By Marivir R. Montebon
Turning tables turned out to be entertaining. We all hated Math hence, we became journalists. Censorship remains the bane to press freedom, and some of us still dream of interviewing Brad Pitt. We think that what Brian Williams did was the absolute no no. Our business is the truth.
Before the first ‘Meet and Ask the Press’ could start, there was already a selfie and groupie overload at the Producer’s Club on 44th Street in Times Square on September 16. Over cheese, wine, fruits, and pizza, courtesy of stage actor and film fest producer Luis Pedron, members of the Filipino-American Press Club of New York (FAPCNY) came in one by one to occupy the Producer’s Lounge. The usual animated glee which Filipinos are known for, plus the incessant picture-taking, were noticeably mounting.
The bar tender couldn’t hide his amazement at our compulsion with selfies. You guys are so much fun, he remarked. That was a full hour of easy conversations and self-indulgence that Wednesday night where summer’s heat still lingered.
The forum opened with Carol Tanjutco of the Inquirer.net welcoming everyone. Makilala TV co-host Jen Furer and Asian Journal editor in chief Momar Visaya facilitated the discussion that centered on the challenges and perks of working as journalists. Lenn Almadin-Thornhill, Rappler.com correspondent begun her confession, so did Monette Rivera, broadcast journalist for Balitang America – Adobo Nation and president of the FAPCNY, and I. Absent during the forum were Don Tagala, multi-awarded broadcast journalist for ABS-CBN and The Fil-Am publisher and writer, Cristina DC Pastor.
It turned out that turning tables was entertaining. When asked why we chose to be journalists, we all agreed that night that it was because we hated Math. I shared that my father allowed me to shift from Accounting to Psychology when he saw that I failed in basic accounting and my calculus was a dismal 3 (despite too much effort to study).
Jen Furer asked about dealing with the truth. How do you deal with it, and what can you say about NBC’s Brian Williams. We all said that was an absolute no no. You are in the business of writing about the truth. You can’t lie, I said.
As for challenges, censorship remains the bane to press freedom. Publishers and owners ultimately decide to the favor of advertisers when judgment call requires, so that the paper would survive. However, as Momar Visaya said, as an editor, there are some ways for an editor to be able to angle a story that would make it see print.
So how does media stop being just so focused on entertainment to get more clicks and likes? Stories on immigration, slavery, education, and the more serious topics are being covered, and for my part, I make conscious effort to ‘feed’ these stories to select groups. To me, that is how to achieve balance in reporting.
Somebody asked, isn’t your job so perky?
There is no money in journalism, said Momar and everyone nodded. Lenn Almadin Thornhill said, yes it has its perks but it is work. Wherever you are, you have to deliver what is expected of you.
As media practitioner, what is your agenda? Do you have a mission?, a profound question thrown in by Cicero Oca after Lenn confessed that her dream interview would be actor Brad Pitt.
I was quick to reply that positive journalism is OSM!’s brand, making a big deal out of the good things people are doing in their communities and schools as professionals, students, or business persons. So far, the first three years have earned staggering readership for OSM!, monetizing this readership remains a challenge.
On that note, Lenn shared her experience with media in Trinidad & Tobago, on having to charge 99 cents to readers for them to be able to read a full article. New York Times does that as well. I know about that but too scared to dare. Perhaps I already should.
How about crab mentality, that should be old school but how do you deal with that?, Cicero again asked.
Monette responded about getting into partnerships with similar organizations to be able to reach out to more readers. The FAPCNY is a five-year old press group. Jen, for her part, emphasized on maximizing the share button of social media. I said, we could actually create a mutual admiration society, and we all laughed.
Every one seemed to have a good time that we dragged the night for too long with the indulgent selfies. (Photos by Lambert Parong and Chiara Garay)