Journalism and Forgiveness

[Thanks to UST Journalism Professor Jeremaiah M. Opiniano for humoring me on the subject. Apologies to Jack the Scribbler for borrowing this warning: This entry contains 776 words of self-aggrandizement and may intervene in your more important tasks like updating Facebook status.]

A RUMOR prompted my return to Facebook.

Church of the Holy Sacrifice parish priest Raymond Joseph Arre
speaks about forgiveness. Video grab by Dennis Estopace.

For one, I wanted to dispel the rumor. For another, I wanted to be in the know if other rumors abound, whether or not these involved me or people in the Philippine media industry.

The tale of the tape goes that I disdain going on trips abroad that are purely junkets; that is, traveling to other countries wherein reporters are not required to submit stories. Supposedly, the sponsor is “generous” enough to spend shareholder money on journalists.

While that is true –that I prefer an overseas coverage that would be worth the trip as well as the substantial investment of the trip’s sponsor, I never declined an assignment, whether overseas or not, from my editors.

What I didn’t know was there was such a junket and someone may have tried to make me look bad to the company sponsoring the trip.

As I told a fellow reporter who told me about the rumor: I only learned there was a trip after I learned of the rumor. In addition, my editor-in-chief knew why I took a long vacation leave and, hence, could neither assign me to such a trip nor believe I will sneak under official lines for a junket.

There was one time I inadvertently forgot to tell my editor about an official overseas coverage. But that was just one time; one moment of recalcitrance.

Anyway, in this year’s rumor, someone apparently wanted to lend credibility to a 3-day junket for select reporters, at my expense.

I got pissed. A fellow reporter wants to f__k with me.

My anger, however, easily waned after recalling a good sermon by Church of the Holy Sacrifice parish priest Raymond Joseph Arre.

It was the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time and the eve of my vacation leave, when I listened to Rev. Fr. Arre share his views on forgiveness -a word that may be far from the vocabulary of some Filipino journalists.

Fr. Arre cited the story of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector in Jesus's time, who climbed a sycamore tree just to see the prophet.

According to the Gospel of St. Luke [Lk 19:1-10], Zacchaeus promised to give half of his possessions to the poor and “repay four times over” whatever he extorted from anyone.

Fr. Arre said Zacchaeus was already forgiven even before his lips uttered the words of penance.

I am a journalist, not a tax collector; extorted from, not an extortionist.

But sitting on a brown pew inside the church –yes, some journalists attend Eucharistic celebrations– I recalled having approached a fellow journalist who felt I did him wrong.

After a year of not speaking to each other, I called and asked him for help in a writing project that didn’t materialize. It could be considered my way of saying sorry; of asking for forgiveness. We have renewed our friendship since then.

Fr. Arre’s sermon brings me back to the rumor-monger who may think I am privileged to be given overseas assignments.

I can only ask forgiveness, if he or she feels deserving of such trips as I come across as someone disdainful of such “perks” enjoyed by business reporters.

I believe journalists should strive to have or develop such virtue of forgiveness; asking for and giving it.

I think if we have wronged the public because of factual error, or extorting news or amassing fortune and fame at their expense, we should be ready to ask forgiveness. I also think a government executive or public official who has shown remorse, resigned from office, and returned to the public institution the dignity it deserved, asked for forgiveness, we should report it as so.

Both instances, however, occur few and far between in these islands.

Maybe this is because media owners are wont to protect market share than strengthen the institution represented by journalism. Maybe this is because public officials have dragged institutions to the abyss with their obfuscation of what is decent and what is larceny.

Still, I know there are journalists out there who have a sense of decency to say sorry to the public as well as rein in giving forgiveness to those who have wronged and continue to do wrong to the public.

If there are fellow journalists who felt I have wronged them, please forgive me. You can have all the overseas assignments you want, especially those that are really junkets.

And I forgive you for thinking the contrary and for spreading rumors that I disdain junkets. While the latter is a personal choice, I always try to follow where my editors point me to.

That is called obedience; another Christian virtue requiring another lengthy entry.

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