It was then that I knew that alternative news agencies like Bulatlat are instrumental in speaking truth to power. Without the shackles of corporate interest that filters and distorts news agenda, independent media is what is grounds us and directs us to reality.
By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
It all started with a simple, “Psst! Apply ka sa student publication.”
I applied for a Mass Communication degree thinking that I’ll write for a fashion magazine in the future. It was a childhood dream, one that came to be after watching “The Devil Wears Prada” maybe twice as much as a normal person would.
Everything was planned, I already studied Fashion Design & Dressmaking right after high school, so I thought marrying the two was a foolproof plan to get me in the industry.
Until my journalism professor urged me to apply as a news writer for our student publication.
I did not particularly excel at news or feature writing, but I was determined to learn the craft. More than that, I chose to focus on stories about people that matter. I, together with my fellow staffers, were encouraged to write narratives that amplified the voices of the vulnerable. We knew, even with what little platform we had, that it was enough to shed light on current social issues to the student body. We organized seminars that tackled the plight of farmers, indigenous people, journalists and many more.
Which actually led me to work with Bulatlat. We arranged a symposium that discussed the cyber-attacks directed to the website during that time. It was then that I knew that alternative news agencies like Bulatlat are instrumental in speaking truth to power. Without the shackles of corporate interest that filters and distorts news agenda, independent media is what grounds us and directs us to reality.
This realization is what pushed me to apply for an internship with Bulatlat. I’d be lying if I said that the decision did not scare me, Bulatlat is a multi-awarded publication known for its no holds barred approach to reporting Philippine politics and human rights. But, I knew that training with a smaller agency would teach me more and push me to be more hands-on than, let’s say, choosing a big network then end up being tied to a desktop all from 9 to 5.
To this day, I think of it as one of the best decisions I’ve made in recent years.
Right off the bat, the team welcomed me with open arms and big smiles along with an enthusiastic, “Dawn! Gusto mong kape?” I guess it was one of the benefits of having a such a small group. It easily felt like a family, and I treat anyone who offers me coffee as family.
I was correct in thinking that I’d be more hands-on if I joined the team. I was assigned to cover presscons and to help with research on in-depth stories – tasks that I don’t usually get to do regularly for our student paper as editor. The experience was not an easy feat, especially for someone like me who gets overwhelmed a little too much too fast. But, the editors, my mentors, were always there to guide and encourage me while making sure that I’ll still go back for next week’s issue planning. Hah.
Of course, a few months on the ground won’t miraculously turn me into The Journalist. But, I’m proud to say that my short stint as a Bulatlat intern greatly influenced my principles and work ethic as a writer. It’s the small things that include, “Huwag na huwag kang mag-uuwi ng breaking news,” or having a little more patience when gathering data from a dated government website that still displays poorly photocopied documents.
As a person who learns through example, my biggest takeaway from this experience is that my editors showed me that being a writer does not give you a free pass to be apathetic or apolitical in the guise of objectivity, rather it gives you a responsibility to always stick to what is true and what is right.