DON’T you know me? Well, apparently you don’t. As a print journalist, I’m in an enviable position that not even my supposedly more famous and better paid colleagues in the broadcast medium have the luxury of experiencing.
Owing to the relative anonymity offered by newspapers, print journalists like me can easily advance and use our connections and sources to pursue stories under the radar. At the same time, we can easily fall back and blend with the rest of humanity and resume living ordinary lives until the next big story comes along.
But broadcast journalists, meaning those working for TV, don’t have the same flexibility. Apart from the visibility that comes with the medium, a broadcast journalist has become virtually a walking cliché as well as, in a manner of speaking, a marked person with a microphone in one hand and a videographer shadowing him throughout the day.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that not a few broadcast journalists and newsreaders in the Philippines have become celebrities in their own right.
While print journalists, for instance, can go about covering an event in peace, it’s quite common for broadcast journalists, especially in a celebrity-crazed nation like ours, to be interrupted and asked by fans to pose for pictures with them during coverage and even while on vacation.
Even the very amiable and shy Mario Dumaual, whom I’ve bumped into on several occasions while covering show biz and lifestyle events, has his own set of fans. While no one bothered to pose with me for pictures, Mario was able to attract a small group of people who wanted to have their pictures taken with him. Well, that’s TV for you.
Some of them, like Noli, Korina, Ted, Karen, Mel, Arnold and Mike, have even become household names. No last names are required. In the case of Noli and Arnold, they’ve even become more endearing to the public by coming up with such monikers as “Kabayan” and “Igan,” respectively.
If you think it’s hard for the men, it’s doubly harder for the women, especially those out in the streets covering events and chasing after famous and important people everyday. Putting on makeup and having their hair blow-dried are musts for female broadcast journalists even while covering, say, floods in Luzon, landslides in the Visayas or wars in Mindanao.
I even heard of a rule discouraging them, except during certain occasions, from wearing neutrals. If they do have to wear them, they should pair neutral shades with strong colors like red, orange, hot pink and fuchsia in order for them to stand out.
During last July’s red carpet coverage of President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), for example, while I went about in dark jeans, printed white T-shirt and cotton blazer asking the ladies “who” they wore, ABS-CBN’s Marie Lozano, my annual buddy during such events (we literally see each other only once a year) was all dolled up wearing a beautiful lacey terno in shades of gray and black (for some reason, she was allowed to wear neutrals, albeit in an elegant package).
Like her colleague from Channel 5, Marie made no attempt to do it halfheartedly by wearing an elaborate top and a no-frills skirt (only a broadcast journalist’s top half is usually seen on TV) like what some of her lesser-known co-workers did. She was dressed to the nines from head to toe as if she were attending the event herself, and for good reason.
Like I said in an earlier entry, I also make it a point to dress for the occasion. But the guidelines that govern print journalists are much loser and more flexible than those followed by our friends from TV. In the SONA coverage, for instance, I would have been required by my bosses to wear a barong had I done it for TV.
No air con
I wouldn’t have minded except for the fact that the two carpeted walkways that led to the Batasan gallery had no air condition. In short, anyone would have been drenched in sweat in his or her Filipiniana finery while standing there the whole day waiting for VIPs to arrive. Imagine what Marie and her fellow TV journalists, both male and female, have had to endure just to bring the news to people’s living rooms.
Some years back, I also had the opportunity of covering the debut of the so-called Agawan Festival, Sariaya’s answer to Lucban’s Pahiyas Festival in Quezon. Obviously, the people from Sariaya didn’t know me nor had they heard of me. No problem.
Although they were generally nice, even opening their homes to us for the night, our host couldn’t resist asking me these questions: do I happen to know Marc Logan and do I have any idea if he’s covering the event, too? And there I was thinking I was famous. Why are you looking for Marc, I was almost tempted to ask, when I’m here right in front of you? I merely shook my head, smiled back and tried my best to remain gracious.
Actually, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise for me. That’s how powerful a visual medium like TV is. Even someone as plain-looking as Marc and, for that matter, Boy Abunda, are waited on, sought after, admired, and even idolized for simply being themselves and doing their jobs.
It would be nice to be a pseudo celebrity once in a while and score a few lucrative endorsement deals along the way, but I couldn’t imagine myself living–and believing–the part during most of my waking hours like some of my colleagues both in print and in TV are inclined to do.
For me, there’s nothing more valuable than the relative anonymity and the freedom to move about and do as I please within the bounds of the law and the norms of my profession, of course, without worrying how my supposed public would react.