As a journalist for more than a decade, I have been on dangerous assignments. I have fearlessly but carefully tackled different societal issues. Yet I never had any pain of being insulted or degraded to the point of being ashamed of my profession— until lately, when I was lambasted for the sins of my erring colleagues. Hearing those bad adjectives attached to the media makes me want to be swallowed by the earth.
But truth really hurts. Most of the things they say about media men—bias, corrupt, troublemaker, attention-seeker—are not far from reality. But there remain some few good men. I am just dismayed that I have been adjudged guilty by association.
Thus, presented with this painful reality, I am challenged to exert extra efforts to help reconstruct this industry in the local setting, and the first step is to accept the idea of the need to rebuild.
Members of the media struggle for financial stability, security of tenure and equal opportunities.
Allow me to elaborate:
Financial stability- Being a journalist doesn’t pay much financially. One has to wait for years an increase in take-home pay. Compared to other professions, we usually start as minimum wage earners while we work until after midnight and even until dawn to cover stories. A senior reporter is paid like a new entrant in a call center.
It is probably because of this that the opportunity to gain from other and polluted sources appears more tempting. The result – manufactured facts and circumvented news.
Security– To media practitioners, their work is primarily public service; to owners, it is a business. In the event that owners face prosecution because of some commentaries and the legal battle hampers the regular flow of business, owners will choose to defend their business over their employees.
Equal opportunities– Seniority still rules; newcomers have a slim chance of developing potentials. The corporate world settles for the seniors in the industry, forgetting to mold new ones. And for as long as a talent/practitioner is marketable, he is still good to keep so no need to invest in new and uncertain talent. To a newcomer, the rule is: wait until a frontliner dies so a chair will be vacated.
To illustrate further using the David Osborne & Peter Plastrik’s strategies of reinventing the bureaucracy I would like to identify the core of the industry, who has the control and consequence, the customer, and the culture of the capitalist and the practitioners.
The late Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kwan Yew believed that media should not be considered as fourth estate but rather as part of the main estate. Lee Kwan Yew added that media should not speak ill of the ruler of the government and meddle in the affairs of the state.
In the Philippines, most often than not, media dictates the agenda of the day, the ruling entity regards its presence as the rulers’ guard dog. Hence, the bureaucrats wag the dog’s tail, appear impressive to the media and consequently to the whole country. Facades after facades are created by some unscrupulous members of the media for a fee. As a result, we are made to believe false images.
If the present situation in the media industry will continue to prevail, time will come when reality is nothing but a creation of the media.
Again, let me reiterate my dream for my industry.
I have a dream that some day mainstream media will no longer be fashionable and social media will dominate the airwaves;
I have a dream that someday freethinkers will be the responsible social journalists who will affect societal change, not the mainstream journalists who serve at the pleasure of the capitalists;
I have a dream that someday the media industry will not only be passive catalysts for change but agents of participatory governance;
I have a dream that someday those unscrupulous mediamen who sell headlines will be struck by the might of their own pen;
I have a dream that citizens of the 4th estate will see media not as a profession but a vocation to help build the nation.
*Catch me live on weekdays at DZRH 6:00-7:30PM or you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org