My lifetime commitment to community journalism

By Alex P. Vidal

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ―Douglas Adams

THIS month of March is my 36th year since I started as community journalist in Iloilo City, Philippines.

Before I obtained my permanent residency status in the United States in 2019, a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer asked why I put the word “community” in my profession as journalist. “What’s the difference?”

My answer was direct to the point: I have been practicing my profession in the community; it’s in the community where I became a dyed-in-the-wool journalist.

The real essence of journalism is community service—writing reports and shaping opinions for the interest of people in the community; and helping make them safe, well-informed, educated, thrive economically, and aware of their fundamental rights.

Awareness of the community’s primordial infirmities and willingness to commit and help address the gaping hole that separates the people from government.

It’s in the community where the basic and real social, economic, and political issues emanate; it’s in the community where the rudiments of democracy are embedded and traced; and its strength and vulnerability are best tested.


Community journalists work face-to-face with news and reality—where the actual actions unfold; where real pain, anger, frustrations caused by government neglect, abuse, and inaction explode before our eyes.

Mary Pilon says, “Journalism isn’t about how smart you are. It’s not about where you’re from. It’s not about who you know or how clever your questions are. And thank God for that. It’s about your ability to embrace change and uncertainty. It’s about being fearless personally and professionally.”

What we report and the opinions we shape and cultivate as community media workers have direct impact and influence on the community, as well as the authorities concerned.

If not for community journalism I wouldn’t be what and where I am today.

Bruised by a litany of (temporary) setbacks and victories in glorious battles for economic and existential survival over the years, thankfully I have managed to transform weaknesses into strengths, doubts into buoyancy, and cynicism into opportunities.

Horace Greeley warns that “Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.”

London-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has reported that over the past decade, a journalist has been killed every four days on average. Each year since 2016, more journalists have been killed outside of conflict zones than in countries currently experiencing armed conflict. A total of eighty-six killings of journalists worldwide have been reported between 2020 and the end of June 2021.


“Impunity for crimes against journalists continues to prevail, with nine of ten killings remaining unpunished. The year 2020 saw a slight improvement, however, with thirteen per cent of cases worldwide reported as resolved, compared to twelve per cent in 2019, and eleven per cent in 2018. In many cases, impunity results from bottlenecks within the justice system itself,” according to UNESCO.

Senior colleague Herbert Vego, 74, who has been writing for more than 50 years, admitted journalism—or community journalism for that matter—hasn’t given him material wealth. But he is still there: writing and kicking!

He hasn’t captured—or has refused to be captured by—the radar of retirement. Basically, it’s his love and passion for writing that has kept him standing up at least 10 feet tall despite all odds—primarily economic and health.

The beauty of it all is that as long as we’re still being bitten by journalism bugs, we can write our own struggles and survival wherever our adrenalin and enthusiasm will push us, while chronicling what ails the society at the same time.

As Toni Morrison emphasizes, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)