Monday, September 25, 2006

Fire or ice

IT’S back.

The best piece of news I’ve heard in days came from a much discredited source. Yet, for some peace of mind, I’m willing to believe again that the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) is right this time when it predicts the end of the dry spell.

“Scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms” is that strange amalgam of our age. Every weatherman spouts it. But camouflaged by the slickness of the professional vocabulary are vibratoes that bring more than just a fugitive memory of coolness in the time of El Nino.

According to Pagasa weather chiefs, the past days were part of the “El Nino anomaly.” In their jargon, the disturbance could be traced to the temperature, which was markedly “higher than normal” over the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

It is a state of affairs that perhaps explains why the May 27th issue of a daily—the first one I’ve opened in weeks—reports that some journalists in Metro Manila have banded to seriously pursue weapons training.

More used to the sight of wild-eyed colleagues firing away at the misuse of prepositions and verbs, I mentally shook myself many times while staring at the photos of black-clad journalists aiming their .45 cal. pistols at cardboard cut-outs of people.

The sight of writers wielding guns may be anomalous, but not while the issue of media killings seethes. Media workers assail the government’s failure to bring the murderers to justice, there being already five journalists murdered this year.

According to reports, no one has yet been convicted for the murders of nearly 70 journalists since the overthrow of president Ferdinand Marcos.

The newly formed Association of Responsible Media (ARM) believes that the worsening situation calls for the self-protection of the media.

Yet, while agreeing that the government has been slow to respond with results, and the justice system is even slower, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) rejects the call for journalists to arm themselves.

Self-regulation in the responsible practice of the profession should curb opportunities for journalists to commit excesses. Any cause for complaints against reporters and photographers must be addressed through democratic means, not by liquidating media workers.

NUJP also believes that while the decision to arm oneself is one’s choice, the legal process should be followed.

This NUJP qualifier, on top of ARM’s formation, brings with it a shift of weather, the way changes in the temperature follow the movement of air in the atmosphere.

Twenty years ago, when I sat in a classroom, self-asphyxiating while a professor droned on about media and ethics, the idea of toting a gun as part of a day’s work was comic and tragic. The professor was killing me by increments but I got the gist of the lecture: if your reader wanted, at the end of reading your piece, to throttle rather than reason with you, then you miserably failed at communicating—and deserved whatever form of death he designed for you.

Perhaps because my professor was such a dry soul, it took me years to realize the joke. In these anomalous times, perhaps there is no joke at all.

Come June, when I face a classroom of Mass Com students, I wonder if they will see the joke at all, or just walk away, blind to journalism, aspiring only to organize events or rake in dollars in Dubai.

If the weather experts are right, the heat wave should break soon, ushering the monsoon season. We are “normally” visited by 20 cyclones a year. Will ice be better than fire? Let the rains come soon. or 09173226131

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