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Media must develop true wisdom.

Laudato Si - the much awaited encyclical of Pope Francis, was more than about the environment. But he made it clear that climate change and other aspects of development are inter-related. Thus, the encyclical, a comprehensive document that examines the various social, cultural, economic, and technological developments in our present society, considers problems that affect the welfare of all sectors of society, particularly the most marginalized - poverty, social exclusion, social aggression, drug abuse and trafficking, as well as the impact of technology and innovations on our values, lifestyles, and institutions, the solutions proffered, and the varied responses to change.

The media and digital technology, he notes, are examples of technological innovations that are so powerful and have both positive and negative impact on our values and lifestyles. But, "when they become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply, and to love generously." The danger from this pervasive nature of the media, especially the predominance of entertainment over educational content, is that they prevent us from benefitting from new knowledge and wisdom. "The great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload," he says. Other critics have noted that we have become captive to the media which is dominated by entertainment content. Their sheer force and volume prevents us from seeking exposure to educational and cultural activities like reading a good book or watching a play or concert.

"True wisdom," he continues, "as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue, and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data, which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution." Again, here, the encyclical cautions us about the pitfalls of mere accumulation of facts which is now happening with the overload of information coming from Internet and other media. The knowledge we acquire is important. As Pope Francis says, "today's media do enable us to communicate and share our knowledge and affections. Yet they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears, and the joys of others and the complexity of their experiences." Thus, we need to examine the information with a critical mind, and engage in dialogue and exchange with others because it is through the sharing of happiness and grief that we become truly human.

The encyclical also notes the dangers we face through our "blind confidence in technical solutions." Most of these are fed by our unexamined response to information from the media which often presents a consumer-oriented lifestyle. A critic describes the danger from what he calls "rising expectations" which often are followed by "rising frustrations" when the consumer public is unable to access the goods peddled by advertising. The other negative impact of the consumerism-oriented content is that it creates repercussions describe as the "throwaway" culture. While the other side of society is wanting in food and other resources, the other side over-consumes and in the process, leaves so much waste and eventually pollutes the environment

This message from the encyclical resonates with the message from the recent launching of Dr. Crispin Maslog's book on "Mass Media and People Power." In this new volume, a sequel to earlier textbooks on mass communication, he writes about the power of mass media in our society - how throughout our history - from pre-Spanish Philippines up to the present, the media - modern information technology, mass media, and indigenous communication had played a critical role in social and political change. The book was presented during the "soft launch" of the modest Philippine Media Museum (PhMediaSeum).

Two concepts which could be explored in future gatherings were also introduced. One was the concept of an alternative media to the existing commercial media. The concept of a public broadcasting system or public communication is an idea that had been hatched some decades ago but never got off because of the dominance of private interest groups in the country. But it may eventually prosper following developments like the rationalization of political dynasties, the passing of the fair competition law, and other anti-trust acts which would level the playing field. The other concept is that of "licensing journalists." In the past, this was perceived by the journalism sector as "anathema," an act that would limit the freedom of a practicing journalist. Today, some are re-examining the concept in a new light as they see it as a means of addressing the gaps in the media profession.

The PhMediaSeum, besides being a repository of artifacts on media and information technology, also hopes to become a venue for dialogue and debate on critical issues affecting the nation; a place for incubating information innovations and solutions; a learning hub, and a public space where people can come and interact in the spirit of true dialogue. My email is florangel.braid@gmail.com

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Title Annotation:Opinions and Editorials
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Jun 26, 2015
Words:809
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