By Fr. Roy Cimagala

BY NOW we should all be convinced that journalism plays an increasingly pivotal role in society. That’s because whether we like it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we grow in our reliance for data and information, and our thirst for truth has actually gone worse.

Needless to say, the world is getting more dependent on pieces of information, not only in terms of quantity, in itself already formidable, but also in quality. We want to be sure that what we are getting from media truly serve our multiplying needs and ultimately the common good.

For example, journalism has to give due attention and space to a growing number of players who contribute in the world of public opinion. It has to foster dialogue, promoting legitimate differences while building a sense of unity amid varied tastes and mentalities and changing cultural milieux, etc.

There’s that disturbing sensation, felt by many, that we are drifting on an ocean of bits and pieces of info, not without our share of thrill and a varying degree of satisfaction, but not knowing where we are actually heading.

Even with impressive strides in information technology that make for that most welcome rapid response environment, there’s still that frustrating and disappointing feeling that what we want in our heart, in itself also hard to articulate, remains elusive, and even more so nowadays.

This is the challenge facing those in the field today. Let’s hope and pray that we in this business are up to it, able to deal with its complicated and mushrooming demands.

One basic issue though has to be resolved. We have to understand that this business of information and truth is not just about telling and reporting what happened where and when and also who were involved and how it happened.

Data and information, facts and truths are living things, with origins and ends, with laws and purposes that need to be respected and handled properly. They have their own reasons and motives, even a certain spirit, good or bad, that animates them.

We have to learn to develop them from their raw, seminal state to their full-grown, more acceptable human forms. This should be the abiding concern those in journalism should have toward facts and data that they handle.

It’s like we are in a journey with them, a journey that should take us from one stage to another. It should not stop until we get to our final end which is a matter of faith or at least an ideology.

To stop somewhere along the way is to get stuck. For example, we can not remain in the technical level alone, or in the economic or political aspects.

We have to try, no matter how hard, mysterious and thwarting, to continue developing the data toward a higher plane, a bigger picture. By its nature, journalism is always a work in progress.

We then have to understand that we need a North Star in this life-long travel. It should not just a short-range guide, but one capable of shedding light on a lengthening range and widening scope of things, one that can effectively inspire prudence.

We cannot escape this matter. Or we can, but at the expense of enclosing ourselves in our own world instead of opening up to more and endless possibilities.

This is what we have to be very careful about. I think good journalism should reflect this dynamics. Its coverage, its judgments and selection of topics, etc., should be a result of this understanding of journalism’s true nature.

While journalism may set some limits and boundaries to be able to identify and cater to its particular market, it should do this without prejudice to being open to higher and bigger sources of light.

In other words, journalism should not be detached from other branches of knowledge that certainly will complement and enrich whatever by itself it can discover or is good at. For a Christian journalist, his work involves nothing less than his personal living relationship with God and with others.

The problem we often encounter is a journalism straitjacketed by a certain bias or interest, political, economic, social, ideological. While it cannot avoid these, it should have some mechanism to overcome and transcend them.