As an online journalist, I am often greeted by a series of irritating questions: “What is that website?” “What paper is that?” and my personal favorite: “Oh, so I won’t be able to read this, right?”
In the totem pole of Philippine media, online journalists are almost near the bottom (next to sleazy tabloid reporters but a little above the well-known bloggers).
It’s not our fault. Most news websites in the country are an after thought by these often Jurassic-thinking media owners. Websites are seen as nothing more than a repository of their video or newspaper content in cyberspace.
Having worked for the website of a top television network in the country for three years, I am often defensive after revealing to someone where I work for.
In almost all press conferences or news events I attend, people always mistake me for the reporter of the television network.
“So where’s your camera?” the wide-eyed PR manager of press conference x would ask me.
“Here,” I would often say, showing my diminutive Canon Ixus camera, “It’s 7.1 megapixels, so it’s clear and crisp.”
After realizing that I wasn’t joking, the smile on the PR person’s face would turn upside down. At that moment, I would often feel that the invisible red carpet rolled out to the more ‘popular’ journalists has been pulled out from under my feet.
In a 2008 survey done by Nielsen, close to half of Filipinos have Internet access. Most of their cyberspace activities still involve a great deal of online gaming, sports news browsing, and ehem, porn.
While newspaper readership is on a slow yet steady decline, it was shown that the visits to these broadsheets websites were increasing. It might mean that their readers, who used to shell out P20 pesos (roughly $0.50) for a newspaper, have instead subscribed to their official website.
But what about those who do not have a print version? Well, they often remain unheard of.
As I am writing this, a former colleague in online has told me she might abandon ship and switch back to print. One foot is already out the door for her, since she already passed that broadsheet’s entrance test.
While I told her what has been my fervent belief for the past three years that, “the future is online and papers would soon be gone,” I myself am contemplating whether I should follow her move.
Aside from the fact that working for a paper would increase my name recall (and spare me the awkward introduction and explanation about my job) the benefits and salary from broadsheets in Manila are still far better than in online.
Some wise guy once said the future of news is online. Well, I’m sorry but for now, I would have to unfriend that ‘wise guy’ on my Facebook account until that future he foretold comes.