A JOURNALIST METAMORPHOSES
Excerpts from BITING THE BIG APPLE
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City
In the early years of my profession, I realized how powerful being a journalist could truly be. I can talk to anyone to gather information and opinion, in the name of public service! I took pride (and most often fret) in having been able to interview then city mayor Tomas Osmena, who had a very candid and domineering demeanor, one cannot ask ‘silly’ questions or lest be insulted publicly.
On certain occasions, I interviewed Presidents Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
It seemed like the experiences were feathers in the hat.
Somewhere along the way, however, I got jaded as a journalist. I had been reporting and writing nothing much but bad news. Politicians, most of the time, are nothing but a bunch of liars and baby kissers during elections. Heinous and petty crimes remain unresolved and whitewashed.
In a country like mine especially, media have promoted the culture of victimization and oppression as a standard criteria for news reporting.
It had been too overwhelming and counter productive because it molded the mindset of hopelessness, resignation, and mendicancy.
I remember how I had vigorously covered a story on land reform, which landed on my lap when I was pregnant with my daughter. The farmers were living in the hills of the southern part of the city and were to be evicted because the land was to be developed into an 18-hole golf course.
I began following the story and reporting about it regularly, from the time their houses were razed to the ground by bulldozers, and how they resisted them using their limbs.
The farmers went to court too. Together with lawyers, they argued that the land is under land reform and that it should not be superseded by a local ordinance for economic development.
The feisty leader, the late Benito Abellar, became a favorite of the media, because of his eloquence and sharpness. He would always say to the judges and the media, how could you make the land that is productive with food and life for us farmers, into a playground for the rich.
And so the land dispute continued for years. Until I gave birth, until Nikki went to school, and finally until she was in Grade 3 at age nine.
The farmers were eventually uprooted from the land which was converted into a sprawling golf course. They were given several million pesos in damage compensation, and a relocation site where they could live, but the land was not fit for farming. The farmers effectively became part of the urban poor population in Cebu. The fight was a long and brave nine years.
To a journalist like me, the farmers were defeated, and the morals of society as well. It was a long bloody story that I wrote (as two farmers were shot by hired assassins of the land owner) that ended in their obscurity anyway.
There are many other stories which I covered that meant a lot of heartaches for me. Not that I want to hide from the painful truth when I decided to strike a balance between good news and bad news.
I just believe that media practitioners must also be heralds for hope, and amplifiers of good deeds in the hope that many will be emboldened to do good. Hence in the subsequent years, I found respite in the sections of lifestyle and business, which somehow reflected some sense of action for progress in the community and national lives of people.
Despite the sad and horrific stories of wars and human misery, I know there are many people doing good things in a silent way. For me, journalism has to chronicle these good deeds too. It is about time that inspiring, positive journalism gains ground. After several years of being jaded, I take on this philosophy and put it into practice in my own OSM! magazine.
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