Kobe Bryant

To Rappler, With Love

Benise P. Balaoing
You taught me that engagement with the readers is what will bring about real change. You taught me what uncompromised journalism is all about

A Rappler intern in summer 2012

Dear Rappler,

It’s been 2 months since we first met online. Since then, we’ve met in person—and you’ve changed my life in a whole new way. I’ve grown so much as a journalist and as a person in such a short while—thanks to the highs, lows, and in-betweens we shared together.

“Oh, she’s an old face. She’s had her controversy here,” was how Ma’am Maria Ressa described me to the other interns.

Well, even I have to admit that this experience was what made my internship really colorful. Looking back, my internship wouldn’t have been as exciting without it.

I was so, so proud of my first story, a news item on the scientists ‘creating’ new rainbow colors. It was cute, it was creative, the product of my own handiwork. It beat the story on Jessica Sanchez to be the number one story of the day.

But as I would hear from the conference room later on, it was number one for a different reason than I thought.

The flak from the readers drove me crazy. There were things I couldn’t bear to hear. “Your story is a complete misrepresentation of reality,” they said. I wanted to just break down and cry.

Thankfully, the story wasn’t completely wrong; I just forgot to elaborate on some parts of it. Gemma Mendoza, my editor, taught me that science stories should be written like you’re talking to a 12-year old. Caution must be taken against dumbing it down, however.

Things could also have gone better had I gone beyond the press release and interviewed more sources to clarify the story—something my journalism teacher kept saying in class.

It’s one thing when your teacher tells you to do something; but it’s another when you don’t do it and things go wrong. The lesson becomes more memorable as it sticks to both your mind and your heart. I, for one, will cherish this valuable lesson throughout my career.

Covering the Palarong Pambansa in Pangasinan with other Rappler interns

Playing—while keeping it real

To be completely honest, I didn’t want to be in the Palaro team. (Check stories on Palarong Pambansa 2012 here.)

I don’t play any sport, and I didn’t understand all that jargon. Simply put, I didn’t want to cover sports.

But I’m totally glad, Rappler, that you had things your way.

Doing features for the Palarong Pambansa made me realize how very human sports are. The athletes of Sendong, the barefoot athlete, the special athletes, the Tausug athlete, and the thousand others who competed under the sun’s scorching heat were all stories of the triumph of the human spirit against seemingly insurmountable odds—the forces of nature, the other athletes, and even themselves.   

They made me realize that there’s so much more to sports than the jargon that only a few could understand.

And boy, their stories were very inspiring. They moved me. They moved our readers. We got record-high hits during that week.

I used to think that the best kind of journalism always concerned politics. But these human stories are inspiring in that they are about the common people who do things uncommonly well.

They are so pedestrian; everyone can relate to them. And when you have more than the upper 10% of the social hierarchy getting moved by your story, you’re in for social change.

Farewell

It’s only been 2 months and I already learned a lot from you, Rappler.

You taught me that journalism—real, game-changing journalism—requires hard work. You taught me that real change comes about when journalist and reader collaborate; when the former steps down from his pedestal and tries to understand the real problems of the latter, in order to produce a piece with depth and real substance.

You taught me that engagement with the readers is what will bring about real change. You taught me what uncompromised journalism is all about.

You taught me how to dig deeper for a story that would really be moving, inspiring. And in the process, you’ve inspired me to be a better journalist someday.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU, RAPPLER!

The author (rightmost) with other Rappler interns.