Saturday, February 19, 2011

How to be a predator

CORRESPONDENT Carmel Loise Matus recently filed a formal complaint of harassment against Talisay City police chief, Superintendent Henry Biñas.

Last Feb. 18, 2011, Sun.Star Cebu’s Garry A. Cabotaje, Justin K. Vestil and Kevin A. Lagunda reported that Biñas viewed that his “friendly gesture… was misconstrued” by Matus.

The Police Regional Office 7 is investigating the administrative complaint.

As a former teacher of Matus, which is also her nickname, I thank her for speaking out, as well as Cebu Daily News for standing by their reporter.

When the summer term begins in less than a month, Mass Communication majors will be taking their internship with media institutions around the country.

Apprenticeship cements many students’ career choices. Sexual harassment from colleagues or sources is often raised in classroom discussions, but when it does happen, few know how to react. By speaking out, Matus shows us.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —that’s Eleanor Roosevelt, quoted by Matus in her Feb. 18 email to her teachers.

I’ve learned from the joys and aches shared by former students embracing a journalist’s life.

Here’s a recap of the tips I’ve picked up, too, from the other side: the predators that make journalism a thorny path:

Get drunk on power. Public figures attract the media. Public officials affect people. Even public figures not elected or appointed into position wield this iota of power: the power of information journalists seek to do their jobs. However, if you want to stroke your ego from pinkie to volcanic proportions, imagine Power as a eau de cologne you spray on before kissing wifey in the morning and going out to entrap Ms. Reporter.

Be “tricksy”. Take a cue from Gollum/Smeagol, the creature psychotically split between his evil and good sides in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Don’t fret if you’re as ugly as you look. Predators are great with disguises: turn your beer belly and thinning hair into the stooped, softened outline of an avuncular source. Learn to whisper: instead of shouting at you to speak louder, a polite young person will bend her head closer to hear you. (By the way, “avuncular” means “behaving in a kind and nice way to someone who is younger, rather like an uncle”.)

Coach one-on-one. Interns or apprentices get pleasantly surprised when their workplace supervisors or sources offer to go over their copy during a pricey dinner, in a cozy tete-a-tete, or an even more private place “where they can’t get disturbed”. If you really want to teach an aspiring journalist to learn accuracy and fairness, you can always reiterate or paraphrase your major points, hand over a fact sheet or press statement, or email your replies to her questions. You can also electronically edit her manuscript so the revisions are tracked, or scribble the old-fashioned way with a red pen or a marker. On the other hand, if the game plan is to keep her rewriting copy until it’s just the two of you left in the office, you were never interested in her choice of facts or her command of English, were you? So, mission accomplished.

Gender-tag journalists. In the King’s Language, there’s a reason why there are seamstresses and laundresses, but no reportresses and editresses. Gender is not germane in the practice of journalism. Why put color in a “lady reporter” texting or calling you at night or during weekends and holidays to get your side of a story? If a “gentleman reporter” does the same things, would you also smirk and assume he’s using his job for a personal agenda?

Humor the young. If caught in the act or your victim complains about your harassment, reach deep into your arsenal and regress, even predate “avuncular”. Act like the lost babe in the woods. Only the innocent would mistake a woman’s breast for her shoulder. Or be so confused by the hard, brute lash of verbs: “grab,” not “hold;” “squeeze,” not “bump;” “knead,” not “brush”. Faced with exposure and sanctions, a predator tosses back emotional harassment at a young person for being overly sensitive in reading into green jokes and belittling asides that repeatedly allude that she got her scoops because a source enjoys her favors. If regressing into a thumb-sucker does not work, try infantile. Rhymes very well with “reptile”.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Feb. 20, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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