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The Philippine Media: Now and Then

Next month I will be commemorating my 38th year in the field of journalism.

Photographed by: Omer Oscar Almenario (Martyrs of Maguindanao Massacre)

Through all these years, I have seen the growth of the profession in quantity and its deterioration in quality. I have also witnessed its ups and downs during the Marcos Regime that tried to curtail press freedom by using the muzzle of a gun. But crusading journalists survived in the midst of danger for wielding a potent weapon against all odds --- the quest for truth!

Working then for the defunct Ang Pahayagang Malaya (The Free Press) was a good stepping stone. Owned by late Jose Burgos Jr., the newspaper fought for press freedom and won it. During my stint as reporter, Burgos always reminded me: “Duck when a gun is fired. The bullet may have any of this inscription --- to whom it may concern or this one’s for you.”

Photographed by: Omer Oscar Almenario (Journalists discuss burning issues of the day)

When I was just starting as a young journalist fresh out of college and the gruelling gathering of news from different government agencies whose leaders were beholden to the powers that be, I had to reject distorted information being fed to us. I had to come out with the truth at all cost. And the result --- I had to experience harassment!

For the past 38 years until today, my utmost respect for both the publishers and the media practitioners remains intact. I look up to veteran journalists, who fought for truth, freedom and justice during the dark years, as the epitome of integrity, fairness and rectitude. Their shining examples impelled me to strive hard to emulate them so that I, too, would someday become successful like them in this thankless profession.

Photographed by: Omer Oscar Almenario (Journalists meet over copyright)

Success at that time, of course, meant excellence in doing jobs rather than opulence in earnings although the latter was a necessary consequence of the former. But as years passed by my intense ambition to succeed in this profession gradually faded away. My expectations and high regard for some of my colleagues came crashing down as I saw the entry of some misfits to the journalism field. Whether due to material needs or not, the high ethical standards of journalism were thrown out of the window as the number of members increased.

Today, whether we accept it or not, the primary motivating factors are no longer the pursuit of truth and justice, but the search for financial rewards. There’s no need to mention the names of those involved in graft and corruption. It always happens every now and then in both private and public offices when one gets sick of poverty.

Photographed by: Omer Oscar Almenario (Reunion of  journalists)

To be sure, this is not only happening in the media circle. Almost all other sectors in our society are experiencing such a dismaying deterioration. Under this depressing situation, I still hope that the quest for truth, justice and fairness will continue. I believe that some of our media colleagues out there remain true to their calling to give real meaning to the profession.

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