As an online journalist, I am often greeted by a series of irritating questions: ‘What is that website?’ ‘What paper is that?’ and my personal favorite: ‘Oh, so I won’t be able to read this, right?’
In the totem pole of Philippine media, online journalists often feel that they are almost near the bottom.
It’s not our fault. Most news websites in the country are an afterthought by these often Jurassic-thinking media owners who see websites as a shiny new toy but nothing more than a repository of their video or newspaper content in cyberspace.
Having worked for the website of a top television network in the past for three years (and now for TV5’s official news website), I am often defensive after revealing to someone where I work for. In almost all press conferences or news events I attend, people always mistake me for the reporter of the television network.
‘So where’s your camera?’ the wide-eyed PR manager of press conference x would ask me.
‘Here’, I would often say, showing my diminutive Canon Ixus point-and-shoot camera, ‘It’s 7.1 megapixels, so it’s clear and crisp.’
After realizing that I wasn’t joking, the smile on the PR person’s face would turn upside down. At that moment, I would often feel that the invisible red carpet rolled out to the more ‘popular’ journalists has been pulled out from under my feet.
In the latest survey done by Nielsen, close to half of Filipinos have Internet access. Most of their cyberspace activities still involve a great deal of social networking, online gaming, sports news browsing, and ehem, porn (but we’ll talk about UST alumnus Hayden Kho’s online sexploits later).
While newspaper readership is on a slow yet steady decline, it was shown that the visits to these broadsheets’ websites were increasing. It might mean that their readers, who used to shell out P20 pesos (roughly $0.50) for a newspaper, have instead subscribed to their official website. Online news readership is increasing and becoming more popular too, thanks to the advent of Facebook and Twitter, which directs most of the traffic to online news sites.
Over the past few years, online journalists have made their mark in the mainstream and alternative media as a credible source of information. We are often the first ones to break news stories which mean we are also the first read.
For the University of Santo Tomas to declare that it doesn`t recognize online journalists as legitimate journalists of mainstream media underlies their Middle Age thinking (which in the Digital Era is the 90s). Has anyone from the pool of writers of UST’s so-called ‘official’ statement see how an online journalist works in the field?
Overworked and often underpaid, online journalists are masters of multi-tasking: On hand is the handy-dandy tape recorder (We do this to avoid misquoting, dear UST), on the other is a pen and paper to take notes of the interview. And if that isn’t enough, online journalists are often asked to take videos of the interview, edit and upload it to their sites using their bulky laptops. Online journalists working for GMA News for instance, are also encouraged to tweet (that’s the verb used in Twitter, dear UST) and Facebook key quotes and salient points in a news coverage to keep readers updated in social networking sites.
Online journalists are also one of the most hardworking. A good friend of mine has kept covering the Ampatuan Trial in Bicutan since it started and is often the lone journalist left in the courtroom when most of the mainstream reporters from TV and print have left to cover more ‘exciting’ news.
Another one-man-team online journalist is the first one to arrive in the Senate press office and the last one to leave, to make sure that she doesn`t miss out on anything important for that day. She does that after writing five stories already for that day.
Then another online journalist would be ringing the phones of top cabinet officials just to get their side on a story. She does this despite the fact that most of these sources will inadvertently dismiss her as a ‘hao siao’, a fake journalist. Oh, and by the way, this hardworking online journalist came from UST.
Dear UST ‘official statement’ writer(s): in trying to put down online journalists, you have ultimately just embarrassed yourselves. Bravo. I am sure you own computers or browse online from your mobile phones so how on earth can you not know that online journalists exist and are in fact legitimate?
I am an online journalist. I am a hardworker. I am NOT hao siao.
And while I fully support Rappler.com’s stand on the issue, I regret to inform them that they are mistaken if they think that online journalism is the ‘Future’. To say that online journalism is the future is to understate the valuable contributions made by online journalists in the now.
Ladies and Gentlemen, online journalism is not the future...it is the now. Anyone who thinks otherwise clearly still owns a Windows 95 desktop computer.
Joseph Holandes Ubalde has worked for GMA News online for three years, has studied Online and Multimedia Journalism in Germany, has been working in InterAksyon.com, has won two online journalism awards, and is not from UST. He is in fact an online journalism senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines, where online journalists are most welcome.
BDST 1802 hrs, January 4, 2012
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