Third World

Musings of a Third World journalist

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Written by Jon Joaquin

February 17, 2016 at 8:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Written by Jon Joaquin

February 8, 2016 at 10:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Jamming in the dark

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MONTEREY, California — Believe it or not, there was a rather long power outage in Salinas, California on Tuesday night that lasted almost seven hours. Salinas is where my older brother works on weekdays (he drives home to his family in Los Angeles on weekends), and since this is close to Monterey this is where I’ve been staying during my attachment to the Monterey County Herald. One of the objectives of the International Journalism Exchange (IJE) is to expose the participants not just to American newspapers but to American culture as well, and the preference is to have us stay with families during the attachment period. Unfortunately, the Herald folks couldn’t find a family to host me, so since my brother lives in Salinas it was suggested that I stay with him instead. I’m missing out on the exposure to an American family, but then again I’m getting to spend more time with my brother and mother than I’ve had in the past 20 years. American culture can wait. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jon Joaquin

October 1, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Posted in US trip 2008

No worries?

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MONTEREY, California — The average American journalist worries about job security, but most of them can avail themselves of packages that can help tide them over to the next job. They do not worry about getting killed, or being imprisoned for libel (it is a civil offense here, not criminal), or getting hit by a big rock while covering a protest, or being kidnapped while interviewing bandits, or being arrested for covering a coup attempt, or being scolded and censored by government officials. Not all Pinoy journalists face all these threats on a daily basis, but the dangers are there and can affect the way we work and how news — real news — is delivered to the people.

For David Kellogg, the Herald’s city editor, the biggest threats to American journalists are ethics and fairness. Ethics is a big issue in the media, he says, and with journalists being lower-paid than many other professionals, the temptation is there to give in to gifts, perks, and other forms of bribery. It works pretty much the same way it would in the Philippines: the briber hands out golf memberships or other gifts to journalists, and in exchange they expect favorable stories about them to come out in the papers. David proudly says none of the Herald’s staff gets any of these bribes, but he couldn’t say the same for the rest of the country’s journalists.

Fairness is also an issue, and there has been a growing sense that each side of a story should be given space. These two concerns are shared by Pinoy journalists, where bribery and the temptation to give only one’s favored side of a story are difficult to refuse. With the country perennially in crisis, it is not difficult to see why reporters — who are not well paid even in the best of times — give in. But that is no excuse: there is no reason for any journalist to engage in any activity that compromises the truth. As they say here, if they can’t stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen.

Written by Jon Joaquin

September 30, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Posted in US trip 2008

Different issues

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MONTEREY, California — So how does a US newsroom work? I’m pretty sure there is a great variety, but the smaller ones are represented pretty much by the Monterey County Herald. “Small,” of course, is relative: the Herald has a daily circulation of 25,000 (and 35,000 for its Sunday issue) for a population of 150,000, while the Mirror has a circulation of 20,000 for a population of 1.5 million. The Herald is also better equipped, with bigger offices and more computers than there are people (helped in no small measure by the recent layoffs that have been happening because of the ailing condition of the newspaper industry in this country). Despite the layoffs, there are still a lot of  people in the newsroom, and they all work together to come up with a product they are all proud of.

Perhaps it’s different with the bigger papers here, but in the Herald newsroom, there is no noise, no shouting, no cursing each other, no running around to get interviews and stories done. No one bangs at the computers, no one barks out commands, no one cries in frustration. Everything is done professionally, which is not to say the place is stiff; on the contrary, everyone is warm and friendly and ready to help each other out, even a visitor like me who came here to learn and can be a nuisance and a burden to the person unlucky enough to be the guide for the day.

This easy-going pace has a lot to do with the kind of life people live here in Monterey. Here the issues have to do with development, environment, the economy, politics, and the like. There is little violence, although there is one story in which a woman was abducted and killed, and her boyfriend has now become a “person of interest.” There is also a forest fire going on somewhere, called the Chalk Fire because it is close to Chalk Peak in Monterey. But there are no daily killings, no political mudslinging, no scandalous affairs, no gossip. It’s not boring, but it is different, and the manner of coverage reflects that: there is no mad rush to get to the scene of the crime, no frantic search for a person to get his or her comments. In fact, many interviews are done by phone, and they get more information that way.

Written by Jon Joaquin

September 30, 2008 at 9:02 pm

Posted in US trip 2008

Dewhat?

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MONTEREY, California — On my second day in Monterey, Joe Livernois, the paper’s executive editor, took me to one of the “debates” the Herald is hosting for the purpose of choosing local candidates it will endorse in the November 4 elections. I found this unusual since not many Philippine papers endorse candidates, at least not officially. What was even more unusual was the manner in which the “debate” was held (which is the reason the word is in quotes): the five candidates were seated next to each other in a long table, and they took turns outlining their programs. There was no fighting, no harsh words, no real debating going on. I made this observation to Joe, telling him that in the Philippines the candidates all run on the same platform (maka-Diyos, makabayan, makatao, makakalikasan, or pro-God, pro-country, pro-people, and pro-environment) and so are reduced to attacking each other on a personal level during campaigns.

I guess this also has to do with the level of education the voters have. In Monterey, and in much of the US, people are more educated and can thus stand watching candidates present their platforms. In the Philippines, the masses are largely undereducated and can be swayed to vote for the candidate who gives the best show, or who can give them the most money, or who can threaten them with the worst physical harm. Many suspect that government officials purposely give low priority to education because they know that an educated masses will vote on the basis of platforms and issues, not guns, goons, or gold. In other words, the only way they can get elected and reelected is by keeping the people ignorant and/or afraid.

Now I know that things get nasty on the national level of elections here, but it was both refreshing and depressing to see that in the local level, campaigns are so civil. Refreshing because I realized that politicians can still be decent, but depressing because that is not the case in the Philippines — at least not yet. I am wondering if we can ever get to the point where we can argue on issues and not on personality, where campaigns are built around debates and not on attacks.

Written by Jon Joaquin

September 30, 2008 at 4:21 am

Posted in US trip 2008

Like fish to a sandbox

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MONTEREY, California — Before coming to the US to participate in the International Journalism Exchange (IJE), my notion of American newspapers was they were powerful, rich, and very influential entities that more or less got their way with anything. In many ways that is still true, especially when one compares the situation with the Philippines, but I received a bit of a shock when we were told at the beginning of the IJE that things have changed dramatically over the past few months. The influence is still there, but the money has gone elsewhere and newspapers are hanging on for dear life. There have been layoffs in even the bigger newspapers like the Washington Post (which we visited last Tuesday, September 23), and one can imagine how much tougher things are for smaller papers. In many ways, what I am learning in this training is how US papers are surviving in these difficult times — and that’s very appropriate for the situation back home.

One of the things I’m interested in learning is learning how to use the internet to boost the printed edition of the Mirror, but as it turns out, the newspapers here are also struggling with this themselves. Revenues from websites have not been substantial yet, but publishers and editors know that their future is in the web and so they plunge right in. Newspapers know that it is the internet that is killing their business, with sites like craigslist.com taking over the classified ads and bloggers usurping the throne long held by reporters and columnists. Now, rather belatedly, they are jumping the bandwagon, and they are taking it to the new medium like fish to a sandbox.

The Monterey County Herald (in California), where I am spending the attachment phase of the IJE, is testing the internet waters and is implementing a number of ideas that may or may not catch on. I sat in with Lisa Mitchell, who manages the paper’s website, and she showed me some of the stuff the paper has online, some of which can be implemented easily and others not without considerable time, effort, and money. But the tools are there, and in many ways it only takes a desire to actually jump into the bandwagon to get it done. The fear of many newspapers is that putting up a website is a one-way street to financial ruin since many companies are still unsure about advertising online, and that is a justified apprehension. But the papers here know that sooner or later a sound business model will be found for online newspapers, and so it makes sense to have a web presence now and be deemed a trailblazer than delay and be called a late adopter.

Written by Jon Joaquin

September 30, 2008 at 1:11 am

Posted in US trip 2008