By Peter Angelo Blaza
In the end, a person’s name is all that matters.
This was a message by renowned media practitioner Cecilia “Che Che” Lazaro as she and other media panelists closed the College of Mass Communication Foundation Week with a discussion held earlier today at the CMC Auditorium.
“Our name is the most valuable thing we have,” she said.
Lazaro, a former Broadcast Communication department chairperson, said a journalist’s name is the most important thing they must protect because journalists thrive on credibility in the field.
She said the practice of envelopmental journalism is rampant in the country because the profession only entitles little money for the reporter.
“Money evaporates, but your name proceeds well beyond your grave” Lazaro remarked.
RPN 9reporter and Broadcast Communication professor Marie Ann Los Banos said peer pressure is a key factor as to why journalists accept bribes in the first place.
She said journalists who are given the money usually receive it at the same time with other reporters, making it harder for the journalist to refuse the money due to fear of being ostracized.
Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Alcuin Papa said journalists who engage in this practice are often marked for life because by merely accepting the gift entitles the receiver to have a debt of gratitude to the one who gave the money.
“Once you participate, you are instantly marked as one of them,” Papa said in Filipino.
He suggested that the first thing a journalist should do is not to spend the money and consult the desk immediately, because they know how to deal with the issue.
Papa said one of problems in covering elections is the over-focus on the national elections over the local ones.
“Local elections have a bigger impact on our lives,”he said.
He said most of the coverage on local elections fall under the Metro pages with reporters still green at handling election issues.
Papa said one of the reasons why the media centers on the national elections because it rakes in a lot of revenues with all the hype on election polls and mudslinging.
He said it may be because they treat media as a business, and the juicier the story is the more ratings the companies get.
Papa discussed why many politicians do not follow the election code and said it was because the public lets them get away with it.
“If they don’t follow election laws, why put them in office?” he said.
Lazaro explained Filipinos have a concept of famous personalities being above the law.
She said there is a trend where most personalities go unpunished because the public believes it is okay for these people to break the rules since they are special.
Lazaro said this is something that should be changed and proper knowledge is the key for solving it.
The right questions
When covering elections, Lazaro said all politicians loved using motherhood statements like “pagbabago” and “resolba ang kahirapan” without giving any actual solutions for their statements.
“They are not looking at the gut issues since they want to be on the safe side,” she said.
Most politicians never reveal their stands on pertinent issues like the RH Bill because they fear doing so would lose a lot of votes, she said.
“They’re trying to please all sectors,” Lazaro said.
She said it is the media’s job to find their answers since most politicians do not respond to the issues directly.
One of those means, Lazaro said, was to do extensive research and give out the facts on the issue.
Los Banos said politicians are tricky, that is why journalists should continue asking questions even if the politician will not answer the issues.
“When it comes to coverage, we need to have the right prerogative,” she said in Filipino.
Papa said what students learn in school actually acts as a foundation on their future role as journalists.
He said ethics is important no matter what other people say because it is the reporter’s judgment whether that story will be published.
He said journalists will have biases, but they have a “moral north star” to guide them.
“Even if you just sit down and write, ethical considerations already applies,” Papa said.
Lazaro advises the students not to lose the focus on ethical writing because it is the responsibility of a media practitioner to exercise ethical reporting at all times.
“Keep your ideals, don’t be fooled by the system,” Lazaro said.
Educate the illiterate
DZAS radio broadcaster Eric Maliwat said it is the journalist’s job to educate the masses into telling them what to think and what to think about, especially election related matters.
“If the public becomes literate, they will find [an]electorate who will reflect them,”he said.
He said the masses are having a hard time thinking because they can’t even have enough food to feed their family, that is why journalists should stand up for the role of being their guide.
“We need to teach them to think,” Maliwat said.