~ Never has there been a community newspaper so loved by many and despised by some, at least in the Filipino community of Toronto. Understandably so, for Balita, the fortnightly periodical, treads on those who consider themselves the high and mighty, the pretenders, the tricksters; and provides a voice to the oppressed and the afflicted, and the many members of the diaspora who are afraid to speak up. Regardless of how it is viewed, the paper continues to adhere to the truth and to its commitment to serving the community.
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“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.” ― Edward Abbey
TORONTO – The Washington Post has set a precedent in news reporting in the early 70s with its coverage of the Watergate scandal that culminated in the resignation of US President Richard Nixon.
WP reporters, the now celebrated Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, broke the story and went on to report how it developed through months of investigative work, thanks to the help of anonymous sources.
What they did with the full support of WP’s owners and editors was an exercise of the freedom of the press, a First Amendment right enshrined in the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Three decades later in 2002, the Boston Globe had its truth-to-power exposés with more than 600 “history-changing” investigative reports about sexual abuse by the clergy in the Catholic Church, an undertaking by eight reporters that at the least resulted in the public erosion of traditional deference to the church.
Right here in the Greater Toronto Area, abuses and exploitation committed by employers against Filipino nannies got the attention of the Toronto Star, which then initiated a year-long investigation, leading to the passage of a tough new law that basically protects foreign caregivers
In essence, those cases are an affirmation of “speak-truth-to-power”, which the dictionary defines as “to address facts to an authority or a superior”. Another definition is “to reveal facts about an authority or a superior”.
Shari Runner, of the Chicago Urban League, explains its meaning so succinctly, thus: “Speaking truth to power means believing deeply in what you say and fighting every day to have that heard. It may not be popular; it means taking a risk, it means standing for something.
For Dwain Doty, Community & Public Affairs Producer, “It means the courage to stand up for your beliefs when your instincts tell you have to … even though sometimes there is a price to pay.”
Whichever definition one may choose, I am personally inclined to say that “speak-truth-to-power” has been a mantra that has a local home in Greater Toronto Area – in Balita, the area’s largest Filipino newspaper.
My views would be suspect, I know because I write for Balita as a columnist and an associate editor as well. But I’m saying this in the interest of full disclosure.
Granting I distance myself from my Balita connection, I would still declare that the fortnightly periodical is the go-to newspaper for most Filipinos. And the main reason for that phenomenon is its ability to speak truth to power fearlessly.
There is a price to pay, yes, and it could be in many forms, shapes, and sizes.
I must emphasize though that journalism does not end with lawsuits, threats, intimidation, physical violence, and at the very extreme, killings. Those instances only serve to strengthen journalism and its true practitioners.
Compared with the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and Toronto Star – bigtime newspapers all – Balita is only a tiny speck in the world of journalism. But it delivers the punch the way these mainstream newspapers do.
The community newspaper does not have the full financial backing of investors because there is none. It does not have teams of reporters and editors to do investigative work nationwide because it is unaffordable.
Unlike those mainstream papers which are sold in print and online, Balita is given free to the public. Its revenues from advertising are plowed back to cover printing and distribution costs.
Every issue of Balita is a work of love for the profession and a commitment to the community it serves. It tells a story to the best of its ability to adhere to the truth, honestly and without prevarication.
Its founder, the late Ruben Cusipag, had envisioned Balita’s role as early as 1978, to be an unflinching advocate for the community, a truth-seeker, a watchdog, a protector of the voiceless and the oppressed, a fighter against wrongs.
Now, 40 years later, the paper he had nurtured is under assault from individuals and underground trolls in the very community it seeks to enlighten through expository articles which, ultimately, shine the light on the many despicable acts against our people.
In Balita, “speak-truth-to-power” is not just a verb. It is a vow to uphold the truth.