ONE afternoon, I felt nostalgic and went through some files on my laptop from four to five years ago.
They were some of my write-ups during college when I was still a journalism student. On my final year, we were tasked to layout a magazine with our short write ups on it.
My essay below, entitled “Of Duties and Deadlines” was written one foggy dawn in Mindanao State University (MSU)–Marawi. It had my thoughts from years ago about studying journalism and pursuing a career in reporting, as well as some of the realizations I had when I worked as a student journalist in MSU Marawi for four years:
Three hours more before dawn comes. Our cold room is lighted by a make-shift bulb. Adding to the hour’s dampness is MSU’s foggy morning air. I am the only one in the house awake. I can feel the painful press of the ball pen between my fingers from hours of writing. I sipped some coffee and the warmth of the cup made me a bit drowsy.
Now my neck is strained. I dropped the pen and paper and reclined in my bed for a while.
A thought came in that let me made out a sigh: Why am I toiling so hard for a degree that will not pay much after graduation?
I turned in my bed and thought further. I could have enrolled in a program that would be a real moneymaker: Nursing, Engineering, or Accountancy. But I am afraid of blood, and I totally suck at Math too.
Perhaps a job with a decent pay: Education, Business Administration, or Ambassadorship. Even a job at an NGO pays fairly.
But why of the array of degrees available did I sign up for Journalism—a degree that will make you land to a job considered to be one of the most controversial, risky, and is even a low-paying profession?
A lot has been tagged to journalists and their line of work: rambunctious, loud, glorious, and often is accused of being deceitful and easy to be bought. Sadly, I am about to join their league.
Sure, you may become well-known with the awesome talent in writing, fearless reporting, and glorious byline. But above fame and popularity is the integrity a journalist must keep.
And integrity costs too much, especially that the work demands so much and literally pays little. It would be hard to keep the passion for balanced and professional reporting when the stomach is hungry and the pocket is empty.
The issue on integrity is one black shade of the profession. The issue has been criticized bitterly many times over. I cannot blame journalists who had to trade their integrity just to feed his entire family’s tummy. I myself came not from the middle class strata – or maybe lower, and I fear what trials and temptations I may face in the future.
Adding to these are the many misconceptions about our line of work. We are mandated to bring the bad news, in its purest and sometimes offending form. People point fingers at us and ask why we keep on blabbering negativity all year ‘round.
We become subtle adversaries to some figures; ones who speak of the wrong doings and evils of others.
And because of these obligation, many of my colleagues are intimidated, persecuted, and even hunted down because they lived their purpose as watchdogs of the society.
The infamous Ampatuan Massacre is just one proof from the many reported and hidden extrajudicial killings of journalists. Just to serve the masses, we become enemies of the State and even of the Underworld and put our lives on the line for our reports.
As how ink may drip, so may our blood become on the work field. And we write our reports with that blood.
But our salary comes not in any form of gold or silver. It comes from being able to undress evil doings and anomalies. It comes in the form of the awareness raised to the mass.
To censure the government and the accountable ones. To maintain peace and order by staining our hands with cold, wet ink. To enlighten dark, ignorant minds. To become catalysts.
Hated and hunted we may be, but we live to serve. Our pens are talismans against those who threaten the equilibrium of the status quo. This duty alone and the good it brings is our aspired reward, more than any glory a byline could give.
That foggy morning, I jumped up from my bed to pick up the pen and paper once more. I have to finish a few paragraphs more, and after that, I have to immediately go and write other article. On the way, I have a few hundred writer’s block and figures of speech to hurdle through. After this, I have to revise, edit, and sharpen the papers.
Streaks of the morning sun are now penetrating in my window. The dawn has come.
I have no more time to sleep because I have to pass my assignment first thing in the morning because I am still a journalist in training. And this is the labor I give for the society I am going to serve.