July 24, 2012. It has only been a month since I became a reporter. But I received an important assignment: the arrival of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the hospital to her home in La Vista, Quezon City. I waited in my position for hours. And then in a flash, the convoy of Congresswoman Arroyo arrived. It was a game of boxing out: reporters, cameramen, cameras and microphones. I got good position near her car window. But I failed with my ambush interview.
She didn’t talk; she just waved and smiled. In hindsight, maybe I froze in place. Another journalist, Asti Flores of GMA News Online, froze me in a picture instead. This image below sums up my first year as a TV news reporter from 2012 to 2013. It captures both my enthusiasm and cluelessness. I guess this was my warm welcome to the industry.
First Live Never Dies
July 3, 2012. My first live report was for 24 Oras and it was about the water levels of La Mesa Dam. The weather was bad, prompting the need to deploy many reporters in remote points. I couldn’t count how many live reports went before me. But I was nervously waiting for my turn as I heard their reports through my override earphone.
I was at the edge of a mental block while I was hearing Mike Enriquez introduce my report. But I kept my focus by remembering the first two words of my spiel. The lens of the camera was staring back at me; it seemed harmless enough. But behind its glass, there were millions of Filipinos watching. Including you. You can watch here how my (nervous and awkward) first live report ended up.
Tips of the Trade (for live reports):
Practice reporting in front of the mirror. Instead of memorizing spiels, it’s better to understand the story and its context. Learn natural pauses and proper breathing so it doesn’t sound awkward.
The Night’s Watch
News shoots are not new to me. I spent three years in the field as a segment producer. But I still had to adjust to the daily grind of being a news reporter. The pace is faster; the story has to air immediately in a few hours. Without presence of mind and composure, one will burn out easily.
As a rookie reporter, I had to spend time in the graveyard shift. The streets are usually silent at night but it has many twisted tales. While on watch in the Manila Police District, we encountered a Finnish brawler who looked and spoke like the Mighty Thor. To escape his attackers in a bar, he jumped from the second floor and landed on the roof of a car. He emerged unharmed, with only minor scratches! No one could stop him!
Tips of the Trade (for the graveyard shift):
There are many encounters with cold corpses in murder scenes. You need to develop a tough gut. There are also many opportunities to eat midnight snacks. Likewise, you need to discipline your gut. Other journalists may be competitors. But most of them are friendly. Try to have a friend from the police in every precinct too. Lastly, sound sleep is now a privilege.
A developing story is a term for a news event with numerous updates by the hour. Usually, it lasts for days. If a reporter gets an assignment for a developing story, I feel it is a sign of trust from the news organization.
During my freshman campaign, my most memorable developing story turned out to be the Marikina River. There was no storm, just a monsoon or habagat. But the strong torrential rains evoked memories of typhoon Ondoy back in 2009.
The Marikina River has gauges under one of its bridges to measure its water level. The city has three alarms to alert the residents for forced evacuations. Once the river reaches its highest alarm, flash floods may possibly reach its low lying communities such as Provident Village.
I learned all of these while doing live reports for Unang Hirit, Unang Balita, Kape at Balita, News to Go and Balitanghali. I was learning on the job. But this was no longer an internship; there are no more kid gloves. We had many morning viewers because of all the class suspensions. Mistakes in reporting were unacceptable.
Tips of the Trade (for developing stories):
Establish contact with authority figures and resource persons for official updates. During remote assignments, find the pulse of the people who live nearby. It will be difficult to determine if a development is new if there is no knowledge of what went before. Maintain a keen eye for sidebar stories.
Sidebar stories are surprises that unfold with each assignment. Typically, they have been happening for a long time and local residents just dismiss it as common, ordinary or normal. In the case of my Marikina River coverage, I discovered that there is a surplus of janitor fishes after every flood. The river literally throws them out. Marikenyos consider them as pests that destroy fishnets.
When the river is rising, I also discovered some residents would stay nearby to watch it like a spectacle or a movie taping — instead of evacuating!
The Fault in our Stars
As reporters try to keep up with the hunt for headlines, there are also various chances to interview celebrities and personalities. More than the meet and greet, it is also a chance to ask questions most people would be eager to ask them.
I also learned that though most of them are icons in their respective fields, they are also just ordinary people, similar to you and me.
Red Letter Days
During holidays, I usually report the situation in places where the concentration of people is high — from bus terminals and airports to cemeteries and churches. That means I have to be absent at home during special days of the year. My first year as a reporter may have been fun. But our line of work is a huge responsibility that comes with sacrifices. Nobody said it was easy.
[Entry 22, The SubSelfie Blog]
Editor’s Note: Here were his adventures before he became a field correspondent for GMA News — Reporter Notes: Prequel
About the Author:
Bam Alegre is the founder of SubSelfie.com and writes from time to time as a guest contributor. He is a News Reporter for GMA News (2012) and an Instructor for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of the East (2015). He was also part of the team that won GMA News the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for the news coverage of super typhoon Yolanda (2013). Previously, he worked behind the scenes as a Segment Producer for State of the Nation with Jessica Soho and 24 Oras (2009-2012). He is also the vocalist, pianist and guitarist of the band No Parking (2005). BA Broadcast Communication 2007, UP Diliman. Read more of his articles here.