Newspaper Girl

Photo on Unsplash by Luis Cortés

I don’t have big dreams but I know what I want to do. At 14, just barely making it through high school, I already knew what I want to be — I want to be a reporter. Newspaper reporter.

I thought getting there would be easy — then came college.

Sitting in journalism classes was intimidating. Some of my classmates had already won several awards in journalism and read hundreds of books, others had been editing videos and designing websites since they were 15. It’s like I’m years behind in terms of experience and my love for writing wasn’t enough to excel in my major. But like everyone, I fought and worked incredibly hard to make it through college.

Journalism has always been viewed as a glamorous program to take.

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. But that’s not how this business works.

Journalism School was a gamble — at least for me. I only had one shot to finish college and I didn’t want to disappoint my family. It was stressful and the hellish university life brought out the worst in me. But I enjoyed it. I learned a lot under an institution with strong nationalistic values while being surrounded by patriots who want to change the world with their pen and paper.

My professors were nowhere near the ideal journalism professors who would always send their students out for field works and actual interviews, but they taught me to be diligent enough to do things by myself and aim for true learnings outside the classroom. That’s more important to me.

News and politics used to be my life. But no amount of readings and interviews prepared me for what came after graduation. I had to learn the hard way.

After four years of Journalism School and another year of finding my voice and personal writing style, I finally had the courage to apply for a newspaper publication. I eventually got in. The competitive environment kills me sometimes but it makes me feel alive, too.

To tell you the truth, being a reporter isn’t all about covering the century’s most controversial crimes or exposing the biggest drug cartel(s) in the country. If my 14-year old self had known about this earlier, she may have taken a different path.

For the most part, this job is 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 to seek comments from sources in case of breaking news.

Sometimes you’ll even have to force yourself to write five or more stories only to find out the next day that nothing made it to the paper. This is usually followed by the irrational fear of getting kicked out of your job. It’s fulfilling, frustrating, and rewarding all at the same time.

They say journalism is for the privileged; it’s partly true and I’m one of the lucky ones.

Here’s the hard truth: If you have extra mouths to feed, you can’t stay at it for too long because of the incompetent pay. Many good writers left the industry because of money, and a lot also stayed because money isn’t their top priority — and I honestly don’t know where I stand in this.

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I wasn’t also raised to chase after money and other shiny new things. Instead, I’m encouraged to do what gives me purpose — regardless of how much it pays. This isn’t to say I don’t need money, I do. We all do. After all, salary is not the measure of a profession’s worth.

To be turfed out of the industry you love, that you fought so hard to get into, must be crippling. That’s why I will be forever in awe of the privilege I have now — the privilege to use my voice to write for the people and seek accountability from erring authorities.

I may not have big dreams but I believe earnestly in making a difference, in doing something important.

Some say print media doesn’t look good in the foreseeable future because of the “rivers of gold” a.k.a. advertisements funding newspapers like ours are slowly drying up. Thanks to the birth of digital advertising. But we are still keeping print media alive. We did not go this far, to only go this far.

I have no idea of what the future holds but I will continue working in this industry as long as it gives me purpose. Pursuing journalism is a choice and I chose this because its value to society can never be quantified by billable hours.

More than three years after I graduated, I’m here sitting in my desk writing about business news and some other things I’m passionate about. My high school self must be proud.

I have yet to write my breakthrough story(ies) and it may be later than sooner but I know my gamble in the liberal arts will all be worth it.

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Manila-based Business Reporter

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Maria Romero

Maria Romero

Manila-based Business Reporter

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