I must never forget

Posted on November 26, 2011

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This respite of mine from “official” work is a good time for soul-searching. Why do I write and why should I? In 2007, I delivered this speech after receiving the Ateneo de Manila’s Raul Locsin Award for Student Journalism. My thesis here is something I now need to remember.

A journalist is like an ambassador.

An ambassador is his government’s official representative to another country. As a consequence, most of his acts cease to be personal; they are often interpreted as the official acts of his government. So he cannot just sign a document or issue a criticism and say, “It’s my personal decision.” An ambassador, wherever he goes and in whatever he says, represents his people.

The journalist, by the same token, represents his own people – the audience – before whomever he interviews and in whatever questions he asks.

Let me give an example by way of an anecdote. When I was writing about the dwindling number of Jesuits in the Ateneo, of course I prepared a list of questions, such as, “Why are there few Jesuits in the Ateneo?” or “How can the Ateneo call itself a Jesuit school if there are only 29 Jesuits teaching here?”

However, preparing these questions was, for me, more than just the interviewing technique that Vic Tirol and Chay Hofileña taught in class. It was, in a metaphysical sense, an act of the spirit – of bearing in my soul the questions of thousands of Ateneans today and in future generations, dead, alive, or not-yet-alive; questions they would have wanted to ask but couldn’t, because their opportunities are not as rich as the journalist’s.

Therefore, it wasn’t just me talking when I asked, “Why are there few Jesuits in the Ateneo?” When I sat with my interviewees, what came from my mouth was the voice of the hundreds of thousands of Ateneans, all wanting to know: “Why are there few Jesuits in the Ateneo?”

It was to them, not just me as the journalist, that officials like the Vice President and Father Provincial were explaining.

Ladies and gentlemen, this recognition reminds us that only robots would do an interview for the sake of the interview, or write a story for the sake of the story itself. As human persons, we search for meaning in what would otherwise be the mechanical routines of day-to-day life.

I would like to believe, then, that this recognition is not merely for the technical aspects of my story-writing – grammar, structure, or style – but the very spirit behind it: being the audience’s ambassador.

“So we present ourselves as ambassadors in the name of Christ” (2 Cor. 5, 20). Amen.

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