By Chit Estella
March 7, 2007
IN THE film “Broadcast News,” the character of Albert Brooks strives mightily to understand why he could not be a television news anchor. His sympathetic rival—the then young and dashing William Hurt—tries to help the stocky and unremarkable-looking Brooks by showing him how to wear a suit and comport himself while delivering the news.
But, alas, even a crash course in camera projection could not save Brooks. He simply did not look good enough for television.
These days, the unspoken and accepted rule is you have to be good-looking to be on TV. Local journalists call it “face value.”
Certainly, there are exceptions to that cruel rule. A reassuring mien and a familiar voice can seem to help viewers forget that they are looking at a face that is less than extraordinary.
Even those blessed with a pretty face, however, cannot rest easy. As a cosmetic advertisement says, one has to look “flawless.” And that is what news anchors try to be.
In this issue of PJR Reports, an article goes into a little-known aspect of news program production: dressing up the news readers. One would think that hair, makeup, and clothes would be a more pressing concern for showbiz people—those who intermittently thank “Fanny for my hair” and Dr. Vicky Belo for you-all-know-what, as soon as the cameras start rolling. But look closely at the closing credits of the news and see that news anchors also have some people to thank for the way they look. At a time when giant networks flaunt their power, a viewer will have to be forgiven for wondering, “Can’t they take care of Korina’s clothes?” Or Mike Enriquez’s suits? Why depend on advertisers for these things? Is that the way the CNN and the BBC or even that Dating Daan station do it?
Anyway… most journalists are not burdened by the kind of demand and expectation that news anchors are made to bear. Those who work behind the scene, or behind the cameras, are a good example. Photojournalists are easily the scruffiest bunch to inhabit the world of media.
But they are among the hardest-working. Theirs is a job that is judged by output—and output alone. Yet they are perhaps the most neglected members of the press. The issues that concern Filipino news photographers are discussed by freelance journalist Luz Rimban and by photojournalist Mike Perez who wrote a story that is almost painful in its lightheartedness.
In this issue, too, PJR Reports announces its media monitoring project for the elections. This is the contribution of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) to the quest for clean elections. By looking over the shoulders of those who cover the news, the CMFR hopes to help bring about a more vigilant and responsive press.
The country, it seems, does need a lot of watching over. Prof. Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, was in town recently to see for himself the situation regarding human rights. He had a mouthful to say to the government. So did the Reporters Without Borders which assessed the condition of the Philippine press in its annual report.
Such are the sights and sounds of summer.