The Inquirer’s new Readers’ Advocate

It’s a shame I wasn’t able to congratulate the Inquirer soon enough for their new Readers’ Advocate, Dr. Elena Pernia, former dean of the UP College of Mass Communication.

The Inquirer reported this in their June 10 issue, mentioning how they lacked such an ‘official’ in the past four years.

A Readers’ Advocate — or “news ombudsman” — polices a particular paper to ensure that “fair, accurate, and balance[d] news” is served to the reader.

According to the Inquirer, “Pernia is tasked to review and respond to readers’ views and complaints about the Inquirer’s content as well as call the attention of editors to violations of the Journalists Code of Ethics and failure to observe the Canons of Taste for Journalists.” (So now I’m thinking of requesting the Inquirer to publish these “Canons” for the benefit of their readers.)

Dr. Pernia is a respected communication scholar known for her feisty, go-go-go attitude. When I graduated from the College, I knew her as the “Queen” of Sangkamaskoman.

With Her Majesty as the paper’s in-house critic, I’ve never been more optimistic about the Inquirer than now.

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.