60th Courier Anniversary Issue
     
60th Anniversary Issue
 
Supplement Articles
:: Mayoralty Candidates & their vision for Baguio
:: What have we done to our city?
:: Leadership a
la Sudcordillera
:: If I could vote,
I would vote for...
:: A look at the northern youth vote
:: Shanty Town: rethinking
our mountains' development
:: Ma Fok's Secret
:: Ibaloi in international media
:: Preventing cervical cancer
:: Prostate cancer:
a brief perspective
:: Baguio Midland Courier goes online
:: Courier in the '60s
:: Baguio media notes and anecdotes
:: When headline writers become headline makers
:: The History of Baguio City National High School
:: 60 things to do and places to see in Cordi
:: How to make Baguio a child-friendly city
:: Election Cartoons
 
trisha When the Headline Writers become Headline Makers
Eduardo dela Cruz II
 

The news media exists to be a watchdog for the government. But what happens when these watchdogs become the “watched persons” of news repor-ting?

Media people throwing their hats into the political ring have become a usual sight in Philippine politics. The names they have created while in the journalism business are almost a surefire factor for their election, so others say. Yet, do they maintain such name and repute upon stepping inside an august hall?

For 60 years the Baguio Midland Courier has embraced journalists of different caliber, and for 60 years it has also been with the history of Baguio. For 60 years, it has created names for its journalists – names that brought them to other vocations including politics.

According to BMC’s editor in chief Cecile Afable, the writers’ “transfer to politics made their writing clearer and more analytical to the City of Baguio.” She said that most of the staff members and co-lumnists who ventured into politics performed well in their new vocation.

Although Baguio politics is not  exempted from journalists who have misrepresented the name they uphold when they became government leaders, Afable noted that some journalists-turned-politicians did not only  develop their proficiency in journalism but also became deeply motivated to extend their services to their constituents.

“They were good, honest, and really were interested in the affairs of the city,” she added, citing that it was never the name they created while in the journalism business that motivated them to join politics but their love for the city and the province.

Courier columnist Virginia de Guia agrees with Afable. De Guia was a columnist of this paper before she was invited to be among the city leaders in 1941.

She served first as a councilor, then vice-mayor, then eventually the first woman mayor of the city.

“Before I even knew it, I was there already, a city official,” she said, claiming that she was a politician by accident at the same time a writer by chance. “I just love the city. I never imagined that I will be a politician. I was just an ordinary citizen,” she added.

She said that all that mattered, when she was a student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, was coming back home. “Baguio to me is very close. I saw it grow, and if it is not growing right, I oppose to it,” she said, adding, “I mind how it grows.”

After government service, she engaged herself into causes that would still envision Baguio as the city. She went back as a columnist in the Courier and writes for the “Baguio Ko, Mahal Ko” column until the present.

“Anybody joining the politics must have something in mind for Baguio. If they are only for joining, we don’t care,” she added. “To preserve it is very important. We want Baguio to be of advantage to the whole country not just to its citizens.”

The banner that Baguio Midland Courier carries are the words “fair,” “fearless,” “friendly,” and “free.” But with its staff members and columnists joining the political arena, one wonders how it maintains such stand, given its 60 fruitful years.

“It does not have an effect,” Afable claims, relating that the name a journalist has created and the credibility of the Courier are not the foremost reasons why the staff members and columnists joined politics. She said that they have become separate entities when they became politicians, thus the paper’s goal to be fair and free is never tainted.

For 18 years, sportswriter and columnist Jogin Rey Tamayo has been with the Courier. He is also the paper’s editorial cartoonist. He is vying for a seat in the city council this coming May polls.

“Journalists and politicians share interest and knowledge of the work because of their working environment, which they both share. While politicians are discouraged from working as journalists as well because of conflict of interest, it has been a practice where incumbent and former elected officials take to opinion writing – whether to express real opinion or get more people to know him come election time,” he said. He added that sometimes journalists also turn to politics because of their perception that “incumbent officials, which they have had professional relationships (interviewer-interviewee) with, are not really doing their job.” Thus, the journalist feels he can do better, Tamayo added.

Moreover, the proximity of journalists to politicians also affords the same opportunity to engage with the political sector. “Proximity is not only limited to politicians but to its constituents as well – the same people he treats as readers and, later, future constituents for the mediaman-turned-politician. The journalist enjoys the advantage because of his constant exposure to the public through various media,” Tamayo said.

According to Atty. Isagani Calderon, University of the Philippines Baguio political science professor, this proximity then provides a competitive advantage to journalists when and if striving for a career in politics.

However, he added that radio and television personalities sometimes have a higher name recall as compared to those in the print business. “Pero at least, konti nalang yung kelangan nilang exposure. May initial na kasi silang publicity,” Calderon said.

Calderon says that the participation of journalists and broadcasters in Philippine politics is a good indication that the political system in the country is really a representation of people of different vocations. “But the conflict of interest comes soon as they (journalists) are elected,” he said, citing that if a journalist is elected and later on inevitably becomes a subject of controversies, a journalist covering the mediaman-turned-politician can be deemed biased, especially if the two are from the same media outfit.

“Paano ngayon siya (journalist-politician) titirahin [ng ibang journalist] in the future?”Calderon asks. “There is now a mental reservation from the voters.” He also cites a contract being imposed by a national broadcasting company to its employees not allowing the latter to engage into politics.

“Pero maganda rin na may mga journalist sa ating political system as long as they maintain the purity of their profession,”Calderon added.

“As in politics where one has to have at least the knowledge in basic law and legislation, journalists should also be taught formal trainings to further enhance responsible journalism. This will also prevent the prevalence of the so-called vinegar journalism and at the same time professionalize the trade,” Tamayo said.

Baguio voter Mark Cayabyab, 37 years old, says that the participation of journalists in politics can make the delivery of services and legislation more efficient. “Marami na silang naisulat tungkol sa mga politiko – yung mga magaganda at hindi magaganda – at kung sila ang magiging leaders, alam na nila yung kanilang gagawin,” he said. He added that as long as journalist-politicians do what is best for their constituents, the latter will continue to believe in the cause of the Fourth Estate’s existence.

Journalists join the vocation because of their calling to be ways of public information and education. They exist to inform the people on the affairs of the leaders and their government. On the other hand, politicians also want to take the lead in preserving and improving the state of the people. And this “transfer” seems to be a higher calling for a journalist.

But to tag politics as mightier than the pen or vice versa is inappropriate. One’s passion to serve the people through politics should not be deemed higher than that of the pen, or vice versa. The two work distinctively, separately, and independent of one another but are complementary in nature.

If in terms of influencing public opinion that these writers would have had a chance of winning if they were not “credible journalists” to begin with, then writing and public governance is achieved by that one person who engages in both vocations.

 
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