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Journalism’s joys


Tuesday, December 21, was my last News Writing class for the year. I half expected the classroom to be half full, what with days left before Christmas Day. As it turns out, there were only two out of the 20 students who didn’t make it to class.

One of those who came dared to ask, “Are you dismissing us early today?” I replied with an impish smile, “Let’s see.”

Then someone said, “We might as well get used to not having holidays.” I picked up on that comment and asked, “Are we the only ones having class today? It’s good practice for you. You might as well get used to it early on.” There were no loud groans or grunts. I thought to myself, “This seems to be a batch of students serious enough about pursuing journalism after.”

ABS-CBN's Jeff Canoy during his coverage of the Mt Bulusan eruption

I was quietly pleased because they took to heart earlier discussions and what ABS-CBN reporters Jeff Canoy and Ryan Chua shared with them a couple of weeks back. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool reporter, you are used to working extended hours and having little personal time because everything you do is in the name of public service. And genuine service knows no boundaries artificially set by time.

No day is ever predictable for a General Assignments TV reporter, they said. An uneventful day can suddenly turn wild with just an unexpected eruption or disaster breaking out. In just a few hours, a reporter could suddenly find himself or herself on a plane or helicopter enroute to a disaster area, where weeks can pass by endlessly while the crew patiently waits for a volcano to erupt.

Jeff jokingly told the class that whenever locals see him in their area, they already know that disaster is not far behind. Bearer of bad news, Jeff is the network’s go-to guy for disaster coverage. His latest adventure was Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon, where he spent 20 days.

In an online environment, speed is all the more critical. Yet to Yasmin Arquiza, managing editor of GMAnews.TV, accuracy takes precedence. Speaking to the class a week ago, she said that certainly, in a 24/7 news environment, there is no such thing as a day-off as online journalists are always on call for any major breaking story.

GMANews.TV managing editor Yasmin Arquiza

Talk to any reporter over food or drinks, and s/he will complain about the stresses and the tensions that go with the job—deadlines, cursing or shrieking bosses, sources difficult to deal with, pressures from the top or from advertisers, frustration over unused stories that they toiled over, pressures from family members and friends wanting—if not demanding—time as well. During these times, many of them wish they had multiple bodies, if not body parts, to go around with.

Yet after emotional detoxification through inebriation (there is such a thing), the same reporter will be back on track pursuing new stories and new adventures. Call it masochism, but most reporters will say they miss the adrenaline rush. Many calm down after seeing their bylines or their stories air, or after they get pats on the back or words of thanks from strangers who benefited from their stories. Call it ego, call it feeling good about being appreciated, or simply call it being happy to be of help.

Many of the students laughed when told that after engaging in a shouting match in the newsroom, journalists can later be drinking or breaking bread together to drown the day’s stresses and sorrows. Nothing personal, it’s all in a day’s work. Truly, the newsroom or any media office, where deadlines are as sacred as the secrecy of confession, is no place for the weak-hearted or the thin-skinned. “Matibay ang sikmura” (being intrepid) is what sets the survivors apart.

Journalism is a love-hate romance. It is possessive and demanding. It promises burnouts to those unable to master the art of pacing. It is an addiction difficult to shake off. Journalists themselves are either loved or loathed, depending on how well they do their jobs. They work even on Christmas Day as the rest of the world celebrates or takes pause.

Hearing about the demands and rewards of the profession, many of the students who came to class days before Christmas still raised their hands when I asked, “So how many of you still want to become journalists?” With eager looks on their faces, they seemed determined to carve their own niches and plunge into their own adventures. “Ah, more potential recruits to the journalism work force.” Newsbreak, independent journalism from the Philippines

CATEGORY: Blogs, Chay Florentino-Hofileña
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  1. Wow, 20 students? We’re only 9 students then.

  2. Jee, good to know, no? The call of the wild…

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