Care and feeding of migration journalism, a decade hence (Last of two parts)

By Jeremaiah M. Opiniano, OFW Journalism Consortium


—Adopted from an essay written by Pulitzer Prize winner and juror Jacqui Banaszynski



How to care and feed migration journalism and sustain such an endeavor? Here’s our “operations manual” or sorts:


1.      Remaining loyal to readers. Readers’ loyalty yields independent mindedness for a grace, enabling journalists to think of story angles mainstream news media outfits might have missed out. The downside of readers’ loyalty is financial sustainability, but being cash-strapped has its editorial rewards (see next item).

2.      Receiving appreciation from readers and news media outfits using our stories. That’s the best return on investment the OFW Journalism Consortium has been getting all these years. People’s appreciation is what voluntarism does to the volunteer, hoping that the returns can be more —and financially tangible— in the future (actually, there have been some “small” financial returns —and patience is a virtue).

3.      Boozing with reporters and friends as one’s investment. In the last four years, Thursdays beside beer, pulutan and friends talking about the conduct of journalism are anticipated “classes.” These dates can, in some way, sustain people’s involvement into migration journalism. These also keep journalists in their toes on how to improve their craft and their news reporting (see next item). More importantly, Thursdays are when the “most underused skill” in journalism —thinking (to quote American narrative journalist Anne Hull of the Washington Post)— is being harnessed.

Though, somebody should always bankroll these Thursday sessions, this being a form of “investment” into pursuing good journalism.

4.      Learning to be scolded by editors. The biggest secret weapons of the OFW Journalism Consortium are its editors, those who provide the unconditional love to reporters. Thursdays help nurture editor-writer relationships that can go beyond journalism and that can extend to envisioning innovation in Filipino journalistic practice and writing.

5.      Self-learning by reporters. This has been tough for Filipino reporters, especially those accustomed to deadline reporting and approaches that tell, not show, facts and contexts.

6.      Trying hard to be storytellers. Storytelling is journalism that is different from usual news and feature writing. Over the years, the Consortium’s stories aren’t exactly the best forms of Filipino narrative journalism (unlike those of Filipino-born Pulitzer Prize winners Tomas Alex Tizon and “illegal” immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas). Narrative journalism is “difficult, lonely journalism,” says Katherine Boo of The New Yorker magazine, that audiences on Facebook and Twitter may not welcome. But if this means seeing one’s story become timeless yet engaging the reading public, perhaps the pains of doing narrative journalism can be continually tolerated.

7.      Volunteering. This is what makes the OFW Journalism Consortium unique compared to other nonprofit news media outfits. Voluntarism and editorial independence actually make a good combination, especially to pursue an editorial conspiracy like the OFW Journalism Consortium.

This newspacket to welcome the tenth anniversary of the OFW Journalism Consortium is, quite frankly, seven months late from the group’s “most recent” edition. Of course, being seven months late is not the way to care and feed migration journalism and its readers. It has been hard to care and feed migration journalism, to produce stories that Filipinos abroad deserve to continually receive freely.

Yet it is also heartwarming to note that news media outfits and some overseas Filipino readers still search for the Consortium’s stories. A decade after the writing plot called the OFW Journalism Consortium was conceived, and which is now being cared for and fed painstakingly, appreciation and gratefulness go to those who have found value into our work.

These voices of gratitude, as well as the stories we have written and we will try to continue writing, still matter.#