What, exactly, is a ‘legitimate journalist’?



RJ Nieto RJ Nieto

As I write my first column piece, I think it’s best to introduce myself first.

My name is Rey Joseph Nieto, best known as the publisher of the Facebook page “Thinking Pinoy (TP)” with over 1.4 million organic followers. I also a co-host the radio show Karambola, which airs weekdays 8 to 10 am on DWIZ 882 AM. And yes, I am that chubby controversial resource person in the October 2017 Senate hearing on fake news.

I am aware that social media is not the be-all and end-all of public discourse, hence my decision to start writing a column for one of the country’s most esteemed publications. And I am eternally grateful to Manila Bulletin’s senior editors for giving me this opportunity.

While we’re at it, I also wish to thank my mentors, the former SunStar Davao editor-in-chief Stella Estremera, Philippine News Agency director Gigie Agtay, and former Manila Standard editor-in-chief Jojo Robles (bless his soul): I would not have gone this far without you.

Now, let’s get it on.

For the past three years, we’ve been witnesses to what appears to be a war for public recognition among media practitioners. On one side are new social media-based political personalities who enjoy massive online followings, and on the other are traditional journalists who benefit from massive distribution networks of their media outlets.

I now find this extremely ironic because I am a social media personality on one hand and with this first column piece, a traditional media man on the other. But just like what my late mentor Jojo Robles always told me, “A journalist should never be his own story.”

Let me cite a prime example, though I shall conceal her name because what matters here is the script and not the actor.

A few days ago, a traditional journalist publicly complained on social media about the Department of Transportation’s (DoTr) supposed preferential treatment, as the latter allegedly allowed a handful of media outlets, while preventing others, to cover the bidding on the New Manila International Airport. She also accused the agency of favoring social media personalities over, in her own words, “legitimate journalists.”

I called DoTr and they told me they don’t really invite media in such events because they’re livestreamed anyway, and that media who were present had asked for access days in advance. DoTr said they would’ve granted the complainant access had she done the same, but she didn’t. Thus, the issue seems to have stemmed not from inequitable treatment, but from a simple case of a bruised ego.

What I witnessed is a trait prevalent not only among traditional journalists, but also among social media players -- the desperate need for validation.

Regardless of medium, legitimate journalists should let their work speak for itself. A legitimate journalist does not demand respect. Instead, he pours his heart, mind, and soul in every piece he writes, then silently wait for his audience to recognize and acknowledge his brilliance. Legitimate journalists don’t go around town with a megaphone screaming how legitimate they are.

As Harvey Specter from “Suits” once said, “Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself.”

Journalists, I admit, are humans too. But then, those who aspire to make it into the Big League should see to it that their public statements should be like, borrowing the words of Arthur Miller, “a nation talking to itself.”

And no, I am not God’s Gift to Journalism. I am nowhere near that and I myself am guilty of having committed more than a few glaring mistakes. After observing mass media for several years as a regular citizen, however, I cannot help but feel great frustration over the work of many Filipino journalists today.

Social media personalities entered the limelight because they filled the vacuum that many traditional journalists left behind, a vacuum that was created after years and years of churning out work that’s unresponsive to modern society’s needs and tastes.

With that said, I strongly encourage traditional media to reclaim its dominance over Public Discourse, but this should be done not by pulling down newcomers, but by producing content that makes the Filipinos realize, by themselves, that what they’re reading is worth every second spent.

I didn’t start this column to prolong the war between traditional media and social media. Instead, I started this to remind everyone out there, including myself, that journalism is about helping the Common Tao make the best possible decisions for his future. And that is possible only if we end this squabble and instead channel our energies towards building this nation that we all love.

Instead of making ourselves the story, let's focus on issues that are truly of national significance, in a way that the Common Tao will more readily and more willingly understand.

For reactions, please email TP@ThinkingPinoy.net.