Letters to Ed*

So why write a letter to the editor if it won’t get printed anyway?

— Says who? And so what if it didn’t get printed?

Some thoughts I gathered after submitting five letters and (luckily) getting three of them published in the past month-and-a-half:

  1. It’s our right (and even duty) to write such letters. That way, we’ll be helping our democratic system work better; we’ll become part of the social discourse that aims to achieve truth and justice for all. I know it sounds academic, but it’s true.
  2. It’s a way of letting media  know we care — about them, about the issues they talk about, and about the people concerned. Buying their paper (or reading their website) is one thing, but giving feedback is another — and something higher and nobler.
  3. Your idea might be unique and could contribute a great deal in discussing the issue you write about.
  4. Three things can happen after sending your letter: (a) it gets published, (b) it doesn’t get published, or (c) it gets published after a loooong while. So just be sincere and send your letter — then forget about it. Give yourself the surprise of seeing your name on the paper on a rainy Tuesday morning.
  5. Don’t worry too much about grammar and spelling — that’s the editors’ job (though I don’t recommend “non-revision” of your own work either; so revise, rewrite, refine before sending). And focus instead on brevity, accuracy, coherence, and sound judgment. You can even let your friend read your letter first, to see if it has errors.
  6. If your letter doesn’t get published, at least editors get to read it. If you speak the truth and they are humble to recognize it, you’ll have attained your aim.
  7. Some media outlets can be hostile and will assert themselves as the Big Boss, especially if you criticized them. Never fear: you were sincere and fair in your letter, right? –Then learn to forgive them; forgiveness is the sweetest “revenge”.
  8. You have no idea how many people read the Letters section. As long as you side with reason, people will also side with you.
  9. Write about the good things, too, especially the exceptional ones. Journalists also deserve our congratulations. Well, some of them.
  10. And keep those letters coming! –Even if you have to say the same thing (though in different ways). Because people tend to forget easily. We have to embark on a crusade of repeating, repeating, repeating timeless truths.

*With inputs from eHow articles

Photo by Bulldogza

A challenge to media

TO do a Philip Morris.

— That is, to make a campaign that also informs people about the possible dangers posed by one’s own industry. That’s my challenge to media today.

If the cigarette giant was able to put up an anti-smoking campaign, why can’t media educate their audiences about the nature and workings of their industry (including its bad tendencies, into which they should strive not to fall). Of course, media should not tread the unhappy path of Philip Morris, whose campaign reportedly backfired (to the delight of the firm’s revenue department).

In a society that is rapidly becoming more and more driven by information (wherein “retweets” and “likes” are rising to become the new currencies), media literacy (ML) among the public truly becomes an urgent social need. Given the frenzy of information that the Internet can provide, for example, people should be given the ability to make sense of such overwhelming amount of data. They should be able to arrange them into relevant units of knowledge based on well-founded criteria. They should be able to identify what is right and wrong in the gazillion media contents, filtering out the trash and retaining the gems.

Therefore, my suggestion to media networks is this: “Partner with a school of communication, an independent ML advocacy group, and the Department of Education to create a campaign that will complement the education department’s proposed media literacy module.” Imagine their logos printed on whatever nationally circulated materials of the ML module — that’s publicity for them and honest-to-goodness CSR!

Of course, that’ll be quite a bold act on the part of the media, because there’s that publicly-made and publicly-monitored commitment of truly living what they preach. None of the sponsoring media outfits’ journalists should ever get himself or herself involved in any unethical conduct, and each network as a whole should live up to the ethical standards it purports to support — otherwise its support for the media literacy program will lose moral weight.

Call that a challenge to improve Philippine culture.