by KRIZZIA DALE A. VILLAFLOR
MANILA — Last week, I had the great privilege of attending a lecture of columnist, journalist and college professor Luis V. Teodoro on alternative journalism.
Prof. Teodoro recently retired from teaching journalism in University of the Philippines where he was a dean of the College of Communications for two terms. Currently he is a lecturer in Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), a member of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Technical Panel on Communication and the Social Sciences, and chair of the CHED’s Technical Committee on Journalism Education. He is also the new deputy director of the Center of Media and Freedom Responsibility.
I arrived an hour before the lecture, and I was very eager to hear what Prof. Teodoro had to impart. When he began talking, I felt that it would be an afternoon I would not easily forget because what I learned is certain to stay with me for a long time as I begin my journey towards being a full-fledged journalist.
The respected journalist defined for us what ‘alternative journalism’ meant, and I realized that the principles the institution I was currently conducting my internship with, Bulatlat.com, is quite precisely a venue for alternative journalism.
According to Prof. Teodoro, the Philippine media system is currently controlled and directly influenced by political and economic interests. Because of this, there is frequent conflict with what a journalist should stand for and uphold: serving the public, giving them unbiased information that has immediate and long-term impact on their lives are for the public and that these services is to give information about what is happening in the country.
He went on to say that alternative journalism is committed to people empowerment, it is not tied within the economic political interest, it requires a readiness to accept new ways of looking at events, and it also addresses the problem of the nation.
How a reporter writes his reports reveals the extent of his objectivity and neutrality; but all aspects of a news article should also be treated without biases. There are some newspaper companies who deliberately choose to side with the government, but what is important is that all journalists make an effort and a commitment to report the truth, regardless of what the authorities say.
As for alternative journalism, it tries to give readers a new perspective and outlook regarding social issues; promoting a kind of reportage that reflects social realities and its impact on the marginalized sectors whose standpoint and viewpoint are seldom reported by the mainstream media.
Alternative journalism speaks about poverty, social injustice, political repression and human rights. Prof. Teodoro says that it keeps afire the hope for ‘change’ that dominant media sometimes fail to uphold.
Those who write commit themselves to reporting the truth about the oppressed and the neglected sectors of society.
In comparison, it has become my impression that mainstream journalism is driven by profit, by political interests, often biased, and sometimes inaccurate. Dean Teodoro offered a solution that perhaps it is the alternative journalism’s job to provide complete and précise news that would benefit not only the media itself but also the readers and the very people the news are about.
It’s saddening and even tragic that the mainstream media often highlights the unimportant and the trivial. It is the media’s duty to highlight what is newsworthy, but frequently it focuses on trivia and blow it to ridiculously massive proportions. Some media companies train their attention on covering an actresses’ crying over something she cannot buy and its totally ridiculous. They do report infinitely more important events, but they devote a mere 30 seconds to them on tv, or very short paragraphs to them on tv.
I learned from Prof. Teodoro’s words that journalists in the alternative media can transform trivia or entertainment news and make them into reports that will encourage readers into thinking about issues about society. Alternative journalists should encourage readers to overcome political biases by writing feature stories or articles that appeal to emotions even as they encourage analytical thinking.
I want to become a journalist because I was told that I had the capability to write. Now I realize that I have a chance to influence readers, maybe teach them a thing or two through articles that expose social, political and even cultural realities. Through my articles, I can help lead readers to a new dimension, and take them places they have never been before. If I can do that, maybe I can also inspire other people to think more about the country and what’s happening to it and its people.
While I was listening to Dean Teodoro, I felt that journalists can contribute to social change. He said that some dominant news companies are powerful, but alternative journalism has the means to encourage and empower people.
Alternative media, as Dean Teodoro explained gathers news about the people, about the masses. It carries a vision of people empowerment that’s different from the vision of traditional politicians. I learned that alternative media gives voice to the voiceless, and gives them the chance to be heard.
Dean Teodoro said that there are stories of people that the dominant media ignores. These people then struggle to find ways to share to the world what happened to them, and it’s the alternative media’s responsibility to help them in this.
After the lecture, this is my realization: If I am to become a journalist, then I must take on the responsibility of serving the people and writing for and about them. There is always a better way to train as a journalist, but what’s more important is for whom you are writing and what you are writing about.
Note: Prof. Teodoro recently retired from teaching journalism in University of the Philippines where he was a dean of the College of Communications for two terms. Currently he is a lecturer in Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), a member of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Technical Panel on Communication and the Social Sciences, and chair of the CHED’s Technical Committee on Journalism Education. He is also the new deputy director of the Center of Media and Freedom Responsibility.