CCJD Head Recipient of 2013 Titus Brandsma Award

Citing his contribution to uplifting the standards of journalism, press freedom, and the safety of journalists especially those working in the provinces and for “epitomizing the life and principles of Titus Brandsma,” CCJD Executive Director, Red Batario was named recipient of the 2013 Titus Brandsma Award-Philippines for Leadership in Journalism.


In simple ceremonies at the Titus Brandsma Center in Quezon City August 7, the board of judges cited Batario’s work that has made an “impact and influence in the field of journalism leadership.” 


A journalist for more than 30 years, Batario has been “promoting the concept and philosophy of public journalism to enrich civic spaces and to enhance public life through media-citizen engagement.”


The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) was named 2013 Titus Brandsma awardee for Leadership in Communication and Culture and Arts.


In accepting the award, Batario honored the “countless journalists, especially those from local communities, who gave up their lives so that we all could come closer to the truth” and that the award is for “those who continue to bravely shine the light on what others with devious intent would want to keep hidden…and for all of us who believe that while journalism as a craft is challenging, it can also be edifying and sanctifying.”


(Read full text of speech below)


            News Agenda Setting…By the People


When I was a reporter…back when I was still young and pretty…journalism was defined by the newsroom’s own agenda setting…which was to follow the old dictum that what bleeds…leads. 


It didn’t help any that my newsroom baptism came during the Marcos years of martial regime…and that the newspaper I worked for was owned by a presidential crony.  It was the worst and best of times to be a journalist.  Worst in the sense that journalists learned oh so easily how to succumb to the blandishments and siren song of a despotic regime that was trying to project a benevolent image… and best in the sense that it also forced them to re-examine their….and journalism’s role….given the realities that confronted them every day.


That episode in my career taught me to think more clearly and deeply about journalism as a transformative tool….and reporting not simply as a means of relaying information but as a way of connecting with people.   


Much later, I came across a thought-provoking article by Ervin S. Duggan, president of the US Public Broadcasting Service, on the workings and attitudes of the news media and I was struck by this passage: “The idea of journalists that the purpose of the story is the story itself invites a terrible kind of journalistic amorality…trying to do the story just for itself invites cynicism.  It doesn’t invite the kind of heroic approach to journalism at all.  It invites compromises and corruptions that deaden the enterprise at its heart.” 


But what is at the heart of this journalistic cynicism? Is it because the rules that govern the news cycle no longer apply?  Is it because uncorroborated stories are now the norm?  Is it because journalism has become so competitive that the idea of stewardship, that we as journalists serve causes higher than ourselves no longer have an honorific cachet?  That the story has become expedient to the demand for speed?  Or is it symptomatic of an unraveling of the social fabric that the news media, wittingly or unwittingly, have contributed to?

These were some of the hard questions that…. a long time ago…in a galaxy seemingly so far, far away… prodded me and my partner, Girlie Sevilla Alvarez, to reexamine journalism both as craft and philosophy and whether it is contributing to the determination of democratic development in the Philippines. These were the very same questions that underscored the need to address the challenges faced by local communities and how journalism can provide them a roadmap to identifying problems and crafting solutions.


So it was not mere happenstance that allowed us to flesh out the concept and philosophy of public journalism as a way by which citizens can understand better the impact of the news on their lives, how journalism can provide opportunities for community debates to take place, and how they can actively participate in setting the news agenda. This is the thinking that guides us…this is the framework from which we proceed.


One of the lessons I learned in my work as a journalist over 30 years was that journalists are expert at agenda setting.  In his book Coming to Public Judgment, sociologist Daniel Yankelovich said, “we have so much fun with it that we dash around raising consciousness here, raising consciousness there, then rush on to raise consciousness somewhere else, leaving all previous crises unattended.” 


We need to take pause not only to examine the gains and pains of our work, but to see where we are and where we are going.


Many of my colleagues who are in this room right now would agree with me that much still needs to be done to improve journalism practice….just as there is so much more that needs to be done to ensure the independence and safety of those who practice the craft….given the chillingly increasing number of journalists killed while trying to lift the veil of darkness in their communities.    


I humbly accept the Titus Brandsma Award Philippines 2013 for Leadership in Journalism for the countless journalists…especially those from local communities…who gave up their lives so that we all could come closer to the truth….for those who continue to bravely shine the light on what others with devious intent would want to keep hidden…for all of us who believe that while journalism as a craft is challenging…it can also be edifying and sanctifying.


On their behalf, I would like to say thank you most sincerely to the Board of the Titus Brandsma Award-Philippines…. the Philippine Province of the Order of Carmelites in the Philippines….Rev. Fr. Christian Buenafe…. my partner and my family who are my constant sources of inspiration…my friends and colleagues in media and civil society who have always been steadfast in shaping a better journalism landscape…and the Lord who has given me more blessings than I truly deserve.    


My mother and father used to tell me: “In our time, journalism practice was good.”  When he was alive, my grandfather told me: “In my time, journalism was very good.”  Today I would like to be able to tell my grandchildren: “Journalism is so much better now.”