A nose for news

By Herbert Vego

“ALL that you need to tell the news is a nose for news.”

That was one of the guidelines imparted to us Journalism students by the late Professor Angel Anden at the Manuel L. Quezon University (MLQU) in Manila decades ago.

Indeed, I would not have taken the course if I had no nose for news which, to quote Mr. Webster, “is any information about a recent event in a particular area”.

“If you intend to be a news reporter,” he encouraged us, “you will never run out of materials. Anywhere you go – north, east, west or south – there’s an unfolding event worth writing about.”

There was emphasis in the way he enumerated the four points of the compass: North, East, West, South. What a coincidence! The first letters of the four directions spell “news.”

We have yet to see an individual who has not asked us, “What’s the news?”

The asked Marites, if she is secretary to the company president, may answer, “Well, our president has found a new love in San Francisco.”

Anden lectured us on the “inverted pyramid” form of the news, which begins with the most important details and ends with the least important. This format allows the editor to cut the story due to space limitation, or the reader to quit reading without losing the vital details.

The lead – referring to the first paragraph or two – summarizes the whole story in as few words as possible. The conventional or orthodox lead consists of all or most of the five Ws and one H. The Ws answer the questions who, what, when, where and why. The H is for how. Of course, there are better ways of beginning a featurized news story.

Think about how you tell a story to your friends. You might begin, “You’ll never believe whom I just saw dating!”

We all want to hear about people – and that’s what makes the news worth reading.

I had that in mind when I qualified as an entertainment-beat reporter for the defunct Daily Express in 1971.

My editor, the late Romeo Arceo, asked me to cover a collision of two cars. Wow, I thought, this would be a big front-page story because Nora Aunor and Tirso Cruz III – the hottest love team at that time – were the occupants of one of the cars. I caught up with the victims at Sta. Teresita Hospital but they were still at the emergency room and could not be interviewed. I did the next move of rushing to the scene of the accident to interview eyewitnesses.

I began my story with this lead:

“Film and recording stars Nora Aunor and Tirso Cruz III sustained serious injuries in a car accident on Hemady St., Quezon City at 6 p.m. yesterday.”

The next day my story occupied the front page.

However, my boss met me with sad news – that an executive of a car company had threatened to cancel his ads because I had named the brand of Nora’s wrecked car.

Fortunately for the Daily Express, the car executive did not make good his threat. He must have realized that my story was good enough to motivate the car manufacturer to build tougher models.



KUDOS to Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas for meeting with the key officials of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) over the 3-day blackout that hit Western Visayas last week.

The meeting brought to his attention the expiration of contracts of certain power plants with the NGCP last April 26, or one day before the series of blackouts. OMG! Was that what NGCP referred to when it vaguely attributed the problem to “grid disturbance”?

Thank God, as far as Iloilo City is concerned, we have regained our lights except in scenes of fire accidents or rehabilitation of power lines.

As an emergency measure, the mayor asked MORE Power to enter into an emergency power supply contract with Panay Energy Development Corporation (PEDC) on a yearly basis, subject to the approval of the Department of Energy (DOE).

The power crisis reminds me of my radio interview with Engr. Bernard “Bailey” Del Castillo, MORE Power’s vice president for development and network operations, where he revealed the plan of the company to establish a solar farm that would generate alternative energy for all of their customers.

Given time and technological advancement in the manufacture of long-life solar storage batteries, it’s a dream bound to come true not just in Iloilo but nationwide.

Oh well, patience pays.