“Journalist ba ako, o survivor?”
The exact words that Mr. Donald Castro, a senior reporter from ABS-CBN, wittily shares to summarize his 15 years of journey in the field of journalism.
Given the odds of the highly-competitive world of journalism, Castro believes that surviving is a must. Reporting and writing for the truth will help you fight the rotten system, rather than being a slave or worse, being a part of it.
Life at risk
“Fighter talaga ako.”
This is what he tells himself when put into life-threatening situations. He is currently handling the police or PNP (Philippine National Police) beat of ABS-CBN News.
Journalists these days are faced with risks that often test their abilities and strengths in the media industry.
“Nasubukan ko ng muntik mamatay sa trabahong ito. Nasubukan ko ng masabugan ng granada, lumubog sa landslide sa Quezon at matutukan ng baril sa stasyon ng police,” he answered when asked about the issues on threats. “Lahat ‘yan may risk eh, na kahit pala buhay mo na ang nakasalayklay, ito ka parin, balik ng balik, siguro dahil dito talaga ako,” he adds.
From a person who gets to see and sometimes experience life-threatening events almost every day, he also emphasized that fear should never be an option for journalists, knowing that what you are doing is right.
On media issues
Sensationalism is the exaggeration of events that is often done by journalists these days. It sacrifices the truth value and credibility of the news. Castro believes that it has become one of the major issues that are pressed to journalists.
He said he wanted to change this type of journalism practice for it is not necessary. He explains that it is enough that journalists are able to report to the people the facts and on what really happened, while claiming that there is no exaggeration that is further needed.
He then challenges the journalists who sensationalize the news to face the libel charges filed against them and be responsible for their actions.
“Hindi dahil alam nating binabasa ng mga tao ang mga sinusulat nating mga journalists at nakikinig sila sa atin kapag nagsasalita na tayo ay aabusuhin na natin ito,” he says.
On his solution to this problem, Castro went back to the very reason why he wanted to be a journalist, change. He says he always grabs the opportunity to interact with students to guide and help them prevent on making the same mistakes.
“Gusto kong baguhin ang ating sistema. I make it to a point na nakakausap ko kayong mga estudyante kasi ang buhay nating mga journalists ay may cycle. ‘Yong mga tao ngayon, kami, mawawala din sa industriya at kayo ang papalit.”
He urges the students to fight the system that we are locked into in order for us to stop the sensationalism that has been destroying the image of journalists.
Being in the media for quite a long time, Castro knows credibility when he talks about it.
Credibility is the hardest thing to achieve when you become a journalist because of the pressures like deadlines, editors, publishers, advertisers and biases around. For you to find a credible journalist would be a challenge but, Castro believes that there are still credible journalists out there.
But who is a credible journalist?
“Totoo, hindi corrupt at matapang,” these are the factors that he considers when it comes to credibility.
“Ang pagiging mamamahayag ay hindi nabibili. Not for sale ang balita. Not for sale ang iyong pagkatao at iyong integridad. Hindi pwedeng isang mura lang sa’yo, o isang sigaw lang ay titiklop ka na,” he says.
For future journalists
Many tries to enter the field of journalism but, only a few succeeds. For more than a decade Castro has been filling up our news needs. As for his secret, “Hindi ko minadali ang buhay,” he shares. “Mas pinili kong matuto kasi hindi lahat ng mga journalist na napapanood or naririning sa radio at tv, at nababasa natin sa mga dyaryo, ay nagdaan sa butas ng karayom. Hindi lahat [ay] nabibigyan ng pagkakataon, pero hindi ibig sabihin na hindi niyo pwedeng subukan at susuko nalang kayo.”
Castro has always been open to students especially to future journalists and was very generous on giving pieces of advice to them.
His words to future journalists, “Huwag kayong magsawang mag-aral at huwag na huwag kayong magsawang lumaban sa buhay.”
Castro admits that competition in the media industry exists but, he reminds the future journalists not to be insecure and to always find ways to stand out from the rest.
“Kung sakaling magtagumpay ka, ‘wag kang makakalimot kung saan ka man nangaling. Bumalik ka, at huwag kang magsasawang gawin ito.”
Catalyst for change
For a person who has been in the media industry of 15 years, Castro believes on how easily the media can strongly influence the people and how fast the people reacts to the media. But even before he got in the industry, he already knew why he wanted to be part of it—change.
“Gusto kong magkaroon ng pagbabago,” the proud Thomasian and alumna of the Faculty of Arts and Letters said.
He confidently said that he is willing to take the challenge to cover anything, may it be dangerous or not, or anything he opts to report, he will always choose to side with the truth.
He wanted to fight for the truth and what is right. His desire to change this world for the better motivated him to take the chance to be a journalist also, for him to utilize the influence of media.
Despite the challenges, being in the media for him is an opportunity to allow change to take its course.
“Minsan nakakatakot. Nakakapraning [na] minsan kasi baka mamaya may sumusunod sa sayo. Kasi alam mo yung takot na naroon ay iba, pero kapag nakita mo na okay yung sitwasyon, na maraming natututwa at, nawawala yung mga salut sa lipunan, nakakataba [na] rin ng puso,” he shares. K