Column: Seven ‘life hacks’ I learned at the Inquirer

Published on December 13, 2016.

I was one of two Inquirer employees who had the privilege of speaking on behalf of this year’s service awardees in simple rites last week. Please allow me to share excerpts from my response:

… The first of the [seven] “life hacks” I learned at the Inquirer is: Stay humble. I learned this lesson well working closely for over a dozen years with longtime Opinion Editor Jorge Aruta. His approach to editing is exactly the same as his approach to life: Know what’s important, and keep a light touch…. Very few people know that he was, as I wrote back in 2012, one of the most influential opinion journalists in Philippine history. His example of serene confidence and sincere humility continues to inspire me.

… the Inquirer has grown its various audiences and kept its agenda-setting leadership in part through doing new things. The second of the life hacks I learned then is: Stay hungry. I think of Tess Samaniego … who has created a new advertising lifeline for the Inquirer. How did she do it? She looked at the landscape with new eyes, and was able to imagine new possibilities.

One of the distinguishing marks of the Inquirer experience is how much it feels like home. We are happy to be here, and it shows. I think of my batchmate Ritchie Sabado, who is literally a permanent or perpetual Saturday: the answered prayer after you thank God it’s Friday. Or I think of the preternaturally cheerful Chito de la Vega, who spreads light and the occasional bad joke wherever he goes. The third of the life hacks I learned at the Inquirer then is: Stay happy.

The fourth of the life hacks: Stay honest. By this I mean not only keeping our integrity as journalists or as stewards of journalists, but also maintaining a detailed devotion to duty exemplified by Rene Reinoso’s from-the-ground-up mastery of the newspaper business, or Kate Pedroso’s quiet expertise in filtering the essential from a tsunami of data, or Tintin Ang’s relentless tracking down of the wayward comma, the unsupported assertion. Journalism is a matter of detail: Honesty in our work means doing the sometimes dirty job of digging for the living detail ….

One of the highlights of my 15 years [is] the Inquirer Compact project in 2006 and 2007. We all know that that didn’t turn out as well as we had expected, but the editorial staff that worked on Compact, led by my friend Abel Ulanday, was a journalistic dream team …. We were bustling with hope. The fifth of the life hacks I learned at the Inquirer then is: Stay hopeful. I think of our corporate culture’s emerging openness to change, and am happy to note that it resonates with other Inquirer companies as well, in the work, for instance, of Sephy Garibay and Matix Santos of Inquirer.net and Dona Policar of Inquirer Bandera.

But the Inquirer would not make a difference in Philippine society if we did not do excellent work. In the end, journalism boils down to getting what Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame defines as “the best obtainable version of the truth.” I am privileged to work with some of the best in the country. Let me name just five: theater critic Gibbs Cadiz, Catholicism expert “Monsignor” Lito Zulueta, business linchpin Doris Dumlao, football whiz Cedelf Tupas, and the best editor in the business, bar none, Chato Garcellano …. So, with apologies to millennials who may not understand 1980s language, the sixth life hack I learned is: Stay hanep!

All of this would not have been possible without the family I am always happy to describe in public forums as the guarantors of our editorial independence. MRP has always impressed upon us the role of the Inquirer in the country’s democratic project. And Sandy has always impressed me with how she manages the group from a higher perspective. She looks at the newspaper, at the website, at the group, as a whole. The seventh life hack I learned at the Inquirer then is: Stay whole. Remember our sense of purpose. Remember our roots in the freedom struggle and the Edsa revolution.

Remember what is truly at stake.

At a time when press freedom and indeed even the democratic project are undergoing great stress, we are challenged to remember and apply the lessons, the life hacks, of the past: Stay humble, stay hungry, stay happy. Stay honest, stay hopeful, stay hanep! Stay whole.

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