“Today we made history in this Social Hall that has stood the test of time during the American regime 112 years ago where all important programs were held. And today we have JOY in our very own Western Mindanao State University,” says WMSU Prexy Dr. MIlabel Enriquez-Ho as she welcomes guests and participants in the series of journalism lectures conducted by 2015 Journalists of the Year (JOY) last August 25, 2016.
The event was made possible through PROBE Media Foundation, Inc. (PMFI) and Metrobank Foundation. As part of their responsibilities as JOY awardees, Marites D. Vitug (editor-at-large, Rappler), Nancy C. Carvajal
(Journalist, Philippine Daily Inquirer) and Howie G. Severino (Vice President & Anchor, GMA Network), are tasked to go to the different provinces and cities in the country to share their takeaways and personal tales as in bringing the truth to the open. “We have invited the 2015 JOY awardees to share their life stories as journalists with you, to tell you how they got their stories what the challenges were, what were the best parts, the worst parts and what were the rewards-not material rewards but their works of telling good stories,” says PMFI President Cheche Lazaro in her message shown via an audio-visual presentation.
The lecture series dubbed as “Shaping the Nation through Powerful Stories” aims to promote credible and responsible journalism to bring positive change in the society and providing citizens with necessary information and the right context for decision-making about their lives, their communities and the government.
It is said that a responsible journalist not only seeks to inform the public but even more important, he or she must ceaselessly put forth the truth the public needs to know. To be able to do so, a journalist must know the people’s sentiments and must have the nose for news. The first speaker marked the history of journalism as she unravels the political scandal happening in the country’s legislative arm. Nancy C. Carvajal, the bombshell of the “Pork Barrel Scam”- the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund by some members of the Philippine Congress.
As a former senior reporter of the PDI and one who have been a vanguard of truth for more than 20 years, Carvajal was able to develop her instinct on what constitutes a “big story”. “Right motivation and skills can realize any journalists’ dream to be able to produce stories that could not only shape the country, but also influence and change for the betterment of the future generation,” says Carvajal during her preliminaries of her lecture. She then gave practical advices in knowing if one’s story will make a huge impact in the society. “Our role is not to punish, but to bring to the attention of the authority the anomalies happening in our society,” explains Carvajal.
You’ll know when you have a good story, according to Carvajal, when it gives you an “AHA moment”, when you have an instinct that there is really something wrong in the community, may it be the governance, the leaders and others. “Then you can hone that…you can develop your nose for news if you want to be a good journalist. You should be observant of the things around you, when something struck you then something is there worth pursuing.”
She also advised aspirants to dig even deeper into details when someone tries to stop you from writing the story, because it is, according to her, is a story itself and respect the sanctity of your source’s privacy especially when the information provided is confidential. “When your source tells you that it’s off the record, then it is off the record,” says Carvajal. In addition, she also advises aspirants to always keep records or footages of interviews to serve as your protection when your source might deny you.
The second lecturer was a remarkable journalist whose books-the first of its kind journalist-authored books, unraveled the “inner workings” of the Philippine Supreme Court. As one who nurtures and fearlessly supports independent journalism, Libel cases did not; in anyway, stop her as she believes that she owes the truth to the people.
“Your loyalty is to your citizens,” says Rappler’s editor-at-large Marites D. Vitug. To be an effective vanguard of truth, one must put public interest first prior to personal interest says Vitug- the first core principle of responsible journalism.
According to her, journalists should also maintain independence from subjects covered as friendship is the worst form of vested interest as it may hinder the process of exposing the story. “When you cover a subject or an institution, dapat wala kang relationship na personal or even as a relative para hindi tayo ma-blame of being bias,” explains Vitug. She also encouraged future journalists to take time to explore covering courts and the judiciary although it may be less interesting than the other beats but members of the judiciary are one of the most powerful appointed members of the government-proving the old maxim “pens are mightier than swords”.
Completing the JOY 2015 awardees and lecturer of the event is the co-founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), a pioneer independent, nonprofit media agency that specializes in investigative reporting in Asia, and the Vice President and anchor of the GMA Network.
Although he is into writing, fate brought him into making documentaries-showing people the realities happening in the marginalized areas. One of his renowned documentaries, “Saplot” challenged viewers to imagine life without footwear, through his documentary, he even brought the public into the far flung area as to where having slippers is considered a luxury. His “thought-provoking” documentaries earned Howie and his team numerous prestigious awards and recognitions here and abroad.
As a responsible journalist, Howie believes that it is his responsibility to help define our identity, to show what we have accomplished and how far we need to go as a nation. He stands firm to be the voice of the powerless.
“The most important trait for being a good journalist is being a good person,” says Howie as he begins his lecture. “Journalism is imperfect but generally good people are attracted to the profession” he explains that there are a lot of things expected from journalists. “Kasama sa pagiging good journalist ay pagiging mabuting tao,” he emphasized.
As he lectures before a crowd of millennials, Howie encourages each and every one to use these advantages for the betterment and not only for personal selfish purposes. “For all your advantages now, na-eenjoy ko rin but I am more appreciative of the advantages we share in this day and age because I know how it felt not to have those advantages,” says Howie.
Basing on his life experiences as a person and as a journalist, he identified three things as to which the success and failure of our future depends on- our choices, our hard work and luck.
He emphasized that millennials enjoy a different kinds of freedom, political freedom, the freedom of the press and all. But on top of it all, according to him, millennials have the freedom to choose the kind of person you will be.
He also advised aspirants to forget passion and develop interest- contradicting the old maxim saying “develop your passion”. “At this stage in your life, forget passion. Sometimes it takes a long time, and sometimes people don’t feel it. But of you here have interests, so develop your interests, they will soon become your passion, it can become livelihoods.”
“Find good mentors and appreciate them” advised Howie as he shares his sincere gratitude to his former teachers. “Hindi natin na-aapreciate ang ating mga guro when we’re still in school,” says he. “I only began to appreciate the value of my teachers, the real value of my teachers and how much impact they made on the rest of my life after they were my teachers,” he added. He even disclosed that every World Teacher’s Day, he takes one of his favorite mentors out for lunch to remind them of how grateful he is having them as teachers.
Finding good collaborations is one of the topmost things a millennial should look into according to him. Because most of the time, journalists or even in other professions, we are required to work as a team. Television is unfair, says Severino, “kasi yung mga humaharap sa camera gets most of the credit and I think I’m mature enough to admit that why I am here is because of the credit in the documentaries I produced in the television. But Enggay Navarro (cameraman) is part of my big work for 20 years.”
The primary element of the television is images, one can produce documentaries without words but you can produce a documentary with just images. “Kaya para sa akin ang importante ay ang cameraman, hindi yung reporter, hindi yung writer.” Thus, in every award he receives he also invites Navarro to share the stage with him. Navarro is not just his colleague, Severino also considers him as his best friend.
In closing, he shared “wherever you are, wherever you go, make it a better place” because not all millennials in this generation have the same options as most of us have, according to him, it is in our hands to use the advantages to empower and do better. (Ella Dee Cruz-PAO,WMSU)