On Journalism (a repost)

Given the recent unfortunate events that have been witnessed by the country, I think this piece I wrote in 2008 (and posted on my multiply blog)  is quite relevant to the state of the Philippine media. Apparently, in two years nothing much as changed. I still dream of becoming a Journalist, but maybe not yet.

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Ever since I was in grade school, I have always told people that I wanted to be a Journalist. I dreamt to be seen on TV giving live updates on what was going on in specific places, to be the first one to give a field report on the recent bombings in so and so, and to be seen as a person who is the defender of the truth. To this day, I carry that dream with me as I aim for my degree in Humanities with Specialization in Political Economy. It is exactly the reason why I took up Political Economy, to adapt that framework that I would need in pursuing Journalism.

Though I have been raving about Journalism for most of my life (around 10 years), it was only now that I realized the true reason behind my passion for journalism. This is to bring a change into the field of Philippine journalism. In my opinion, Philippine journalism is composed of shallow news from different parts of the country that speak of momentary life impacting, heart-warming occurrences. I give you three scenarios to demonstrate this:

1. A reporter is standing in front of a burning house, and as the residents of the baranggay gather around the burning house watching it go down in flames, with his pretty face and deep voice, he says “Nandito pa kami ngayon sa Baranggay Someplace at sa likod ko po ngayon ay isang nasusunog na bahay kung saan naninirahan ang Pamilyang Someone. Sa ngayon ay hindi padumarating ang mga bombero pero kung nakikita niyo nagtipontipon na ang mga kapitbahay at pinaguusapan na nila ang posibleng dahilan ng pagkasunog ng bahay. Then he goes interview one of the bystanders and then gives the screen back to the news anchor.

2. This time, a female voice over speaks, pictures of a girl are flashed on the television, apparently she had been raped and killed and found in an empty lot in a province neighboring her own. After disappearing a week prior to the discovery of her body, her family had been worried regarding her whereabouts. This information is extracted from interviewing the parents of the victim. The footage ends with a shot of the coffin of the dead rape victim.

3. After the commercial break, the anchor introduces one of the most recent and most talked about news in the Philippines, this piece of news seems to be perceived as so relevant to the Philippine society as a whole that it actually finds its way as part of the show’s “Nagbabagang balita”. Depending on what UHF station you watch, it still has the same tone into it. If you’re a “Kapamilya”, then the news “Angel Locsin, Kapamilya na!” is not something new to you, and if you’re Kapuso, “Heart Evangelista, kasama na sa casting ng this and that teleserye sa Kapuso Network”‘ will be talked about even more than the rice crisis.

Obviously, the third instance is irrelevant to the over-all development of the human person and the Philippine society. It is like the news of today has become a source of entertainment, and the entertainment industry has been bringing a lot of news. But I am not saying that a burning house or a raped teenage girl is too. It is just so disappointing and frustrating how Journalism has been equated to mere storytelling of the events that have happened, without even trying to analyze what impacts it has on society. Just as a diver who searches for gold at the shore, instead of exploring the depths of the sea, a journalist who just simply tells us what is happening loses all depth and substance. The news that is presented to us is mere facts, and it seems like the journalist expects us to formulate our own ideas from the facts that they had offered to us. We are asked to make a stand, when all that is given to us are the “What’s”, where are the why’s, how’s, how come’s, and what now’s? Not every Filipino is provided with the tools to understand what is truly going on in society, and how great an impact that snippet of news has on society.

Take the instance of the burning house. Watch TV Patrol or 24 Oras and you are likely to find at least one news report regarding an incident similar to such. Seeing as there are no fire fighters around and the neighbors are mere bystanders, what does this have to say about our society? The news is so centered on the burning house that people ignore what is going on around. Why does it take the firemen so long to get to the house? Has anyone really bothered to call? What is it in Filipinos that make them just want to watch a house go down in flames, by the mere resonance of “SUNOG”, they drop everything they were previously doing just to watch the house burn down. I once received an e-mail a long time ago which advised me to scream “SUNOG” if a mysterious person suddenly tries to do something bad to me. There is a greater chance someone will answer your call as compared to “HELP” or “RAPE” or “MAGNANAKAW”.

These are the things that I believe journalists should look into: The phenomena surrounding the rich Filipino culture. Journalists should provide a deeper understanding on what is going on, and not merely present what is going on, because anyone can do that. A street child can dictate to you a robbery he had seen first hand just as good as a journalist who just stood there and described a scene. We don’t need journalists to do that for us.

It just frustrates me how low Philippine journalism has become. Apparently their explanation is “this is what the people want”. This angers me the most. It removes the essence of being a true journalist. The fact that you present people with what they want show insincerity in your part as a media person, as your objective becomes one that pleases people. Such objective could be identified with the end of earning money in exchange for the “service” of current events. But true service should not involve money or merely what people want to know. There is a difference between showing the people what they want to know and showing the people what they ought to know.

As journalists, they should provide the people with processed information using the tools that they had acquired in order to give the public the information that they need to know, information that is relevant to society, in order to create a society with better judgment. It is the responsibility of the journalist to show the public what is going on, but he should not only leave it to that. To be a true journalist is to be able to qualify those events and analyzing them in order to use these events in trying to understand the world we live in a lot more. Through this, there will be a deeper understanding of our culture, of our identity, which will lead to greater bonds within society, and will prove beneficial in the long run.

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On other things, my dashboard tells me someone has reached my blogsite in with the search terms “Thesis on kwek-kwek”. This made me laugh a bit.

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