Spiral of silence in mediaBy Malou Guanzon-Apalisok
990 AM, Cebu Daily News
Media workers from all five English and Cebuano dailies and the broadcast industry came out in force yesterday for the grand parade that ushered in the 18th Cebu’s Press Freedom Week celebration.
The grand parade is always a massive program in which media organizations compete for the highest attendance, most colorful attires, charming muse, etc. The parade is Cebu media’s way of making itself felt in the community. Competition is fierce 24/7, but local media is united in more ways than one. It’s a strong message to government officials who may be tempted to do an Ampatuan when the local media publicly expose and criticize their misdeeds.
On the eve of the celebration, a pageant was held at an uptown hotel to select Mr. & Miss Press Freedom. Colleagues in Manila and elsewhere might wonder how press freedom could be enhanced by a beauty pageant, an exercise that is generally held as low brow and exploitative of women.
Well, this is one pageant that reverses traditional beliefs. While the show showcased the physical beauty of the young and lovely women and the good looking male of the species in Cebu’s media industry, show organizers had the good sense to invert the criteria. Instead of beauty, judges were on the lookout for brains that let slip the contestant’s attitude and set of values through Q & As (questions and answers) on the hottest national issues.
Big congrats to this year’s winners, Grace Melanie Lacamiento of The Freeman and Mr. Edd Buenaviaje of Cebu Daily News. Ms. Carmel Loise Matus of this paper also deserves applause for finishing first runner up.
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The grand parade officially kicked off the seven-day calendar of activities, but strictly speaking, the observance opened with a recollection a week ago at the Cebu Archbishop’s Residence.
Archbishop Jose S. Palma first pastoral encounter with Cebu media was well-attended and although he didn’t deliver the main talk, he may have a hand in laying out the theme of the spiritual exercise led by Msgr. Joseph Tan.
Monsignor Tan, who is currently taking up social communications courses in Rome, happened to come home for a brief vacation when he was buttonholed by Archbishop Palma for the media recollection. Talk about serendipity and the tacit rule among clerics that they cannot say no to their bishop.
Archbishop Palma outlined the exercise with his thoughts on the Church’s year-long celebration of the Year of Faith which begins next month. In announcing the blessed year starting this October, Pope Benedict XVI talked of a “special year” to help Catholics “appreciate the gift of faith, deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to sharing faith with others.”
Evangelization remains the Church’s core mission and the challenge is how to effectively spread the Good News in the areas of culture, among immigrants, Catholics in politics, families, parishes and in the use of media.
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The timing of the Cebu media recollection came as the Reproductive Health (RH) bill controversy reached an intriguing face-off between Church hierarchy and Catholic educators including a formidable canon lawyer and constitutionalist, Fr. Joaquin Bernas of the Society of Jesus (SJ) or the Jesuits.
Earlier, more than 100 faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila University came out in favor of the RH bill. With Fr. Bernas on their side, the Church’s position against the population control policy seemed to have further weakened.
As we know, mainstream media is perceived to favor the RH Bill and despite the assumption that majority of media workers are Catholics, only a handful have come out to openly criticize the bill and uphold the position of the Catholic Church, for example, in their radio programs or opinion columns.
When you have an editorial that disparages the position of the Church and a few inches column or a broadcast commentary that defends it coming in few and far between, the anti-RH voice in the media becomes almost nil, or even absent.
Monsignor Tan didn’t say this in categorical terms but he made that point quite clearly when he talked of the “spiral of silence,” a political science and mass communication theory authored by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann.
The spiral of silence theory, as described by Mr. Wiki, is a process by which one opinion becomes dominant as those who perceive their opinion to be in the minority do not speak for fear of isolation.
In other words, isolation is society’s punishment to a person who does not go with the tide, or kowtow to what is popular and well-accepted. Conformity supposedly fosters a well-ordered society, but what if the issue involved morals, like, legalizing jueteng, the use of marijuana, same-sex marriage, or abortion as suggested by the RH Bill?
“If the majority of those who hold a particular belief do not make noise about it, sooner or later they will lose their own beliefs. Silence will create an impression that they are alone and the fear of isolation further weakens their convictions,” Monsignor Tan stressed.
“The silence of the faithful will be detrimental to the spiritual help of many, and it is only proper that today we openly talk about the value of faith,” he added. (To be continued)
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