Tuesday, October 16, 2012

of rags, tabloids and the varsitarian editorial

I was a product of the Varsitarian.

I rose from the ranks of news reporter to the editorial staff from 1980-1983.

In my curriculum vitae, I was always proud of being part of the Varsitarian. From the hundreds of students who took the exams to be part of the V, I was one of the few that passed. I took pride in the fact that I could probably have the prowess for writing.

Our publications director then, Mr. Felix Bautista taught me how to write. In him, I learned not only how to write directly from the typewriter but to write with passion and with ethics.

I am proud to be in the ranks of Varsitarian staffers who are today, excellent journalists and great writers. While I may not have pursued a journalism course, I was taught well and I know Mr. Baustista would have been proud.

The last editorial of the Varsitarian dated September 30, 2012 was, well to say the kindly - controversial. To put it in this perspective is really a kind way of saying that it was written badly. There was so much bashing, bullying and in a distinct fashion akin to the Pharisees, there was finger pointing on who was holy and good versus those who were sinners.

The editorial serves as the stand of whatever or whoever the publications is owned by. In this case - it is the official student organ of the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas. Hence, it purports to be the stand of the student Thomasian community. Given this fact, why are many Thomasian students screaming for the head of whoever wrote the editorial, on a silver platter?

It is shoddily written by someone who had much hatred against Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University. The arguments against the Reproductive Health Bill had taken a back seat from the paper's stand against this bill. It was like the writer came from a game that the UST Tigers had lost and bashed at the keyboard initially with the RH bill in mind then had hallucinations of the loss game and diverted his anger to ADMU and DLSU. In short, this was a very bad piece of editorial that shouldn't have seen the light of day.

But it went to press. It went viral. And the rest is history.

The Varsitarian carries a long tradition of being one the best and most respected student publications organ in the country. To have this trashy editorial made it look like some ragtag tabloid with those naked girls and boys on the front cover in order to sell the rag. Has it become so desperate for attention that the writer had focused on pointing out only two schools - in Katipunan and Taft? There are other Catholic schools whose teachers or professors have the same stance as those who are pro-RH. Talk about academic freedom! While academic freedom may not be absolute, neither is press freedom absolute. You don't use the editorial of the newspaper to go around castigating other schools, other sects, other religious orders just to get your opinion or your point made.

I am a physician as well. And I vow to do no harm to patients. And while I understand the pharmacology of the drugs used for reproductive health and warn people on its use, I do not go around saying that the professors from Ateneo or La Salle are lacking in brains or are pretenders and interlopers.

The fact that the University officials say that "The University thus supports the Varsitarian, its official student publication, in its stand against the RH bill and for that matter any organization united in this regard with the Catholic Church" is fine with me! That's their stand but it's not fine! There was a thin line that needed to be drawn and that was where this editorial went awry. In the first place, you cannot agree to one part of the editorial and apologize for the unsavory comments against other schools in the other paragraphs. After all, the editorial had to deliver one message - the RH Bill! Did it need to bash other schools and result in name calling? No. It needed to get edited. That was the responsibility of those that were supposed to supervise and teach the students on responsible journalism. Something very lacking in this piece of trash.

Even Thomas Aquinas would be turning in his grave at the way the school took the stand on the editorial. According to the official university bulletin - "We remain united in Christ with the Ateneo de Manila University, the De La Salle University and the other universities in our mission to promote Catholic education and to form students to become living testaments to the teachings of Christ and the principles we hold sacred—competence, commitment, and compassion."

Competence, commitment and compassion were truly lacking in this piece of trash.

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