenges can be surmounted. Those who seek to silence media practitioners one way or another can be held accountable in court and penalized. Misinformation and disinformation can be addressed by resorting to trusted news and information sources. It should also be mentioned that AI can never capture the humor, the wit, the prose of the written word as composed by a human mind.
So yes, the Cebu media and media in general are facing old and new challenges, but nothing that they cannot hurdle.
But then there is also a new challenge. Change. As mentioned in the recent State of Local News Forum held at the MBF Press Center last August 30, National Press Freedom Day, social media is slowly edging out main and traditional media when it comes to sources for news.
Not only that, circulation and advertising revenues are also declining. Many news outlets are also seeing staff leave for other fields of work as well as diminished interest by the youth in joining their workforce.
But like those mentioned above, the challenge of change can also be surmounted. Ironically by no less than change itself.
Journalism and the media must now evolve, change, to stay relevant, important, and grab and hold attention at a time when instant access, instant information, instant gratification, instant anything rules all.
Needless to say, this is change that must come about while the media stays true to its mission to safeguard the truth, no more and no less.
As for the total death of journalism, this isn’t likely. The world will always look for the truth at one point or another, and this is why journalism will always be alive.