THERE WAS little effort to project into the future as 2020 drew to a close. The vaccine program had yet to be announced formally and few were ready to express their hope that the crisis would soon end.
Failed by their leaders and left to themselves, Filipinos were not inclined to take a brave look at a post-pandemic reality and speculate on possible outcomes, whether in the short- or long-term future.
With countless lives lost, jobs taken away, schools suspended, even the personal dimension seemed strange and like an alien territory.
But the media stuck to what it knows best, move through the currents of official talk, not daring to step away from the familiar venues of news. Reporters did not dare to venture out the box of news conventions. But it is a valid course for journalists, to get ahead of the situation and prepare the public to deal with the strange possibilities even as current reports keep track of any significant changes.
There were enough expert communities issuing studies projected in this imagined future. Given the social and economic devastation that the pandemic will surely leave in its wake, everyone will be forced to consider unprecedented issues in the new world rising. If government was not ready to engage in these considerations, it should have assigned a special group with the private sector, think tanks and civil society groups participating for this task.
But the media could have set this agenda, as journalism in itself constitutes conversation, the discussion of ideas, an exchange not bound by deadlines. But such a forum will not come from the talking heads of government. They could not initiate a level of exchange about a future that they had made dismal to contemplate.
Time then for the press to break away from its fixation on official voices and search out other sources. As government seems to have lost its capacity to lead, the media should on its own enlarge the scope of discussion to help Filipinos prepare to live and participate in a world on “reset.”
Having suffered the worst among Southeast Asian nations from the pandemic, the country will be set back once again, unable to keep up with regional peers. The media could have done better. The need for this conversation is upon us. Let us try to understand why we have failed.