Journalism is a profession that does not yield much dough.
Journalists are generally not paid well, but they stick to their job because they simply love putting their thoughts on paper and/or narrating events in an understandable and interesting way. Writing is their passion.
Another thing that keeps some journalists going is that they have profound motivations like serving the community. It is their keen sense of public service that compels them to do what they feel they must do – such as exposing graft cases or championing the cause of the poor and the down-trodden.
Because of their crusading spirit, they inevitably encounter job-related perils that include threats to their lives. This is particularly true in the Philippines where the constitutional provision guaranteeing the exercise of press freedom and protecting journalists is more honored in the breach than in compliance.
As a consequence, not a few died on the line of duty. Among them are the 30 journalists who were killed in the infamous Maguindanao massacre in 2009.
Despite the killings, threats, intimidation and baseless libel charges, most journalists in the Philippines persevere because most of them are brave enough to withstand the risks.
Filipino journalists look — with envy — at their counterparts here in the United States. Here in America, journalists are well paid and respected. It is much safer to practice journalism here than in the Philippines. There is practically no threat to the lives of journalists here, even those wielding the most acerbic pens.
Here in the US, press freedom is real, unlike in the Philippines where press freedom is illusory. The owners of media establishments in the Philippines control the press and treat their reporters, editors and news directors as mere lackeys. And press freedom ends where the interests of the media owners begin.
Several owners of Philippine newspapers, radio and TV stations have many other businesses. They openly use their media outfits to protect, defend and promote their business interests.
Most of the Philippine media owners pay meager salaries to their reporters and editors, and yet they are quick to condemn journalists who are linked to graft cases.
In the provinces, many journalists are extremely underpaid, and this makes them vulnerable to the blandishments of the rich, vice lords and politicians. They can hardly make both ends meet, and often their families are starving. As a consequence, they are forced to dip their finger in the corruption pie.
Inevitably, these problems have lowered media credibility in the Philippines.
President Aquino has demonstrated a strong political will in his campaign against graft and corruption in the government. It would benefit the whole country if he also addresses the corruption problem plaguing the media.
A respectable, credible media can help make the Philippines a great nation.