A Memorial of my First Year as a Journalism Graduate
by Inside Manila Contributor, August 09, 2019 2:10pm
Art by Dani Elevazo
There has only been one answer whenever people ask me what I want to do in life: I want to write and I also want to do it as a living. Now years later, I’m already in the industry and earning something out of this profession. It wasn’t much and it isn’t without its highs and lows. But I believe earnestly in shining a light into dark corners, in making a difference, and in doing something significant for my country. So here I am, trying my hardest to keep up with the fast-paced media environment because I badly want to be “thirty, flirty, and thriving.”
Since grade school, I was actively participating in Schools Press Conferences—the highest competition for journalism for elementary and secondary schools as per the Campus Journalism Act of 1991. Although I lacked proper training because I only have my English professors to teach me about the basics of news and feature writing, I was able to make it through those years of competitions.
When college applications season came around, I was earnestly searching for programs in line with either communication or journalism. I only took college admission exams at two of the country’s best schools for journalism even if those were miles away from home.
“I wish school prepared us in knowing how shifting from being a student to a working adult might be the saddest part of my teenage life.”
Journalism school for me is like a dream turned reality. It was stressful and the hellish university life admittedly brought out the worst in me. But I enjoyed it. I learned under an institution imbued with nationalistic values while being surrounded by patriots who want to change the world with their pens and papers. I had the liberty to be who I am then—I came to school with my most comfortable self under my most comfortable self and not worrying about fitting in or not.
My college professors were nowhere near the ideal journalism professors who would always send their students out for field works and actual interviews. To be honest, I still don’t know how I got a grade in my Political Governance subject because I don’t remember any prof showing up at that class. But all those missed classes taught me to be diligent enough to learn things by myself and to aim for true learning outside my classroom, not high grades.
News and politics were my life back then. So when I started my internship at two of the country’s long-standing newspapers, The Philippine Star as a rookie reporter and Manila Bulletin as a feature writer, I easily blended right in. But no amount of readings and interviews prepared me for what came after internship—graduation, and life after it. I learned things the hard way. But that’s okay, kids.
So before you throw your graduation cap in the air on your graduation day, allow me to share things about life after college.
Be sure to avoid people who would only suck up your good energy with their pessimism. Basic. Life after college isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. But it’s fun just as well because you get to meet people from different walks of life.
I wish school prepared us in knowing how transitioning from being a student to a working adult might be the saddest part of your teenage life. When you go out for work, you and your friends will be scattered across different places—some in Makati, others in Abu Dhabi. So prepare yourself to fight your battles in life alone. You might breakdown a lot and cry while finishing your stories just to save time but that’s real life after college and we all have to face it. The workplace is a lot different than the university life where you can easily get in touch with your friends from the other side of the classroom. Now, meeting up with friends means sacrificing time for sleep.
It takes great courage to take even the smallest steps in conquering this realm full of adult and experienced people. This may be the most cliche thing that I have to say but keep on taking those steps until you find your equilibrium.
Journalism has always been viewed as a glamorous program to take in college. Whenever someone learned of my course, the immediate response was, “Oh, makikita ka na namin sa TV. I-report mo kami ha,” as if to say graduating would immediately send me to the spotlight—or in my case, would give me a prestigious byline. Sorry to break it to you all, but that’s not how this business works.
Being a journalist isn’t all about covering the century’s most controversial crimes or exposing the biggest drug cartel(s) in the country. For the most part, it’s about finding the cheapest coffee shop with good internet after cramped press conferences. It’s also about cringing to the sound of your voice while transcribing recorded interviews and making it through deadlines. Or it can be about saving up that limited prepaid data (yes, I’m that person) to seek comments in case of breaking news. And sometimes, it’s about forcing yourself to write three or more stories only to find out the next day that nothing made it to the paper. It’s fulfilling, frustrating, and rewarding all at the same time.
But let’s also acknowledge that not a lot of journalism graduates choose to stay in the field because in the Philippines, staying long in the media sometimes only works for those who don’t have extra mouths to feed. It’s sad but true. But this isn’t anyone else’s ticket to start hating those people privileged enough to work in the media, and hold the line despite the incompetent compensation. For as long as you’re doing well in your job and your dignity isn’t sold to greedy players in the government or any business, you’re fine.
There are several reasons why journalism pay is low, especially if you don’t look good enough in-camera. Then again, even television reporters sometimes don’t get paid well. A lot of people leave because of money, and a lot also stayed because money isn’t their top priority. There’s no money in journalism, that’s a fair warning if you are aiming to save up for a grandiose life in the future. Take it from a kid who only has savings enough to pay for concert tickets.
Our country needs truthful storytellers, sure. But now more than ever, we need young journalists who can afford to stay in the field, who wouldn’t mind getting an unchanged salary for years.
For sure some lucky people got to follow their passion that also pays well at first try. But there are also a larger number of people who, despite juggling different jobs at the same time, can’t seem to find the work that their hearts (and wallets) need. It takes great courage to take even the smallest steps in conquering this realm full of adult and experienced people. This may be the most cliche thing that I have to say but keep on taking those steps until you find your equilibrium. Trust me, there’s no better way to make ends meet other than that. So kids, don’t be afraid to get yourself out there. You may not land in your dream job at first try but what’s important is that you keep trying.
Journalism may not look good in the foreseeable future because the “rivers of gold” aka advertisements that have always funded journalism are slowly drying up. But I still like working in this industry and I will continue to do so because I believe my journalism diploma isn’t only for me but for my family and the Filipino people whose taxes paid for my college tuition.
So kids, don’t be afraid to get yourself out there. You may not land in your dream job at first try but what’s important is that you keep trying.
It’s only been more than a year after my college graduation and I’m here sitting in my desk and writing about things I’m passionate about. And occasionally getting front row seats on shows and concerts or first dibs on the latest products. My high school self would give everything just to be right where I am now.
I still have a long and bumpy road to take. But I’m so glad I finally learned to forgive myself for getting my prepositions wrong and missing my deadline sometimes—and that’s not to say I will keep on slacking off.
As for now, I’m still scrapping and fighting and working incredibly hard to stay in the field and absorb all the learning I could get while I’m at it. Because I am not Jenna Rink and my life is not a rip-off version of “13 Going on 30.” I’m not going to wake up one day and be “thirty, flirty, and thriving,” anyway.
It may be later than sooner but I know my gamble in the liberal arts will all be worth it.
Written by Maria Romero for Inside Manila.