VETERAN journalist Melinda Quintos de Jesus has urged her fellow scribes to write more stories about the ordinary people and their plights as they continue to navigate uncertainties amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Reports calling attention to people’s problems should be made more interesting as these are all relevant to your media audience. The heart of the news after all must be about what matters, supported by the unquestioned journalistic value which is relevance,” she said on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.
Also on Sept. 21, the freedom-loving Filipinos remembered the 48th year of President Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law, which enabled the late strongman to wield dictatorial powers that he used to commit atrocities, including trampling on human rights, disabling democratic institutions and silencing a free press from 1972 to 1986.
De Jesus, executive director of Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), was among the women journalists who wrote critically of the Marcos regime as a columnist of the Bulletin Today (now Manila Bulletin), a paper that survived the martial rule as an alleged propaganda tool.
She wrote on the excesses of the Marcoses, cases of disappearances and warrantless arrests and detention, and killings of activists during latter years of the regime.
De Jesus delivered on Monday her online talk, “Community Media in the Time of Pandemic and After,” for the Cebu Press Freedom Week 2020, which is virtually celebrated from Sept. 20 to 26 as media practitioners in Cebu cannot physically gather because of the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019.
The community media, she said, must stay relevant by making their stories engaging, whatever the platform is.
De Jesus said news about the government “should be about what has been done or what has yet to be done to solve a problem or to address an issue.”
“Your news should present these needs to those who have power and the capacity to do something about it,” she said.
De Jesus mentioned the plights of frontliners, including their need for personal protective equipment, masks, places to stay that are closer to hospitals and food supplies.
She also talked about the news on crops from farming communities that were undelivered to markets and homes because of travel restrictions caused by community quarantine.
Stories on poor communities, she said, also set movements and initiatives such as distributing food or raising funds for displaced jeepney drivers and wage earners who lost their jobs.
“These stories suggest to me that Filipinos can and will act for the good of all and the media must work to enhance this capacity, connecting the need to those who can provide,” De Jesus said.
At CMFR, de Jesus conceptualized the institutional framework and design of CMFR’s core programs: media monitoring to promote professional values in the practice of the press as well as press freedom protection.
She is the publisher of the annual journalism review Media Times and has developed training programs on media and the justice system, human rights reporting, peace journalism, coverage of the marginalized sectors (women and children, LGBT, indigenous peoples), and other emerging issues in the news agenda.
She continues to develop initiatives, such as the media literacy project and has been a speaker, panelist, and resource person at international conferences and meetings. (JOB)