When I took up journalism ethics in college, we tackled envelopmental journalism. It’s the type of journalism that “pays” journalists so they will write stories favoring a certain entity, be it a person, a company, etc.
I thought, it’s easy to give back the envelop, it’s easy to decline. It’s easy to stand on that moral high ground with the thought: ME? I WILL NEVER DO THAT. Boy, was I wrong! I had my first taste of this last Sunday. I was covering a church event. It was the anniversary of one of the Catholic Church groups here in Switzerland and they had a national conference to celebrate it.
The lady said she had something for me earlier on. She said thank you for my earlier coverage of a meeting that took place in Geneva. I was only doing my job. I covered it. I didn’t really pay attention as to what that that “something” was. But I had a feeling it would be money.
She dragged me around the conference venue and had me interview every big honcho there was. She was apologizing and prodding me at the same time. At the end of the conference, she came up to me with a folded amount of money. It was only one bill but it was big enough. I refused many times. She said, “No, no, it’s yours.” I couldn’t say outright, “It’s unethical. I’m only doing my job.” I could definitely not say “Hindi ako bayaran” (I am not paid). It would be rude. I didn’t know how to get out of it without hurting her. So, I accepted with every bad feeling in my heart and decided I would give it to charity. I will not use it for any personal gain.
She was a nice lady just thinking of my welfare. But it’s not right. Every journalist will face this dilemma in his or her life. It is a real temptation when the amount gets bigger and bigger and come Christmas time, you’re overflowing with gifts. It’s even more difficult when you are in dire need of money. I hope that journalists everywhere will continue to report faithfully, true “uncoloured” events, without money or without any gifts, because it is our job to report the truth and only that. It’s something we can be proud of.