Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Denigrating ourselves

This could be an appropriate sequel to my earlier blog entitled “Recognizing ourselves.” In that blog, I wrote that as a people we tend to downplay and forget the contributions of others to the advocacy of certain causes because either we find them unworthy of our adulation or they happen to be espousing some radical perspectives that some of us could not take.

Thus, it is much easier for us to embrace those who succeed in their endeavours to become wickedly rich or achieve fame as movie stars, pop idols or beauty pageant queens because they do not kindle controversies. We abhor and distance ourselves from those who advocate progressive political ideas or social reforms because we instinctively fear getting out of our comfort zone.

The flipside of this tendency is to go inward and become self-defeatist to the point of belittling ourselves. This withdrawal or disengagement stems from a fear that we don’t count, such as recent pronouncements among our so-called leaders that on our own, we do not have the muscle or clout to influence the government to listen and adopt our advocacy. This is brazenly obvious for Filipinos living overseas, particularly in America where there are many small factions competing with one or two dominant groups for attention, power and influence. The tendency to put ourselves down in relation to others magnifies our timidity that we would rather be bystanders in any social action and simply wait for beneficial consequences to trickle to our side. It almost freezes us into a state of torpor or lethargy. Sometimes, this could also explain why people of other cultures have considered us indolent.

Consider, for example, this point of view of a publisher of a Filipino community newspaper in Toronto. He said that Filipino journalists in Toronto are of out of order in complaining against the award given by the Philippine Labour Attaché to a Toronto mainstream newspaper reporter for his series of articles, which he said, prompted the governments in Ottawa and Toronto to adopt changes in the law that regulates the employment of live-in caregivers. The aforementioned Canadian reporter is a respected journalist with prestigious awards to his name, including a Governor General Award.

The Filipino press association criticized the Philippine Labour Attaché for glossing over the initiatives of advocates for nanny reforms whom it claimed should have received the award instead. Also slighted by their non-recognition, they made known their bad feelings for the Labour Attaché’s deliberate snub.

This publisher used his own community newspaper in its January 2010 issue to deride the complaints of the Filipino press association, whose members are also his colleagues and friends. In his condescending opinion, he wrote that there is no one from the Filipino press association or any individual or group in the Filipino community with the wherewithal which the Canadian reporter possessed that could possibly stir up action in the higher levels of government. And that this included him, too.

Although the newspaper’s masthead contains a line that states it has been in continuous publication for 35 years, the same newspaper has accomplished nothing—repeat—nothing, in terms of exerting even a slight influence on government officials when they deliberate on laws and policies that may affect Filipino temporary workers or Filipino-Canadians, whom the Philippine Labour Attaché deems by legal niceties as foreigners (Filipinos who elected Canadian citizenship). At least, the persistent advocacy of another Filipino community newspaper has influenced the Toronto coroner’s decision and recommendations regarding the police handling of the Jeoffrey Reodica case and produced studies and reports on the deprofessionalization of Filipino immigrants.

In deferring to the influence and power of the mainstream media, this newspaper publisher has achieved nothing in improving the image of Filipinos in the diaspora or representing the voices of Filipinos in Canada after more than three decades. This miserable failure is made obvious by the kind of coverage his newspaper publishes— news and stories that simply describe events as they had happen, with lack of insight, impact and urgency that are the staple of stories written by professional responsible journalists.

According to Stephen G. Brant, a developer of sustainable development strategies and a regular blogger to the Huffington Post, this kind of traditional news reporting is a failed product model, in which the story usually ends up with the description of the problem. “It doesn’t go the next step ... to the end of the story.” Brant said that professional journalists should now see the “appropriateness in going beyond problem reporting to problem and solution reporting.” This trend is not new. Phil Bronstein, editor of The San Francisco Chronicle also launched a similar “news-about-solutions” initiative called “Journalism of Action.”

Brant wrote: “Responsible journalism is journalism that admits that reality consists of both problems and solutions and takes responsibility for telling us about the solutions too, even if it’s harder to write about solutions than it is to write about problems.”

Among journalists, the press is the fourth power, after the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. Indeed, the press has enormous power, and with that, a huge responsibility. This is the power that the Toronto Star wields, and it is not timid and not afraid to tell the truth. Hence, why its news reporter wrote those stories about the abuse of nannies and caregivers in Toronto. It is a dismal shame that our aforementioned Filipino newspaper publisher, who had the facts and figures about the abuses early on, did not muster enough courage as a responsible journalist to publish those stories in his newspaper. He could have led the crusade through his editorials and news coverage to stop the illegal recruitment agencies. Instead of rallying with other Filipino groups and finding strength in a united stand, he chose to believe that the public and government bureaucrats would not be swayed by an inconsequential ethnic reporter like him.

The ethical rules adopted by the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 28, 1923, which has been endorsed by many journalists then and now, state that “the primary function of newspapers is to communicate to the human race what its members do, feel and think.” But when a publisher and a self-avowed journalist retreats to his own cocoon and allows by default a more established and well-known newspaper to tell others his own story and get the credit for the byline that could have been attributed to him, he forfeits his right to be called a journalist.

Sometime in the early 1990s, the same newspaper publisher was approached by an advocacy group to support the Filipino community’s protest against racial discrimination of Filipino youths at the Scarborough Town Centre. He declined, saying he did not want to be involved in controversial issues. No wonder that after 35 years in news publishing, he still walks away from the heat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,
The PPCO is humbled by your comments on Eddie Lee's blanket insult on the community media and to the PPCO in particular.We don't lay claim to have the power or "clout " to influence Canadian politics or government that Eddie so described in his litany of unethical attack on his colleagues.Eddie prefers to turn a blind eye (if not a myopic view) of the community media's effort to inform, educate and communicate issues and concerns affecting our kababayans.For instance,hermie garcia has not stopped in singlemindedly pursuing justice for the Reodica family; how we caused the closure of a travel agency that victimized scores of Filipino families of thousand of dollars and how we responded to Gene Lara's call for assistance on a lady named Juana Tejada. The PPCO or the community media never boasted of our efforts that led to the elevation of the case to the canadian government's attention..We are only proud of our contribution to those efforts , however small, but seeing Tejada get her deserved justice is gratifying enough for us.After all,to roughly quote Fran Von Papen of Germany" if one should think of accomplishments, one should not think of rewards or recognition at the end, or best, not at all ".
What we are doing after all, is our duty as communicators and journalists.
maraming salamat,
tenny soriano
president/Phil.Press Club, Ontario (PPCO)