“Did the Inquirer lie in its editor’s reply?” Let’s hope it didn’t.

Coolness. I sincerely thank the Inquirer for publishing the letter I submitted to them a month ago.

Originally titled “The Inquirer’s agenda?” and posted on this blog, the letter was published yesterday with the title “Did the Inquirer lie in its editor’s reply?” You may read the entire article here.

I am further grateful that the paper even replied to the letter — and how! The venerable editors said:

It is a point of pride for the Inquirer that its Opinion pages are independent of the News division. The paper’s news reporting does not in fact promote any agenda; but its editorials, naturally, take a stand. It’s a pity that someone affiliated with the UP CMC does not understand this basic, and liberating, distinction.—Eds.

I wish to say, first of all, that there was some misunderstanding. And I apologize because it was partly my fault.

Misunderstood

The Inquirer’s full reply to a disgruntled reader in their November 27 issue was this:

Our headline was based on the remarks of the Pope as reported by international news organizations with solid reputations. It is our duty to report the news as it is. On this matter of the Pope’s remarks, the Inquirer does not promote any agenda.—Ed.

[emphasis added]

When the Inquirer said “[o]n this matter of the Pope’s remarks”, I mistakenly took it to mean that the Inquirer was speaking as an opinion maker, as an entity talking about an issue, a matter of public debate. It was as if the Inquirer said: “On the issue of the Pope’s remarks regarding condoms, the Inquirer — as a thinking and opining body — does not take any stand” — which, taken per se, could be deemed untrue, given the paper’s editorial. That’s why I reacted. If only the paper had said “in this report regarding the Pope’s remarks, the Inquirer does not promote any agenda”, I — and perhaps other readers as well — could have taken it in the way the Inquirer wanted it to mean.

Now allow me to dissect the Inquirer’s brief reply to my letter yesterday.

Anatomy of the Inquirer’s reply

“It is a point of pride for the Inquirer that its Opinion pages are independent of the News division. The paper’s news reporting does not in fact promote any agenda; but its editorials, naturally, take a stand.” Well, the Inquirer probably wouldn’t point out this obvious fact if there were no misunderstanding in the first place, as I mentioned above. But let’s consider their assertion nevertheless.

I happen to understand the (ideal) independence between the Inquirer’s News and Opinion sections. But as to the Inquirer’s claim that “[t]he paper’s news reporting does not in fact promote any agenda”, I may be justified to say that this is at least debatable. Even an amateur content analysis of the Inquirer’s photos and news pieces might be able to prove that the broadsheet is biased towards the RH advocates in its reportage. Indeed, when newspapers choose which stories to publish and with how much prominence and with what slant, they already somehow promote a particular agenda on their news pages. It’s inescapable.

As for the Inquirer’s personal attack against me — it’s a pity. What can I do? I’m just an ordinary reader. They’re juvenile demigods.

I’m just disappointed the Inquirer didn’t really address my letter’s arguments; they focused too much on journalism technicalities.

I have high hopes, however, that the Inquirer will again side with reason soon.

[Updated 12/01/11 12:14 pm]

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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.

Crisis of Journalism

A bit  belated in particular, but not in general. Here’s the take of Antonio Montalvan II on media’s more popish exegesis of the Pope’s remarks on condoms.

IT WAS, without doubt, the media fiesta of the year. As fiestas go, adrenaline was high. Popish interpretations of the Pope’s statement on condom use became the screaming headlines of broadsheets and broadcasts, with emphasis on “screaming.” …

Continue reading at the Inquirer website.