Back in the newsroom
Manila — I had an eventful, caught-in-a-tight-spot week. On Monday, I was in a TV franchise of an international news network in need of a digital news editor in chief. On Friday, I took an exam in another big TV station that’s also in need of a deputy editor. The first network wanted me to say yes and even called the HR person to see if we could already draft a contract.
I hit the brakes.
My last view of a newsroom was 17 years ago — 1999! That was also the last year I spent working as a senior reporter on special assignments in a newspaper. Previous to that, I worked for five-six years each in two other newspapers as a reporter, plus a stringer stint in an international news agency.
I belong to a generation of journalists who started by covering the police beat. This assignment SOP spared no one, whether one was a pompous kolehiyala (college girl) or a magna cum laude. News reporters of my generation took pride in having experienced extracting information from the perspective of police investigative work as a start of a journalism career. The thrill came from covering crime, abuse, violence, blood, death and all things not pretty. I was not thrilled of course, by the fact that these things I reported on happened to other people, not to me.
I went on to cover the gamut of social issues on health, science, human rights, on gender, children, society’s minorities, religion such as Roman Catholicism and other faiths, local governance, the communist movement, a little of foreign affairs and a taste of Congress. My last beat was defense. I could still remember my last craggy helicopter ride as I phoned-in, nay, yelled, details of my story to an editor who yelled back due to poor cellphone reception. I left that paper to join a short-lived one that paid better and recognized my seniority, but after an editorial upheaval, I decided to let go.
I became a foreign correspondent of an international news agency while doing media consultancies, writing and travelling for such organizations as the USAID, UN and ADB and a regional diplomatic organization while still writing and editing copies of other journalists.
Things have changed. Delivering the news is now in multimedia, multiplatform channels. I question the way today’s journalists gather information and how they edit and upload stories. I gape at their impatience for fame, even if I know that in the age of social media, they can take selfies with that rubble that’s left of what they just covered as a background and feel happy about it.
I was happy with a byline. And I kept it to myself with the thought that I can even do better tomorrow. Or I shared a drink with other friends who earned their byline for the day and dream of a world that we hope to change by being journalists.
I wonder if today’s newsroom would welcome someone like me. Or, because I believe in mutual feelings, I wonder if I would fall in love with it all over again.
(Diana G. Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila.)