I opened Twitter last week to find people shocked, disgusted, aghast at the fact that Mocha Uson was going to be a columnist at The Philippine Star. In his Philippine Star column, Ricky Lo wrote “Starting on Tuesday, Nov. 8, The Philippine STAR will welcome Mocha as a columnist, not in the Entertainment Section but in the Op-Ed Section. Her column will be called Hotspot and that sums up what “hot” items you can expect from Mocha every Tuesday…”
I checked Mocha’s post on her own Facebook page and here it is.
Lines were drawn. Netizens from both sides weighed in. There was one side defending her new role while, on the other side, were those who questioned her credentials and even accused her of promoting lies on her posts. I read the social media post of The Philippine Star founder’s granddaughter and could understand how she must have felt. I could not fault her; she held the memory of her grandmother in high esteem.
While acknowledging the right of many to question her new assignment, I choose to take a different view. At least for now.
Mocha’s debut article echoes one of the reasons 1) I did not sign up for the petition to take down her Facebook page and 2) I am giving her some leeway as a first-time columnist — “I have the right to speak”.
Like you and I, Mocha does have the right to speak and express herself and while she used to do it on her own social media properties, she has been offered this opportunity to come out and write on a mainstream paper and join an elite listing of more well-known media print personalities.
Not everyone can become a columnist
That’s reality – not everyone can be a columnist. One has got to have name recall, be a person with some public stature, and have a good deal of know-how in the subject area he/she is writing about.
The other reality also is that, if not for her staunch support for now President Duterte, she probably would never have been offered a columnist position at The Philippine Star. There are so many other celebrities that would qualify to be columnists ahead of her.
Should Mocha Uson then be allowed to be a columnist?
1. Hers is an OPINION column. – Mocha’s Hotspot column appears under Op-Ed. That means what she writes will reflect her opinion, her viewpoint. In it, she can say whatever she wants to say within the boundaries of journalistic standards. Of course, one has to look at the basis of her opinion. Is it based on facts? Did she do her research well? In the end, however, it is the reading public who need to decide whether they would swallow an opinion (any opinion, in fact) hook, line and sinker. As for The Philippine Star? It’s a decision they made after what I presume was deliberate consideration. Whether that flies or falls, only time will tell.
2. Blog Watch was once also viewed skeptically. – “Are you a political blogger? A journalist?” We were neither, but these were some of the questions asked of Blog Watch in 2009 and for years after. It was unheard of for citizens to get involved in politics and publish opinions. Our advocacy blogging must have raised quite a few eyebrows. We were outside the journalistic box. Today, the rise of citizen engagement is recognized globally and Blog Watch continues engaging and watching government.
Blog Watch was given a chance to prove that it can engage, advocate, and publish commentaries and feature stories in a responsible and, I would like to think, fair, manner. I am giving Mocha Uson that chance.
3. If Mocha plays her columnist card right, she can be an influencer for good.
Mocha Uson does not fit the columnist mold. She is not a journalist and has never delved in politics. Her world is in entertainment and she is recognized more for her sexy dancing than her opinionated mind. But she has a great desire to make the Duterte administration succeed. She is willing to volunteer her time and get involved in areas she has no previous knowledge of. And, she has a huge following — over 4 million! Discount possible fake followers and she would still have a couple of million followers left. That makes Mocha a potential influencer for good.
If one has the heart and the determination, one can learn new skills. Mocha needs guidance, not bashing. Through her column, she has the chance to show how she can reinvent herself into a citizen advocate and inspire more citizens to get involved in governance.
That’s where her challenge lies: To stay credible to her readers. Once that credibility is lost, it can spell the beginning of the end. It appears that she deleted some controversial Facebook posts. That’s a good first step. If she stays open to constructive feedback in the use of social media and opinion writing, she just may surprise us all.
A teacher once told me to always give a person enough rope. Either you use the rope to successfully climb up the ladder of success or you end up hanging yourself with it.
Photo credits to Mocha Uson Blog Facebook page.
This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)