Independence Day Special: Freedom and Responsibilities of Reporting
By Marivir R. Montebon
“I think every aspiring young writer should spend some years as a news reporter, so he will be obliged to step out of his own private world and to experience the world outside. This will not only train him to be observant and objective, it may also save him from eccentricity, the danger that faces every creative writer. The newsman has to report who, what, when, where, why, and how as clearly as possible so that even people on the run can read him.
Journalism demands responsible writing. The reporter is duty-bound to communicate—and to communicate as sensibly as possible. He must not play games with the reading public: communication is a serious business.”
Philippine National Artist
New York City – During a News Writing Workshop which media colleague Cristina DC Pastor and I organized, Rachelle Peraz Ocampo, one of the anchor persons of the Makilala TV, asked how can one become a serious journalist. Prior to that, there was an upbeat conversation of the difference between a blogger and a journalist. Is a blogger a journalist?
Only a few serious members of the Fil-Am community actually showed up in the first undertaking on news writing workshop by the FilAm.net and OSM! www.justcliqit.com during that sweltering Friday, that ended the month of June. The conversation was however, as I expected, deep and fun. The workshop was held at the Oak Room of the Unification Theological Seminary on 5th Avenue.
As to Rachelle’s question, Cristina responded that being a serious journalist requires regularity in output of published stories. I added that it also meant having to be able to write a well-researched news story with variety of news sources, instead of just a single-sourced article.
In its true sense, serious journalism means having to be able to touch on issues beyond what meet the eyes like immigration, deportation, and other issues on safety and human rights. It goes beyond the events-driven reportage and dwells on what is normally not being talked about.
On the first hour of the workshop, we defined what journalism is and talked about the difference between reporting and blogging. The latter is definitely a child of the internet. It is a website which contains an individual’s opinions or expertise or experiences. Journalists, on the other hand, talk of events and other people not themselves, hence the key word that defines the craft called reportage.
So the blogger, in the generic sense, is the modern day opinion writer or self-promoter. A journalist can easily create her or his own blog. But a blogger will not necessarily mean he or she is a journalist.
The most exciting part was perhaps the workshop where participants were made to do a mock interview with Cristina as having won a Pulitzer for her investigative story on workplace bullying. They were made to write a short news article about it.
Community leader Juliet Astoria, a PIDCI stalwart and president of the Mindorenos living in the East Coast, reported her news story to the entire group which is a reportage of the ‘Juliet Astoria News Network.’ That must be some sign of things to come.
Cherry Smyth, from Connecticut and chair and founder of Kids Philippines, said she was very inspired that she is considering to seriously pursue writing, or blogging that is.
The three-hour workshop came and went. There will likely be another of this kind of workshop for the practical and refreshing value of succinct writing. As my day closed, I could not help but think of the graceful language of Nick Joaquin: “So that was the first vital thing I learned in journalism: that every report must be done as if you were reporting on the parting of the Red Sea, or the Battle of Pinaglabanan, or the splitting of the atom. Good reportage is telling it as it is but at the same time telling it knew, telling it surprising, telling it significant. The good reporter should become so absorbed in the story that he becomes invisible in it and the story seems to be telling itself. That is the basis of an old, old maxim: Trust the tale, not the teller.”
(Featured photo: the speakers and participants of the News Writing Workshop, series 1)