Even though Hillary lost, women still rock the world.
We also rock Guam, as was evident during the “Women in Journalism” discussion hosted by Humanities Guahan at the GCC Learning Resource Center on October 25th. I was privileged to join Patti Arroyo of K57, Guam’s first female morning radio talk show host; Sabrina Salas, KUAM news director; and Mar-Vic Cagurangan, publisher of the new Pacific Island Times you are reading at this instant, for a thought-provoking discussion about the issues facing our gender in this profession.
The seasoning of the women on the panel was apparent when we talked about our most memorable stories. For Patti, it was the adrenaline of covering the KAL crash in 1997, where she spoke directly with Dan Rather on CBS News. For Sabrina, it was interviewing Marian Taitano Johnston about her WWII stories and winning an Edward R. Murrow award for her work. (Murrow, a CBS news reporter famous for his reports that led to the downfall of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, is considered the godfather of journalism.) For MarVic, it was a coup in the Philippines where she one of the journalists caught in the crossfire – in fact a colleague protecting her was shot in the arm. One of my most memorable stories was that of making a difference for the manam’ ko sweltering on the fourth floor of the old GMH when I first arrived on Guam. A cameraman from Guam Cable TV had told me how his mom was suffering there. Our series of reports led to the installation of air conditioning at the facility and cool relief for its patients.
One of the most provocative topics of the evening was social media. This phenomenon, which was not around when all four of us started our careers, can turn anyone into an instant journalist – regardless of gender. We discussed with participants how to caution consumers – or in some cases addicts - of social media posts, to analyze and scrutinize this content, instead of just devouring and spreading it with abandon. Sabrina noted that KUAM just had been sent a video of a fight that was circulating on social media. They had no idea when the fight happened, where, who was involved – all the basics of a good news story were missing, save the video.
“It would be irresponsible of us to just post it,” Salas said, noting that they were trying to track down details so that they could post it as a responsible news story.
Therein lies the difference between simply posting something on the internet and being a legitimate, responsible journalist. News organizations, and good reporters, VET things. They find out the who, what, when, where, why, and how. They provide context. Of course you should still view their stories with a critical eye, but at least your eye can rest a little easier knowing that someone on the other end of that instant internet band wave looked into the details of what was posted BEFORE it was posted.
In this age of instant “news” via social media, it is up to the seasoned journalists of the world to convey to the younger generation the importance of scrutinizing and analyzing a story and its sources. These actions are vital for an informed society.
While women journalists do face issues that men in the profession don’t have to deal with – most notably in the areas of appearance, pregnancy, and childcare - truth and accuracy will always transcend gender. They must be the defining principles that we pass on to future generations, no matter whether you are woman or man.
(Jayne Flores is a long-time journalist. She currently works at Guam Community College. She can be reached at email@example.com)