The business we have chosen

Next week, I’ll have been unemployed for a month.

Me, being employed.

That’s not strictly true, since I have a few freelance projects to work on but I am part of the 7 percent of Filipinos without a job. Of course, that’s really just a statistic and I’m one of millions, but that’s a statistic that I take personally. I have been cruising vacancies on Jobstreet and JobsDB, but aside from a vacancy in Phnom Penh, most of the jobs under “Editorial/Journalism” are at business process outsourcing firms.

Don’t get me wrong, working for a BPO is an honorable job and the BPO sector probably brings in more money to the Philippines than the media does.  To be honest, with a sister to put through school and a nicotine addiction to feed, the money from a BPO job sounds very tempting right now. I like to think of myself as a reporter from the old school, though, despite not actually studying journalism in school.

An old creed from back in the day goes, the public journal is a public trust. And for all the dollars working for a BPO might bring me, it’s difficult to imagine writing about events in some faraway town in another country for people in that faraway town in another country counts as a public trust.

It will be to them, maybe, but will they even know that some brown-skinned guy who didn’t even grow up speaking English was handling their news for them and telling them about an issue he cares very little about because he has problems of his own that are nearer to the gut and nearer to home? I’d do it with the objectivity demanded of the profession, but I would also be doing it with disinterest.

I lost my job as a reporter for a multinational web portal last month, and with that, a source of a substantial amount of money. But that does not bother me so much. I got into this profession earning minimum wage from an English-language tabloid but I loved every minute of it, even the ones I hated while they were happening. In some ways, working for the Philippine Gazette was more authentic than writing for Yahoo! if only because my editor then did not balk at covering stories that were boring but important.

Being a small outfit, the Gazette did not need to worry about page views and clickability. Since it went under, it has not had to worry about anything at all.

So it isn’t the money. What I fear most is the prospect of not being able to work in news. Or at least in news that  matters to me and to the country that I live in. I am afraid that the job market–and it’s close to December so very few companies are hiring–and the reality of needing money for things will force me to forget my pride and apply at a BPO.

I am afraid of the bad faith that it will require for me to even apply at one of those. When that happens, I will be beyond redemption. After all, as the creed goes,  “all acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust.”


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