The Inquirer’s agenda?

Some letters to the editor never get published — either because they lack meritorious content, decency, relevance, editors’ time, and/or timeliness.

The letter I sent to the Inquirer last December 1 is (probably) among those. Here’s how it was (with minor revisions):

I DOUBT the Inquirer’s sincerity in its reply to Minnie Gabutina’s letter to the editor last November 26: “On [the] matter of the Pope’s remarks [regarding condoms], the Inquirer does not promote any agenda.”

Really now. Go to the editorial of that same Inquirer issue (“Becoming human”), and you’ll see that the newspaper’s editors seemingly lied to Gabutina and the rest of their readers. Among the minor noteworthy things in the editorial is its scorn against pro-life advocate Eric Manalang and his followers (whom the editorial takes as the entire pro-life block). Another is the editorial’s “one-sided sourcing” of opinion quotes (all were from churchmen whom the editorial frames as ‘liberalist’ dissidents in the Church). But most noteworthy is the editorial’s insistence that Pope Benedict XVI has a “titanic shift in his thinking” and that the Church is “tweaking…rigid doctrine.”

Indeed, here we see the Inquirer’s agenda to discredit the Catholic Church and its leader. I mean, it only takes a little bit of investigative journalism skills (and some common sense) to find out the consistency of the Pope’s remarks with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other church documents; you’ll find no “titanic shift” or “[doctrinal] tweaking” at all.

Thus, I think it’s high time the Inquirer take an ‘examination of conscience’ and be honest to itself and its readers. First of all, it has to recognize what communication scholars have long ago discovered: that the media necessarily sets an agenda, telling its readers what issues to think about; and, through tactics called ‘framing’ and ‘priming,’ how to think about those issues.

Second, the Inquirer should challenge itself to be vigilant amidst biased reportage by some “international news organizations with solid reputation.” It should be intelligent enough not to fall into the rash and unfair judgments by their Western secularist ‘big brothers.’ Instead, the Inquirer should live up to its name: it should inquire disinterestedly and rigorously until it arrives at the truth, with the least dependence on (not-so-reputable) foreign media as possible.

And third, the Inquirer should tell the truth to all its readers – from those who have the capability to buy and thoroughly read a copy of its newspaper, to those who could not afford and could only glance at the newspaper’s banner headlines at the newsstand. None of the Inquirer’s sometimes-sensationalized headlines should mislead or misinform – sowing confusion and even scandalizing some – as did its report on the Pope’s remarks on condoms.

Inquirer violating first point of Journalist’s Code of Ethics

A week after I sent it  to the Inquirer, my letter to the editor was finally published. I’m grateful to the editor for simplifying my sentences.

IN the Reproductive Health (RH) bill debate, the Inquirer has trampled on hallowed journalism principles such as fairness and truthfulness.

While it is the Inquirer’s prerogative to favor the RH bill or not (it expressed support for the bill in at least one editorial), I believe that whatever its bias should not taint its reportage on the issue. It should bear in mind the first point of the Journalist’s Code of Ethics: “I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis.”

[Continue reading on the Inquirer website]

The Inquirer’s sin of omission (1/2)

by Dexter MC

CHEERS go to the Philippine Daily Inquirer today for choosing a headline that trumpets their sin of omission.

Pope: Condom use OK in AIDS fight” the headline says, belying the fact that the gist of the Pope’s statements in the new book Light of the World has a completely opposite implication.

Erring statements in the article include the lead paragraph and its supporting sentences. Bear with me in tracing the Inquirer’s biased logic and untruthful framing.

The lead goes:

Using condoms may sometimes be justified to stop the spread of AIDS, Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book, in surprise comments that relax one of the Vatican’s most controversial positions.

So the Inquirer proclaims that the Pope has come to “relax” an age-old position, and that the comment is a “surprise” because it comes from the holder of “most controversial positions.”

Supporting paragraph two:

While some Roman Catholic leaders have spoken about the limited use of condoms to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS as the lesser of two evils, this is the first time the Pope has mentioned the possibility in public.

“Lesser of two evils.” “Mentioned the possibility.” So the Inquirer is saying the contraceptive issue is about two evils, and that the Pope has gone to side with one evil and not the other. [Wait — what?]

Supporting paragraph four:

Benedict made clear the comments were not intended to weaken the Church’s fundamental opposition to artificial birth control, a source of grievance to many practicing Catholics.

“Clear”? Benedict was talking about condoms and AIDS prevention, and not the artificial birth
control issue at all.

Let us read the Pope’s whole statement, taken from Light of the World‘s pages 117-119. The excerpt below is from the official English version of the book published by Ignatius:

[QUESTION] On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on Aids once again became the target of media criticism.
Twenty-five percent of all Aids victims around the world today are treated
in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the
statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional
teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is
madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

[POPE’S ANSWER] The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to
the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of
sexuality.

[QUESTION] Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not
opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

[POPE’S ANSWER] She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality. [Emphases added]

In truth, the Pope was not saying condoms are “OK in AIDS fight,” as the Inquirer claims. What Pope Benedict is really saying is that the use of these prophylactics can be the first step for some people (i.e. prostitutes) to understand that what they are doing — sex outside marriage — is wrong.

The Inquirer‘s headline and lead sentences, therefore, are erroneous, as well as malicious for twisting what the Pope said.

[The Inquirer‘s greater omission: Continue to 2/2]