‘Are you well-versed in comment etiquette?’

ONE GREAT THING about many news websites today is your ability to post comments.

Now you can tell fellow readers — directly and in real time — why a particular news story is trash or gem; why it’s worth reading, or why not.

But are we commenting well enough? How’s your commenting etiquette? Erica Johnson offers some guidelines to help us contribute to the discussion well.

Thank you, Ambassador Laviňa

LETTER SUBMITTED TO the Inquirer in reply to Ambassador Laviňa’s commentary. Pray that they publish it soon. 🙂

I am honored to receive a comment from former Ambassador Nelson Laviňa regarding my recent letters (1, 2) to the Inquirer’s editors (“Judge for yourself: is PDI for or against Church?” 17/02/11).

I agree with the good ambassador’s observation that the Inquirer does have several columnists who are apparently pro-life. But that’s beside the point my letters wished to raise. I was commenting on the quality of the Inquirer’s own opinions. As individuals having their own strong biases (which may be part of the reasons the Inquirer invited them to write in the first place), columnists are less inexcusable for the prejudiced articles they might write — but not the newspaper. We expect more from newspaper editors who write editorials and opine based on their own well-researched news reports and (journalistic) investigations. They are objective observers who listen to both sides of an issue before coming up with a judgment. My previous letters to the Inquirer only lamented the fact that the paper, exercising its opinion-making function, seemed not to weigh sound arguments first (at the same time clarifying facts) before coming up with conclusions.

It is also true that the Inquirer does not lack articles on certain bishops’ remarks. That’s one thing I failed to mention in my letters and which Ambassador Laviňa correctly observed. I disagree with him, however, when he said that such “kind of attention is only expected from the official news organ of the Vatican.” Newspapers write about matters of national interest. Please remember that more than 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholics. Thus I think the Inquirer is doing a good job giving prelates space in the paper’s pages, as much as the paper does publish stories by or about anti-Church people. Of course, the way the Inquirer ‘frames’ and ‘primes’ stories about churchmen is another story, but I will not elaborate on that for now.

I am flattered that the good ambassador also noted that, in my letters, I did “not sound like someone from or of UP, but seemingly is for the Catholic Church.” Well, I am indeed a Catholic — which is perfectly compatible with being a UP alumnus and student (I’m now taking my master’s degree in communication research). I am grateful to my alma mater for teaching me how to think and reason out, a skill that I find useful in understanding my faith better. Maybe Ambassador Laviňa just forgot that reason and faith are related; indeed they are the “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth,” as the future Pope Blessed John Paul II said.

Ending his comment, Ambassador Laviňa asserted that “until Zamora could acquire a substantial interest in this paper, he could not dictate its editorial policy, style and content.” Thank you very much for that advice, sir. I shall try to foster greater interest in the paper, then. After all, I (and a good number of my fellow Inquirer readers) am interested in helping Philippine news media — the Inquirer among them — become better in serving each of their audiences. You may want to check www.peopleformedia.wordpress.com, a small advocacy blog I and my friends started. Through it, we provide feedback to journalists, at the same time help media consumers become media literate — all in pursuit of a better media industry that respects human dignity and serves the common good. May I invite you to write for us? Your keen insights would be very welcome.

‘Change the media one comment at a time’

The amazing thing is, so many people don’t bother to take the time to write a letter to the editor or to leave a comment. So what happens is that the more outspoken side of the issue is usually more significantly represented because they take the time.

Katie Hinderer of Tiger Print makes the case for ordinary people to improve the media through little things. What with email, Twitter, and Facebook, those whom we thought were “demigods” are now within reach.

Continue reading her article. Highly recommended.