Chit Estella-Simbulan, 54

I WAS THE silent guy seated somewhere in the middle of Ms Chit Estella-Simbulan’s News Writing class in 2005.

It was a class of about 20-25, and I never caught her attention. But she always caught mine.

As one who kept in her office a framed photograph of herself beside former President Cory Aquino, Ma’am Chit was one who truly loved her profession. Looking at that photo, I learned journalism had its perks, too. And that it’s a vocation. That some people actually enter an industry that is not exactly lucrative and is vulnerable to abuse and violence (if one were not careful) — but they enter it anyway because they believe it is their “calling” and won’t be happy if they did otherwise.

Her classes were never dull. She wasn’t really talkative nor did she bring us to field trips (she didn’t need to; we, in a sense, had to do it ourselves in order to write our actual news reports), but those three-hour sessions my classmates and I had with her were like good straight-news stories: packed solely with the essentials, no frills. And she was never wont to frown or put anyone down in front of the class. She believed in her students, like all good teachers.

And then she became my thesis adviser. And months passed since the last time I discussed the thesis with her. And everything seemed crumbling down, with me not having completed the chapters yet. And quitting loomed as an option after I submitted my thesis draft that supposedly was days overdue… That’s when she returned the copy some days afterwards and sprinkled it with red ink — corrections and questions here and there — summing up to a cheerful and encouraging note that it’s not yet the end at all! Cutting the long story short, she gave me 1.25 for the thesis, and I soon marched to the stage with a sablay on.

***

I told one friend Ma’am Chit was not the type who would die in a car crash just like that. She was too full of energy — she often jogged around campus — and passion and talent and cheer. She was one who would pass on to the next batches of student-journalists (in UP at least) the beauty of and honor that is being a good journalist and being a good teacher. She had something everlasting to share…

Rest in God’s peace, Ma’am Chit.

Crisis of Journalism

A bit  belated in particular, but not in general. Here’s the take of Antonio Montalvan II on media’s more popish exegesis of the Pope’s remarks on condoms.

IT WAS, without doubt, the media fiesta of the year. As fiestas go, adrenaline was high. Popish interpretations of the Pope’s statement on condom use became the screaming headlines of broadsheets and broadcasts, with emphasis on “screaming.” …

Continue reading at the Inquirer website.

A footnote on technology and journalism

I’VE read somewhere that digital advances in journalism will lead us to greater transparency, contributing — as academics would say — to a more truthful discourse in society; and that we have to thank social media tools for that.

For example, look at how some news stories first came out as Facebook updates or as tweets. Recently, when Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago accidentally fell off the stage in a speaking engagement in Turkey (was it ala MIRIAM Quiambao? I’m unsure), her tweet about the sad fall became the primary source. The news unfolded in real time on my Twitter timeline. And Miriam’s tweet was publicly accessible, so news about the event already came as nearly insignificant.

Now gone, somehow, is the instance when it is impossible for readers immediately to verify the supposed truth of some reports. If the news is about a public person — preferably tech-savvy — you can now go straight to that person’s Twitter account to check his or her recent whereabouts (e.g. “Eating Buffalo wings. Yum!”). Instant primary source! No need for mediators.

And as regards online reading experience, Google Labs’ new guinea pig, Google Fast Flip, also has promise. With it, one no longer has to wait for 10 seconds or more (because of slow loading) in order to scan a news webpage…

Now all this is very, very commendable.

But it is good to remember that the value of media as an industry is not so much the media it uses as it is the integrity of the content it produces. We can each have iPads (or its likes) in the privacy of the john, reading the day’s “papers.” But if the papers’ contents are still not ethical or truthful, still we would rather flip through newsprint broadsheets that are.

Thus, amidst all these technological progress, going back to the basics of truth-telling and pursuing the good of each person should still possess supreme value in the practice of journalism. As a media consumer, I deserve nothing less than the true and the good, which are beautiful and the same.