MALOLOS CITY—The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) urged for better working conditions of journalists and media workers in the country.
This came as Rowena Paraan, presented a paper entitled “In defense of journalism and media workers’ rights” at the recently concluded Philippine Press Institute National Press Forum (PPI-NPF) held at the New World Hotel in Makati City.
The said paper is directed not only to journalists, but to publishers and editors.
According to Paraan, journalists and media workers especially those in the provinces are underpaid and overworked.
“Many of those working in community media – both in newspapers and radio stations – have no idea that there is such a thing called minimum wage, or that the minimum wage law is supposed to apply to them as well, not just to the factory and office workers that are subjects of their news reports,” she said.
The same journalists have also the “willingness to multi-task,” which is also shared by reporters based in Metro Manila.
Paraan said, “in Manila, many reporters not only have to write the news – real time, mind you, for the online version and a longer piece for the primetime broadcast or tomorrow’s print version.
They also have to take photos and videos, and, yes, tweet. The latter is ‘encouraged’, meaning it is not required but if you fail to do it, it shows up in your evaluation form. “
Going to the provinces, Paraan vividly described the life of a journalist.
She said, “in the provinces, the reporter is not just a reporter. He is also a marketing person, sometimes, even the circulation staff. Sa praktika, anong itsura nito? Pagkatapos mag-interview ng reporter tungkol sa kung anong palagay ni mayor o ni negosyante tungkol sa anumang bagay para sa isusulat na balita, magtatanong naman siya kung pwede maglagay si mayor o si negosyante ng ad sa kanyang dyaryo o radyo.
Even a freshman journalism student would know what is wrong with this picture (I hope). Paano ka ngayon magsusulat o gagawa ng kritikal na balita o komentaryo kung ang ipapakain mo sa anak mo ay nakasalalay sa mismong tao na minsan (o madalas) ay kailangan mong batikusin?”
“And how many journalists in the provinces are paid by community publications,” Paraan asked.
“Sa maraming sitwasyon, ang tanging kita ng reporter ay 10 hanggang 20 porsyentong komisyon mula sa mga ads na nakukuha niya. In fact, I have heard several times that it is convenient to have the reporters – or those whose bylines are prominently displayed – to secure advertising contracts.”
She said that not too many journalists complain of the said condition, and stressed that it leads to conflict of interest.
Then, there are also those that work as correspondents and stringers for national and international news organizations who usually earn more when disasters strike, when fighting between rebels and government troops erupt and when crimes occur.
However, Paraan said, “Oh wait. Not just any crime. There has to be five or 10 victims, and the more gruesome the crime, the greater the chance of being published. Because they are paid by the number and length of articles published, tragedies are welcome in the sense that they are an opportunity to earn a few bucks.”
Paraan said that there is nothing wrong with stringing for international organizations like the Cable News Network (CNN), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Al Jazeera, Financial Times, New York Times and other major networks.
But in the Philippines, the practice is different.
She said, “dito sa Pilipinas, tingnan natin paano ang karaniwang kalakaran. Karaniwang sakop ng isang correspondent ang kanyang probinsya at mga katabing probinsya. Kapag may nangyari, pinupuntahan niya agad, ginagawan ng istorya at ipinapadala sa editor.
Gumagastos sa pamasahe, cellphone load, pagkain at internet. Kung minsan ginagamit ng kanyang dyaryo ang kanyang istorya, kung minsan hindi.
Kahit pa ginastusan niya ito, walang kasigurahan na mailalabas o maibabalik sa kanya ang ginastos. At kung lumabas man at mabayaran siya, ang kita madalas ay kulang pa para mabawi ang lahat ng nagastos.”
She noted, “Yes, correspondents are at the mercy of editors. Take note that there is usually no contract between the correspondent and news organization. If there is one, it often explicitly denies an employer-employee relationship. Because having one means being entitled to all the benefits that a regular worker should have.”
Paraan said the sorry state of provincial news correspondents in the country lies in the fact that except for “one newspaper whose correspondents are mostly regulars, and one that has four or five, the rest have no correspondents with regular employment status.”
Worst, said correspondents even bring pasalubong to their editors when they come to Manila.
She also hit news organization’s demand for exclusivity of news from their correspondents as unfair when there is no certainty that it will be published.
“It is true not all stories can be accommodated due to space or airtime limitations or the type of news may not be what the news organization needs. But at the very least, he should be able to offer the unused or rejected stories to other media houses. The demand to report exclusively for a news outlet precludes this option,” she said.
According to Paraan, newsroom policies “actually prime journalists to commit ethical breaches.” Dino Balabo