Life and death in journalism
I always knew I wanted to work in the media, but for years, I couldn’t get myself to say it around other people. One time, in a social gathering, one family friend asked me across the dining table, “So are you gonna be a doctor?”
I said no, but he persisted, “so what?”, followed by what felt like long and insufferable silence before my mom answered for me.
“Journalism,” she said.
Journalism entails many forms and ideas of deaths, figuratively and literally. They each came to me very gradually in my journey as a student journalist which started in high school.
Before anything else, of course, journalism meant deadlines. Short and ambitious ones. At one point, we developed a rapport within my circle to call it deathlines.
Next, I learned that print is dying, and that there was no way I would be pursuing journalism in college. No one told me that, but I neither had a good word about doing so. Nevertheless, I did pursue the career, and for a few years that I have been studying, where I’d end up in the future has been a constant question to me.
Then again, that doubt I had all along morphed into something else. It is now also an underlying fear. Philippines ranked first in the most dangerous countries for journalists in Southeast Asia in 2017, rising above Iraq, according to the International Federation of Journalists. Our rank will most likely remain high as long as Maguindanao Massacre, the single deadliest attack on journalists in the Philippine history, remains in court. But even if the case finally attains justice after a decade in a long overdue verdict, impunity still thrives in the country, imbued in all injustices and human rights violations which journalists fight for to tell.
Unfortunately, they take the toll for it with all the systematic silencing of the press, and direct and indirect attacks that intend to flay critics on their knees.
Before Maria Ressa was named an icon on the TIME 100 Most Influential People of 2019, she was arrested and released on bail multiple times, most recently for allegedly violating a dubious “cyber-libel” law. She, however, remained dauntless.
it’s one thing to read these events on the news, and it is another to be the one to tell
“We are journalists, and we will not be intimidated. We will shine the light. We will hold the line,” she said.
Now, for students like me who are expecting to work in media, these events can be haunting. In fact, it actually shows.
In an article published in The HERALDO FILIPINO Broadsheet Volume 34 Issue 1, Communication and Journalism Department Head Artin Umali said that concerns on safety is one of the reasons why AB Broadcast Journalism enrollees dropped to 8 this academic year.
Aside from this, Umali also shared that there is an economic factor for the decrease because of the low income of working in this industry, which isn’t a surprise for many. To be quite frank, it is something that we live with—the fear that we might not make it, and if we do, will it be enough for us to make a good and sustainable living?
I did not realize this early as someone who had a romantic idea of the pursuit of my job, and perhaps I was just too young and too passionate to fear taking on a journey this uncertain. When I turned 20 a few months ago, I have only begun to unite with the fact that unlike others who can freely pursue the profession without worries, I do not have the safety net of parents with money. This is a death that I am only starting to come to terms with.
Among all, what slaps me so hard, is the actual deaths, or appalling tragedies and crimes. In a span of a month, we delivered news on alleged kidnapping, sexual harassment, bomb threats, and gunning, which all happened relentlessly without a caution. If anything, these are what pushed me closer to the reality that some stories rise to this magnitude, and it’s simply my job to tell it, realizing that it’s one thing to read these events on the news, and it is another to be the one to tell.
Putting aside everything I am yet to face in the future, the one truth I have now is this: I still have a job to do, some parts of it I am yet to discover on the way, as a journalist of a student publication, where I have founded my continuous becoming, and where I’ve learned deaths along my process of learning life.