HOW would a newspaper columnist close a fruitful career writing columns? For weeks now since I got a psychiatric scare after the killing of a friend, I have been flirting with the idea of quitting newspaper column writing. I thought I wanted to be like some of my old friends who shunned the limelight and just became ordinary folk. Peace of mind is a bit elusive for newspaper column writers who dwell on society’s issues of the day. You get not only self-fulfilment, gratification and even adulation—but also hatred.
Until my wife asked me why I would quit. I blurted out a reason or two. She was unconvinced. And since I am what we Cebuanos call “sulundon nga bana,” I listened to her opposition.
Which reminded me of that time when I handled the opinion page of SunStar Cebu. An old hand did continue submitting columns in his old age until I noticed something different. His writing had lost its edge and gotten increasingly jumbled. I initially tried making sense of what he really wanted to convey and rewrote some sentences and paragraphs. I soon found the effort tiresome and conveyed this to the editor-in-chief. It was clearly time to end his stint in newspaper column writing.
Should I then continue writing newspaper columns until old age deprives me of my writing edge and sense?
I do like writing. Gaining readership is a plus that one could gain from writing newspaper columns. I started writing columns for a school paper. When I was in the mountains, I would drive away the loneliness by writing creative pieces that I alone read and admired. I would write fragments of what I had hoped would become a novel. Then I got arrested twice and lost whatever fragments I composed twice.
When I was placed under solitary confinement, I wrote short stories. When my captors got lenient, I borrowed a typewriter and submitted my writings to the old SunStar Weekend. Then I became a broadcaster and was slowly drawn back to writing. I ended up becoming a newspaper journalist, first with The Freeman and then with SunStar Cebu. The icing on the cake was when I was allowed to write columns.
I retired in 2019 when social media was gaining more influence than traditional media. Suddenly, anybody can write anything and gain readership. Lost in transition are the values and ethical standards that professional journalists hold dear. This is a discouraging development for us old hands in the journalism profession. By continuing to write my columns in this paper, I hope to help straighten what has become crooked in the current situation.
By the way, SunStar Cebu has just celebrated its 39th year of existence. I only wish the young generation of journalists the best. May the paper continue to thrive under your stewardship. And may you continue to be the purveyor of truth in this time of half-truths, fake news and historical revisionism.
November 29, 2021
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