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Yackety-yak

/ 07:22 AM September 09, 2012

Next week we celebrate once again Cebu  Press Freedom Week but this newspaper writer has a confession to make: I don’t really read, watch, or listen to the news so much anymore.

Last time I checked, there was rather prolonged grieving over  a national bureaucrat killed in a plane crash while on his tour of duty. It would have been a perfect case of a hero’s making until his daughter came  out hinting she’d love to be in the movies.

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It’s your daily dose of tragic-comedy. Still, there’s really no way you can totally ignore the news. It’s all over your “newsfeed” on Facebook, and Twitter. Or it comes out by relay through  office gossip, which is mostly about showbiz and when it’s a good day, figuratively—the weather.

Indeed, these days, the weather report is getting to be more important than the news. Or as a friend commented when I posted that as a Facebook status, “the weather report IS the news”.

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Because I was trying to avoid the news, I learned very late about the Ondoy-like flooding that recently hit Manila. I must have seen some of them posted on Facebook but mistook the links as reposts from the Ondoy disaster.

That is exactly the problem with the news—it keeps  recurring and you can’t really tell the old from the new anymore. It looks as if it’s the same story that keeps coming back in the front pages and screens. It’s so trivial yet so urgent at times.

After we ourselves got stuck for hours in the heavy downpour and traffic jam during the recent storms here in Cebu, which caused water to rise knee to waist-high in some roads that lead to our house, I figured I couldn’t take chances anymore.

I turn on the radio in the morning now to check  updates from the local weather bureau. But then you’ll have to wait until it comes during the “news and public affairs” program, which means you’ll have to endure a radio commentator rant and yackety-yak to sounds of drum rolls, chuckling chickens, or mocking canned laughter and similar audio punctuations.

It’s amplified gibberish on anything from this and that politician to this and that issue yet more people pay attention to it than what the university-based political analysts may have to say in media, if they ever come out at all.

One time a radio commentator talked passionately about the war in Syrian (sic) and global warming. But he, who can’t even tell the difference between the country and the citizen, is for most of us, the only “expert” opinion we can relate to.

It is through him that the weak are able to express their rage and affirmations of their beliefs. Thus we listen to radio commentators for validation of our own views. We seek not dissenting opinion and complex ideas, but the simplest ones that confirm our own.

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So the radio commentator easily lures us with reductionism and sensationalism expressed through soundbites and punchlines. Never mind if the arguments often break the rules of plain logic or common sense. In the midst of this incoherent mix of tirades and diatribes, you wonder if the guy with the microphone is performing the talking cure on air with the public as shrink or co-patient.

I must admit that I’m a bit ambivalent about radio news and commentators. I actually grew up listening to them every morning as a child in Mindanao. So even in its muffled state, this kind of radio noise actually evokes memories of home: mother cooking breakfast, father putting on his military uniform, lola watering the plants, and us kids taking turns at the bathroom.

In past Press Freedom Week parades and parties, I actually met some of these radio commentators (among them the “tri-media personalities” who have earned a more Olympian status by being practically omnipresent in broadcast and print) who seem to speak with an aura of self-confidence that make them look charismatic to most people. They have descended from their world in the stratosphere to join mortals at  cocktails and take a chance at the raffles. You overhear them talk about politics, dropping punchlines here and there, like they’re still “on air”.

And yet, in putting on this “air” to have a say on practically everything, you realize they’re not really too different from most of us who write opinion columns.

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