Congratulations, Red Batario: Titus Brandsma Awards 2013 Philippines – for Leadership in Journalism
VICTOR REDMOND “RED” S. BATARIO is the Executive Director of the Center for Community Journalism and Development, Inc. (CCJD), a non-profit, non-stock organization that aims to support, encourage and help sustain efforts of journalists working with citizens, communities and institutions for social change.
Batario is also the representative for Asia of the London-based International News Safety Institute (INSI). The institute is a global network dedicated to the safety of journalists and media staff, and commited to fighting the persecution of journalists everywhere. It is a coalition of media organizations, groups working to uphold press freedom, unions and humanitarian campaigners working to create a culture of safety in media worldwide.
Titus Brandsma was a Dutch philosopher, professor, and Carmelite priest who was thrown in prisons during the Nazi occupation of Holland in the 1940s. While serving as the Church’s adviser to Catholic journalists in the Netherlands in 1935, he criticized anti-Jewish laws in his talks and writings, and wrote against publishing Nazi propaganda in Catholic publications, saying it was incompatible with Catholicism.
He reportedly suffered from beatings, hunger, hard labor and being used for medical research in Germany’s Dachau concentration camp from April 1942 until his executioner gave him lethal injection on July 26, 1942. Blessed John Paul II beatified him on Nov. 3, 1985, a year after the Church proclaimed him a martyr.
Titus Brandsma Award Philippines recognizes Filipino journalists and community media who best epitomize Blessed Titus’ life and principles. It also recognizes individuals and groups who have created an impact and influenced the fields of Leadership in Journalism, communication and culture and arts. “It honors the modern-day prophets and martyrs” for press freedom, Order of Carmelites Philippines Prior Provincial Fr. Christian Buenafe explained.
News Agenda Setting…By the People
When I was a reporter…back when I was still young and pretty…journalism was defined by the newsroom’s own agenda setting…which was to follow the old dictum that what bleeds…leads.
It didn’t help any that my newsroom baptism came during the Marcos years of martial regime…and that the newspaper I worked for was owned by a presidential crony. It was the worst and best of times to be a journalist. Worst in the sense that journalists learned oh so easily how to succumb to the blandishments and siren song of a despotic regime that was trying to project a benevolent image… and best in the sense that it also forced them to re-examine their….and journalism’s role….given the realities that confronted them every day.
That episode in my career taught me to think more clearly and deeply about journalism as a transformative tool….and reporting not simply as a means of relaying information but as a way of connecting with people.
Much later, I came across a thought-provoking article by Ervin S. Duggan, president of the US Public Broadcasting Service, on the workings and attitudes of the news media and I was struck by this passage: “The idea of journalists that the purpose of the story is the story itself invites a terrible kind of journalistic amorality…trying to do the story just for itself invites cynicism. It doesn’t invite the kind of heroic approach to journalism at all. It invites compromises and corruptions that deaden the enterprise at its heart.”
But what is at the heart of this journalistic cynicism? Is it because the rules that govern the news cycle no longer apply? Is it because uncorroborated stories are now the norm? Is it because journalism has become so competitive that the idea of stewardship, that we as journalists serve causes higher than ourselves no longer have an honorific cachet? That the story has become expedient to the demand for speed? Or is it symptomatic of an unraveling of the social fabric that the news media, wittingly or unwittingly, have contributed to?
These were some of the hard questions that…. a long time ago…in a galaxy seemingly so far, far away… prodded me and my partner, Girlie Sevilla Alvarez, to reexamine journalism both as craft and philosophy and whether it is contributing to the determination of democratic development in the Philippines. These were the very same questions that underscored the need to address the challenges faced by local communities and how journalism can provide them a roadmap to identifying problems and crafting solutions.
So it was not mere happenstance that allowed us to flesh out the concept and philosophy of public journalism as a way by which citizens can understand better the impact of the news on their lives, how journalism can provide opportunities for community debates to take place, and how they can actively participate in setting the news agenda. This is the thinking that guides us…this is the framework from which we proceed.
One of the lessons I learned in my work as a journalist over 30 years was that journalists are expert at agenda setting. In his book Coming to Public Judgment, sociologist Daniel Yankelovich said, “we have so much fun with it that we dash around raising consciousness here, raising consciousness there, then rush on to raise consciousness somewhere else, leaving all previous crises unattended.”
We need to take pause not only to examine the gains and pains of our work, but to see where we are and where we are going.
Many of my colleagues who are in this room right now would agree with me that much still needs to be done to improve journalism practice….just as there is so much more that needs to be done to ensure the independence and safety of those who practice the craft….given the chillingly increasing number of journalists killed while trying to lift the veil of darkness in their communities.
I humbly accept the Titus Brandsma Award Philippines 2013 for Leadership in Journalism for the countless journalists…especially those from local communities…who gave up their lives so that we all could come closer to the truth….for those who continue to bravely shine the light on what others with devious intent would want to keep hidden…for all of us who believe that while journalism as a craft is challenging…it can also be edifying sanctifying.