Angela Mercurio: Through the Walls of the Fourth Estate

Other people spend large amounts of money to have fun and feel alive, others simply grab pens and papers to write and harbor the same happiness — only cheaper, quite laborious, but a lot more meaningful.

With her spirited love towards writing, Angela Lorraine Celis Mercurio defines journalism as a ball of light that provides guidance to the world through truthful reportage. Journalism, not only as her profession, but also as her passion, has brought her to the position she would not trade for anything else.

After years of passion, hard work and dedication in the field of business reporting, Mercurio constantly brought home the bacon and bagged three consecutive reporter of the year awards in the Journalism Awards of the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) and Ayala Group of Companies from 2013 to 2015. EJAP is the main organization of business reporters, editors, and publishers in the country.

A graduate of the Journalism program of the University of Santo Tomas in 2009, Mercurio applied for a writing career in the Malaya Business Insight, a broadsheet newspaper in the Philippines situated in Intramuros. Armed with faith and her strong drive to pursue a career in journalism, Mercurio landed a job at the Insight and is now a senior writer and reporter.

Mercurio said she is particularly interested in business reporting because of her desire to understand the economy and business in itself with its own nature.

“There is a career in business reporting. I am part of this economy and I ought to know the things happening in it. I figured that this would be my chosen field in journalism because I myself would want to understand business and market structures,” Mercurio said.

Mercurio is currently covering two main beats: macro economy and public finance. She monitors multilateral agencies like the World Bank. Agencies like the National Development and Economic Authority, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, and the Insurance Commission are also part of her beat coverage. Her regular stories report about gross domestic products, external trade, employment, national budget, and fiscal performance.

No sweat in journalism

A practicing journalism for five years, Mercurio proudly said that she has not experienced hardcore challenges in the field. She further explained that there are no real struggles in journalism once the writer is well aware of the basics. The basics include appropriate sourcing, in-depth research and having an active nose for news.

“Once you have figured your way in the industry, you will have smooth days ahead of you. Writing could be really easy when you know what you are doing and you know what you are doing it for,” Mercurio said. “When you know where to look and who to talk to, you will make it in journalism.”

Although Mercurio said journalism could be an easy task, she explained that not everyone has what it takes to become professional journalists.

“It’s easy to report news or write stories, yes, but it takes more than that to be a journalist.

A real journalist must be responsible or accountable for everything that he or she writes. A journalist must always double-check, or even triple check, his or her stories, if the details are accurate,” Mercurio argued. “There must also be balanced reporting of the news, making sure that you get both sides of the story.”

Role of technology in business reporting

 With the emergence of technology, Mercurio signified that journalism became undemanding as it evolved into something much less complicated than it was before.

As a business reporter, her job requires her to be able to delve in into a mountain of files, which are now up in the World Wide Web. Technology made everything accessible, transformed presswork into child’s play and allowed journalists to write stories faster. Editors can now edit news in their phones or personal computers without the struggle of dealing with paper trails. Newspaper layouts can be done in laptops or tablets. Through the Internet or through efficient mobile communication, research is made easier as well as information became within reach. In today’s digital age, journalism continues to flourish.

“There have been some major changes in the industry and technology plays a big role in this impetus, with news expected to be delivered as it happens. One online search, one text, one call, that’s all we really need.” Mercurio said.

Covering the APEC

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) has received a lot of attention from both the traditional and mainstream media institutions. The 2015 APEC summit held in the Philippines last November 17 to 21 filled in the jam-packed “to-do-lists” of journalists most especially the ones covering in the business field.

According to Mercurio, the Philippine media coverage of the APEC had its ups and downs. Journalists failed to deviate from reporting about non-newsworthy happenings like the fashion wear displayed by the APEC leaders or the fact that Kris Aquino attended the events. She said that this distracted the audience from grasping the real essence of the APEC Summit.

“The APEC Summit becomes newsworthy because you get to hear the insights of world leaders and business tycoons. If the mainstream media diverts the attention of the public to something interesting but unsubstantial, the essence of the reportage is defeated,” Mercurio said.

Mercurio gave an emphasis on the fact that journalists are wedded with the social responsibility of helping the public form critical discourses and intellectual opinions. She challenged journalists to stay true to this responsibility and be able to produce stories of national importance and significance.

“Journalists should be able to produce substantial stories, with all the resources that are already available. There’s just no excuse for journalists nowadays to make weak stories. People count on journalists for credible reportage — let us give them credible reportage.” Mercurio said.

On a more personal note, Mercurio claimed that covering major events like the APEC summit is seesawing between boring and exciting. She said that major events usually appear to be predictable and dragging. However, the historical factor of the events let her see their enjoyable side.

According to Mercurio, journalists are not allowed to conduct ambush interviews and are often situated in media centers. She said that APEC meetings are non-binding and there are only few earth shaking and market-moving reports.

“Major events, such as the APEC Summit, can be quite boring. We often get motherhood statements during press conferences, and the discussions in the APEC meetings are non-binding and are merely guidelines for its member economies,” Mercurio said.

Mercurio has covered APEC meetings in Cebu, Bacolod, Bataan, Iloilo, and Tagaytay.

Survival of the 4th estate

As a reporter in the second most dangerous country for journalists, Mercurio does not feel threatened about her safety and security. She said that although the lives of journalists in the Philippines are put at risks from time to time, they are able to work freely amidst all external and internal factors that try to silence the truth tellers.

“There is enough press freedom in the Philippines, especially when compared to other countries. Yes, Philippine journalists encounter challenges from time to time, and at times, reporters’ lives are put at risk. It is tough especially for those covering national issues, and there are those who would do everything to silence our voices, such as what happened in Maguindanao. But generally, I think journalists in the Philippines are able to work freely,” Mercurio said.

According to Mercurio, Philippine journalism will survive as long as there are brave souls who have passion in exposing the truth and critical thinkers who are willing to write unbiased stories, regardless of the circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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