FORMER press undersecretary Alice Colet-Villadolid urged journalists to bear in mind the public’s right to information in their reportage during the press ethics lecture “Out of Bounds: Trespassing in Journalism,” at the Central Library Conference Hall last Mar. 7.

“The ethical concerns in journalism are assessed with regard to the public’s need for information,” said Villadolid, a former Varsitarian columnist on campus affairs. “(Journalists) should be professional enough to depart from the news story, free themselves from prejudice and favoritism, and be vigilant observers and watchdogs of the society. (They) must also take confidentiality as serious business in their reportage.”

A former correspondent for the New York Times and Newsweek International, Villadolid explained that in some countries, journalism is considered a trade and not a profession. It is also not regarded as a science, having no requirements or ethical standards to follow.

“In Germany, journalists are considered as mere mechanics of words. Here in the Philippines, we are trying our best to ‘professionalize’ journalism,” she said. “Being a professional journalist means one has the capability to think and synthesize information without distorting the truth and (to provide) a balanced treatment of the story.”

She said the “professionalization” of the journalism practice is gaining ground with the creation of the Filipino Journalist’s Code of Ethics by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI). The code enshrines journalistic values of fairness, honesty, dignity, justice, privacy, accuracy, and respect for the truth.

“The Code provides, among others, that journalists must adhere to scrupulous reporting or interpretation of news, not to suppress essential facts or distort trust by improper omission or emphasis,” Villadolid added.

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But she said adherence to the code is voluntary, which is a setback to attempts at “professionalizing” journalism in the Philippines.

“There are still some journalists who refuse to follow the Code thinking that Journalism is just a mere practice of trade and not as a profession,” she said.

As instructor and practitioner of print journalism, Villadolid, who graduated in UST with a Bachelor of Arts degree major in Journalism, summa cum laude, has advocated moral values and ethics in the profession. She has worked with journalists in professional training and in updating and promoting “The Filipino Journalist’s Code of Ethics.”

The lecture, organized by Journalism seniors of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, aimed to encourage future journalists to practice professionalism and ethical reportage in the practice of the profession. Edsel Van dT. Dura and J. dL. Yamzon

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