Sunday, September 28, 2014

I made it to the front page! (and look what it gave me! LoL)

(Note: it took exactly one year and 15 days before I picked up this blog again. I took a long time debating whether I should go on and wash my linen in public but then whatd…LoL From now on I will jot down my experiences as they come, not on a chronological order anymore.)

A newbie at the newspaper when i started a decade ago was called a Cub Reporter, and your stories, if they get published at all, will have that description under your name. It made me feel like a baby bear or something but your goal is to remove that ‘Cub’ as fast as possible. Getting my story published as the headline is a mission impossible.
Miraculously, I survived the two-week notice and decided to hang around a bit more. I was beginning to get the hang of the newsroom when one day three months later, the skies fell. I was reassigned to the Trial Courts, a beat that no one wants to take except if you are a law student. I won’t bore you with the ‘gory’ details of the following weeks of nightmare in the courts. If I haven’t seen a police blotter in my life, my first day in my new beat was also the first time I stepped inside the court. 

I wandered aimlessly through the dark halls of the courts, not knowing what to do or where to go. No one taught me to swim and I was to do it myself, or sink. Fortunately rivalry was not that fierce in Davao and Romeo, the court reporter from the other paper patiently taught me the ropes. I always waited for him everyday because I couldn’t get any story or the clerks would not give me any documents if he was not around because they did not know me. If I attend a court trial, I always end up blank because I did not know what was going on. I didn’t even know how to read a complaint, which usually runs from five to a thousand pages.

Digital cameras were considered unaffordable in 2003, and cellphones didn’t have cameras yet so we patiently read through the thick pages taking notes while clerks scowled at us waiting for us to finish. It was bloody and oftentimes, I end up unable to read my notes.
One morning, Romeo texted me he was on sick leave. That means I had to fend off for myself. The court clerks still do not trust me and were quick to say ‘nothing new’ when I approach.
We had a quota of four stories a day and it was nearing lunch break and I still was unable to get one single story. I was getting desperate when lo and behold, a huge pile of papers were dumped into the Clerk of Court’s table. I was lucky. The clerk was taking a working lunch so she allowed me to browse through the files. The huge pile of papers was all complaints against a politician from one of the neighboring towns sued for over 30 cases of Estafa. I pored over the pile, scribbling as fast as I could. I still have to look for three more stories. 

Back at the office I wrote as fast as I could, wondering why the news editors make such a big fuss when they were editing my story. I slept late and just dozed off when my phone rang. And rang, and rang. It was still 6 a.m.! Wondering what happened, I saw a hundred messages and a thousand missed calls. Okay, that was an exaggeration but it was unusual. At 8:30 a.m. I received another call from a man who told me was the politician's lawyer and he wants to talk to me. Another lawyer, still under the politician called me again an hour later. 

I learned that my story made it to the headlines, my first real headline, read by all radio stations in their news programs and the local TV stations as well. I poked and stirred a hornet’s nest and wasn’t even aware of it. All newspapers, TV and radio stations usually carry similar stories everyday but that day, I scooped everyone. I ignited a bomb and the explosion reached far and wide, and I was not even aware of it.
It was much later when I learned that not all stories of big personalities and politicians make it to the papers, unless it’s really explosive. I didn’t understand how certain ‘things’ worked and I how some reporters were supposed to be deaf and blind to some sensitive stories. I also learned along the way that those ‘hush’ arrangements are made over coffee or lunch, or other favors given by the person in question.
The price of that banner story resulted to a dark day for me, and I almost threw my cellphone in the sea to stop the growing trauma each time it rings. 

A reporter’s job is a continuous learning experience, and every day is never predictable. Watch out for more adventures!