My Four-Week Internship Experience with The Philippine Star*
*This is an edited version of the post-internship paper that I wrote back in May 2009 for my Journalism 198 class under Professor Rachel Khan. By posting this here, I am hoping that my story can be of help to students who’ll be having their internships soon (as soon as this summer for some), particularly those in the field of mass communication.
The long list of companies and institutions that accept interns provide students with wildly differing fates. Many offer their interns a hands-on training while some make their trainees do mere clerical work. Media interns can get to do interviews, on-site reportage, and write news stories. However, some just arrange corporate files and run errands for their superiors. On-the-job training (OJT) is meant to widen a student’s horizons, lest it be forgotten.
This is the time when students can finally practice what they learned in a journalism class room. In the process, we get to experience the intricacies of the ‘real world.’ With so much at stake during the internship, it is very important that the chance won’t go to waste. Unlike other students who had settled for the first company to accept them, I had the opportunity to consider two other internship programs, though I declined both because I decided that it might not be able to provide me with the training that I need.
I consider myself lucky for being able to have my OJT in the Philippine Star. I was under the mentorship of two Star reporters, Perseus Echeminada and Sandy Araneta, respectively. The trainer would serve as my direct supervisor throughout the internship. I spent the last two weeks of April under Mr. Echeminada and afterwards, I was transferred to Mr. Araneta for for the remainder of the internship period. Mr. Echeminada covers the Quezon City (QC) Hall and the QC RTC as well as LTO, LTFRB and PCSO. Meanwhile, Mr. Araneta’s beat includes the Manila City Hall, the courts, the NBI, and the DOJ (as a reliever).
I really wanted to be with a news organization because it would help me meet my internship goals and in honing my people-relation skills. I know that once I venture into the media profession, not everyone would be easy to deal with. Some of them may be moody while others may be uncompromising. This early, I deemed it important to be able to experience this first hand so that I would be better equipped about it in the future.
When you’re in the field, it is very important to nurture the trust of your sources. Some court clerks may be unwilling to give away copies of a particular motion for reconsideration, but with a little more prodding and much convincing – he/she may finally give in. One thing that I realized during the internship is that government officials, the judges in particular, have different take on the media’s right to access public documents. They also have different understanding of how far the media can go.
For Manila RTC Judge Silvino Pampilo, who handles the case involving the ‘Big 3’ oil companies, anything goes as regards to the media. He allows reporters to photocopy all documents related to the matter. In fact, he is the one who informs the reporters through SMS about orders he will release – and motions that has just been filed. He even allows himself to be interviewed regarding the case and permits huge video cameras and tape recorders inside a court room.
In contrast, there are judges who do not allow reporters to reproduce the court papers. The only thing the latter can do is to take notes of the case – which is difficult for a craft that relies heavily on obtaining documents. As for the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman (I covered it for three days), all papers can be photocopied though the cost is so prohibitive at P4 per page. If possible, the reporter should reach the parties involved (particularly the lawyers) to get the papers for free. Again, one’s networking skills comes in handy.
I also realized the value of studying your beat well. A reporter cannot just sit on the office building and wait for the news to happen. He/she must look for it. On my first day with Mr. Araneta, he gave me a tour of the Manila City Hall. He pointed out to me where to find potential news stories like the court’s docket section, the court calendar, and of course, the press office. During the last few days of my OJT, I discovered several potential news stories right from the record section: a.) the graft charges against a Vitas, Tondo slaughter house collector, b.) P 1.8 M qualified theft raps against 2 former Metrobank employees, c.) illegal drug case against 2 Korean nationals.
Indeed, journalists should have presence of mind at all times. Otherwise, it may be too late (aka ‘nai-scoopan ka na’). On my first day under Mr. Echeminada, he dispatched me to the New Era General Hospital to cover the developments on the case of Mrs. Trinidad Etong’s suicide (during that time, there’s still the parricide angle). This is not the time for me to grope in the dark; rather, I should know what to do right from the start. I arrived at the place just in time to catch PAO Chief Persida Acosta give a brief interview with reporters. Journalism is indeed full of excitement and unpredictability.
An incident that left a profound effect on me happened during Jun Lozada’s arraignment at the Manila RTC. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed by the police to get inside the court room (together with other media men) since it’s already jam-packed. I texted Mr. Araneta to say that I’m stuck outside. At this point, I’m quite clueless about what I can do for the story since I know that everything is happening inside. In his response, my trainer told me: “Make your own decisions on what to do to get the story. You don’t have to ask me everything… ” Outside the court room, I got to interview former Sen. Pres. Franklin Drilon, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, and even Lozada’s spiritual adviser (Bro. Ceci Hojilla of La Salle). Somehow, I was able to contribute to that story.
I would go back to the three cases filed before the Manila RTC that I had ‘discovered.’ Throughout my days under Mr. Araneta, I made it a point to go to the City Hall to make the rounds there before proceeding to our ‘base’ which is at the NBI Press Office. After finding potential news stories, I would text Mr. Araneta about it and usually, he would instruct me to let our Press Office-mates photocopy the documents. There are four mainstays at the said place: Sandy Araneta of the Star, his wife Macon Ramos-Araneta of Standard-Today, Jeamma Sabate of Bulletin and Tina Santos of Inquirer. All of them, except Ms Araneta, cover the same beat. As I see it, the reporters are both interdependent – and independent from one another.
They are interdependent in the sense that they normally share news information to one another. In fact, the Star did not use the Vitas corruption and the Metrobank qualified theft stories though it made its way to Bulletin and Inquirer. They also consult one another regarding fact double-checking. It is not unusual for Ms Santos, for instance, to ask Mr Araneta for court stories she might have missed out. Meanwhile, Ms Sabate frequently asks my trainer about stories she was unable to cover because of other assignments (e.g. Kuya Sandy, ano ba ang nagyari dun kay Lozada?).
Given the fact that the reporters are essentially fed the same information, it really takes a lot of effort to make one’s story stand out. It is primarily done through smart angling and building more sources within the beat. This is when the competing reporters become independent from one another.