"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

Dishonest, spineless press indicative of what ills Fil-Am communities

LOS ANGELES – The availability of information about almost anything in the virtual world is undeniably an immense benefit for mankind. Untrammeled information, on the other hand, poses grave danger to those unable to discriminate between what’s buzz versus legitimate news.

In a recent column in the LA Times David Lazarus worries that giving out the store for free online would result in “significantly fewer people, fewer (if any) overseas bureaus, fewer investigations, less original content, less of the watchdog sort of thing that readers consistently say they rely on newspapers to provide.” That in turn would give rise to blogs (web logs) “sprouting like crab grass throughout the electronic ether. Soon, the line separating quality journalism from utter hokum will be too blurry to discern.” Currently the Times, which consists of an editorial staff of roughly 890 (not including the cyber guys), covers 95% of its overhead from paid-for print versions.

In the case of LA’s Filipino community newspapers, paid-for print versions amount to zero. Long before media moguls started worrying about news handouts, our publishers in this part of the world blazed the trail on dished out information printed verbatim from dispatches from the homeland. The advent of the Internet eased things tremendously for a unique version of Filipino entrepreneurship, giving rise to the widespread emergence of so-called copy-paste journalism.

While it may be said that the prevalence of newspapers in print helped define the character of our diverse community in this faraway land, at the same time it also highlights the unfortunate fact that we in the diaspora have verged away from the trait that our people value most: character. For all our shortcomings and financial hardships, the average Filipino abhors dishonesty and cheating as a way of life. Except for crooked politicians, perhaps, making light of profiting out of other people’s toil is not in our DNA.

Most of us who had departed voluntarily from the solace of family and longtime friends console ourselves with the thought that something good would come out of our sacrifices. We think of good paying jobs abroad as a means by which we could help kin. We strive to make good of ourselves if only to change other people’s negative image of Filipinos being lumped with corrupt leaderships.

The reality is that USA is not all milk and honey and that not unlike everywhere else, there are problems as well affecting our expatriates. There are differences and there are acts of disunity; irregularities exist in how some of the more than 400 Filipino organizations go about their business. There are destitute Pinoys soliciting change in some parks or selling blood or compromising Medical cards for a few bucks. You won’t hear about that in the news courtesy of LA-based Filipino media that is both dishonest for its indolence and utterly lacking in courage to pursue its inherent mission to inform.

What stands for courage, if any, is the routine republishing of articles culled from online publications criticizing politicians in our graft-ridden homeland. The norm is that any happening with a trace of controversy would be a no-no unless it has already been published elsewhere. It is a great shame that except for what is read from self-serving press releases and promotions, news items concerning our own community are generally sourced from Philippine-based media outlets. It is a fact that most of us know more about everyday Philippines than what’s happening to our own people here.

Needless to state, the despicable practice of 'cutting' stories from Manila based publications and 'pasting' those same stories on local papers goes beyond the abstractions of violating the sacred tenets of journalistic ethics. It is a barefaced, shameless, arrogant, flagrant stealing of food from the mouth of those in the lower chain of the profession – the writers and their families – in a manner that has become routine and egregious and profitable to these publishers/editors.

We express outrage every time a journalist is killed or maimed in the homeland, a big hypocrisy because all the time we are victimizing those same journalists by using the fruits of their hard labor without their consent and/or not paying them. There are even publications here who omit bylines in the process falsely implying that downloaded stories are from their own overseas correspondents.

Alma Luna-Reyes, formerly executive editor of Forum Asia Magazine and now a practicing attorney in Orange County, is one of the very few decent journalists hereabout who call a spade a spade. She said in an article that the lack of empathizing by local publishers with (Philippine-based) writers whose rights they infringe “is because they don't share a writer's passion.”

To think that publishers and editors of local publications are mostly veterans of a fearless, vibrant Philippine press. The fact that a corrupt set-up is largely tolerated here is indicative of what ills the community itself. Many would not say anything because doing so would upset the myth of a ‘stateside’ paradise; others fear incurring the enmity of media gods, meaning, no more ‘praise’ releases.

Some of these publishers-larcenists are not overly concerned with day-to-day hassles of the trade such as payrolls to maintain or social security for employees because many have only bare minimums, if any, of regular employees. The focus is in recruiting as many ad solicitors possible. Some publications exploit unpaid trainees and those in need of immigration papers.

Advertisers have regular columns sans disclosures about their being paid ads; the names of some of them are even on the staff box. Only two or three of LA’s dozen or so print publications have few reporters on their respective staffs. Naturally, one doesn't need to hire the usual bodies in an enterprise that depend on news or stories if those same news or stories are right there in the Internet ripe for purloining, err, picking.

What should have been the sanctum sanctorum of any publication worth its salt – that is, the opinion-editorial space – is, in the case of Fil-Am publications, habitual hosts to copied features renamed as 'guest' editorials either because of pure sloth or that there is no editorial opinion or policy to write in the first place.

Of columnists, some publications have an overload of them. But like the way they treat news stories, criticisms, if any, are reserved for perceived malfeasances in far away Philippines. There is a perception that Fil-Am publishers consider everyone here a potential advertiser, hence, the general policy of avoiding any writing that may cause the displeasure of somebody out there. And of course there is the constant concern for overheads. Controversies could oblige a newspaper owner to hire a lawyer, which translates to extra expenses. – By Dionesio Grava

To be continued . . .

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