A burning issue is brewing within the high walls of the Journalism Department in UP Diliman. I know this shouldn’t be a big deal to all, but to us studying Journalism in this institution, it is too much a deal to pass up.

To give you a backgrounder on this issue, you may want to look into the February 2008 and MayApril 2008 issues of the PJR Reports published by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). Now as a disclaimer, I have no intention of stirring up debates or heated arguments by posting about this issue. I merely want to air my point as a student of Journalism who receives education from two of these well-respected professors who have recently engaged in a verbal tussle in print.

The verbal exchange in print appears in the Letters to the Editor portion of the MayApril 2008 issue of PJR Reports. In it is a letter sent by Prof. Rachel Khan, the current chair of the Journalism Department in UP. Prof Khan is apparently “saddened”–to use her words–by an article published in the February 2008 issue of PJR Reports.

The article in question is entitled Where to Get Stories on Those Dry Days written by Don Gil K. Carreon. The piece enumerates several suggestions on story ideas one can pitch to his/her editors in case the usual rounds of the beats doesn’t yield a relevant story to be published.

Prof. Khan laments the way the story was handled through the following points:

  1. That a good reporter never “goes out of his mind waiting for a story.”
  2. That a good reporter may have a “slow day” but never a “dry day.”
  3. That a reporter is assigned to a specific beat and pitching ideas outside the beat may be worrisome for the editors.
  4. The article suggests alternative sources may be worrisome.

The Editor subsequently posted a rebuttal, saying that Prof. Khan obviously committed a misreading of the article. Now I will not delve much into this because the Editor already said quite a mouthful on the issue. The page didn’t name the Editor who replied to Prof. Khan’s letter, but we Journalism students know who that style, wit and candor belongs to.

In any case, what I’d like to point out is this seeming disagreement between two professors of Journalism on how beat reporting should be handled. As we all know in Journ, Prof. Khan is the younger journalist, presumably the one with less experience than the Editor (although I will not risk making that conclusion). The two professors came from different generations of Journalism and were trained to do Journalism very differently.

The problem lies in the manner these two professors would handle the course. With differing viewpoints, obviously they communicate different messages to their students. And I believe that is somehow problematic in a field such as ours, since we are expected to abide by the same “rules” and do practically the same things (technically speaking) whatever sub-niche we land on. If these two professors can’t seem to agree on the proper thing to teach, where will students end up? Confused, obviously, which is already happening in UP Journalism right now (glaring example of which is one professor teaching around nine or ten news values when another professor only taught us six. Which is which?).

We understand where these two professors are coming from, and we respect them so much. But if they’re going to disagree on these very basic tenets of Journalism, I believe they’re doing a disservice to the students. The Journalism Department should be one department united in the ideals of pursuing responsible and ethical Journalism. I think they should do a conference or something, and clear things up.

Again, I know I’m not in the position to tell these two professors how to do their jobs. But quite frankly, where is this disagreement going to lead the students? Ma’am, Sir, I hope you don’t mind my posting of my opinion on the web. Thank You.

*PJR Reports Cover photo from

27 Responses to “Contoversies”
  1. Mimi says:

    Hi JM! This is very interesting. I think there really is no problem if two respected professors give contrasting opinions on a certain matter. We know it happens all the time. Some profs are left some are right some are centered. It happens even in Philosophy or Art or probably any field in the humanities. So like always, these matters should be left for students to discern. After all, it’s the top university where students are assumed to be smart and critical. And it’s journalism, it’s flexible. No set rules are definite (it’s not science and math). This I realized in my summer internship. When writing and reporting stories, I wouldn’t really sit and think about the ten or six news values. For me, whatever the number doesn’t matter as long as you can use it. Take your pick. 🙂

  2. JM says:

    Hi Mimi, thanks for your view. I have to agree you have a point. However, this has been my problem since before. A good news article for Khan may not be as good for Chua or Arao or for Teodoro. Doesn’t that confuse you? Kasi this profession is all about judgment calls. And somehow we’re taught to make that decision. But if they teach different things, it’s kinda difficult to reconcile which to use. Diba?

  3. Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Blog Archive » A proposal lacking a consensus says:

    […] Jester-in-Exile, a generation-derived element at work here, and this is true even among journalists. The Blue Pencil Chronicles well, chronicles a typically intense debate going on between professors in the UP School of […]

  4. mika says:

    To end the debate, you should check their bios and see who the one with “beat coverage” experience and the one who doesn’t….its not a matter of age but actual vs. virtual experience

  5. Rach says:

    IMHO, I personally believe it’s a healthy thing, seeing two respected professors in our department argue. As Mimi pointed out, it happens to any field in humanities. Just as there are so many varied communication theories left to our devices, so will there be varied opinions as to covering beats and newswriting.

    I think you should not worry much about how their debate will translate to what they teach us students. It only goes to show that there is no definite formula to writing the perfect news article or the perfect news coverage, and that there are many approaches and angles to an issue. But of course, you always have to think about the “so-what” in the issue, how relevant it would be to the public. That’s where the judgment call comes in.

    And as to articles that are okay with Prof. X but may not be good enough for Prof. Y, erm, let’s just talk about it when we meet again. Haha! 🙂

  6. Mimi says:

    Hi JM, Hi Rach! As I said, this is really interesting. Maybe we students should sit over coffee or MassComm bread and chat away. We love issues, right? The hotter, the better. hehe

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