MORE than two decades after, an institution in Philippine television came in full circle when it officially aired its last remaining episode last June 30 with a feature on then newly proclaimed President Benigno Aquino III, now called P-Noy.
Coming to full circle since the show saw the light of the day during the ascendancy of P-Noy's mother the late Corazon C. Aquino who restored democracy back to the country giving birth to a fledgling free media of which Probe was part of. Fittingly it ended its run on the network where it started.
The show debuted way back in 1987, with CheChe Lazaro, Maria Ressa and Luchi Cruz Valdez as an investigative newsmagazine format show aired at the newly-reopened ABS-CBN. After nine months, it transferred to GMA 7 as a weekly late-night news magazine show known as the Probe Team.
It became a regular fixture over GMA-7 for many, many years, outliving several of its contemporaries. In 2003, after a controversial dispute over one of its subjects (a known PGMA ally) in an episode, the show pulled out from GMA and went straight to ABC-5 and was renamed as Probe Team Documentaries.
Two years after, it went back to its original home in ABS-CBN where it was renamed The Probe. Then a few years later, the show made a slight revamp by focusing more on profiling personalities, but nevertheless still retaining its hard-nosed no-nonsense approach. The show was named Probe Profiles.
Among the show's notable alumni include Bernadette Sembrano, Howie Severino, Karen Davila, Ricky Carandang, Twink Macaraig, Marga Ortigas, Plinky Webb and David Celdran. Many of which managed to have carved successful careers in the broadcasting industry now.
One of the show's facets is tackling society's many relevant issues with strict abidance to its tenets of ethics and professionalism. It was among the first TV programs to advocate against envelopmental journalism and irresponsible sensationalism among the media. Its program served as a vehicle to raise the standards of news and public affairs programming in the country.
Despite changing trends like the advent of showbizzy, tabloid type shows, Probe still stayed within its core values adopting perhaps more glossy production values and a fast-paced MTVish-like approach to adjust to changing times.
I got a chance to have a peek of its organization through my work as a Bureau Manager of the Kabataan News Network a Unicef communications project is handled by its affiliate program, Probe Media Foundation, created to sustain its advocacy of educating other media practitioners.
The program exposes youth TV journalists and their managers to practical media trainings and workshops conducted by people from Probe led by Ms. Cheche Lazaro herself.
There was one feature in Probe when the KNN Davao Bureau inspired and got to chip in. And that topic was the controversial replica of Michaelangelo's David located at the equally controversial Queensland Baywalk project in Matina.
It started with a tv scriptwriting and reportage workshop conducted by Probe senior producer Booma Cruz for the teens of KNN Davao. The workshop had the teen reporters brainstorm for a subject to be made into a TV segment. And one of the topics was the controversial statue of David.
The topic tickled the interest of Booma who viewed it as a potential segment for Probe. In a rare instance, the youthful KNN crew who also had picked the statue as a topic for the KNN TV show joined hands to aid the production crew of Probe in shooting the statue episode.
The KNN crew including myself saw firsthand the rigors and demands of how a Probe segment was made. Particularly myself a government media with tons of pwede na eto attitude. For a Prober, the phase "it can't be done" or "pwede na eto" seemed an alien lingo. For Probe, no shortcuts would be taken in coming up with a good well-rounded story and that means burning telephone lines to get DENR resource persons for an interview or going to some slum community to track down the artisans of the statue.
The final hurdle of the episode was getting the owner of Queensland Teodorico Adarna for an interview. Mr. Adarna seemed to be a very elusive guy. He was just so adamant in declining our request for interviews until he finally submitted to the dogged persistence of Ms. Lazaro for a phone interview in Manila.
The KNN crew got to meet Ms. Lazaro during her trip to Davao in time for a media seminar. She treated us to dinner at the now defunct Venue compound to show appreciation for the work of the bureau. A year later Probe Foundation would bring TV journalists from all Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam) to Davao City for a TV production workshop. Probe has exported its tenets not just to the national media practitioners but also to Asian media professionals as well.
Going back, I could say the show (Probe Team) has partly inspired me to be in this line of work though currently my work as a media is safely ensconced in the field of developmental information.
Several years back, I dreamt of becoming a crusading journalist who would expose headline-hogging corruption scandal or interview some wanted NPA cadre in a god-forsaken jungle. Thinking that it is some glamorous job, I would later realize that journalism is not a Masscomm student's dream world, rather it is a workplace needing requisite grit and courage, hardwork and intelligence, commitment and perseverance, fairness and objectivity, passion and pride. It is not just about presenting the news, it is about how you make and produce your stories.