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The Philippine News Agency of yore

/ 05:01 AM August 22, 2017

The government’s Philippine News Agency (PNA) is now derisively called the “Pineapple News Agency” after a staff member used the logo of multinational firm Dole Corp. in a story about the Department of Labor and Employment.

The agency, which once had a proud tradition of responsible reporting, won’t be able to live down that boo-boo for a long time.

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The PNA — the local equivalent of Associated Press, UPI, Reuters and Agence France Presse — feeds local news and government reports to various newspapers, media outlets and government agencies here and abroad.

It was founded, or rather re-established on March 1, 1973, under the Department of Public Information during martial law.

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(Before President Marcos declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, there was an existing Philippine News Agency, a private news organization.)

I was very fortunate to have been a PNA deskman, someone who pored over copies of reporters from the field, from 1973 to 1975.

I earned my wings as a journalist at the agency.

I owe what I am now to the PNA during the time I would like to describe as its “golden years.”

Yes, the news agency was founded during the early days of martial law when media was not free although it tried to be as independent as it could under the circumstances.

Although it was under Malacañang’s Bureau of National and Foreign Information, the PNA at the time of the late Joe Pavia, its first manager, did its best to work free of interference from martial law censors.

I don’t know how Pavia did it but somehow, the PNA was able to work under the radar when it came to news reports considered taboo during those days.

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Like the Manila Bulletin, the news agency which was then owned by President Marcos’ aide-de-camp Gen. Hanz Menzi, had a little leeway in its reporting of controversial news.

Maybe the government wanted to show there was little or no censorship at that time.

“Jopav” brought with him to the agency his former colleagues at the pre-martial law Philippines Herald to man the editorial desk: Rony Tianco, Tito Tagle, Cipriano “Zip” Roxas, Bert Corvera and Esperanto Curameng.

I would say without batting an eyelash that they were among the best journalists at that time.

Tiangco, Tagle, Roxas and Corvera were sticklers for grammar and scrutinized every report and news release that came their way even after these had passed through the eagle eyes of Virgilio “Viring” Samonte who came from the pre-martial law PNA.

Their young underlings — Rey Panaligan, Leo Deocadiz and myself — bore the brunt of their ire when we overlooked lapses in grammar, syntax and spelling from copies of field reporters and correspondents.

“Dammit, Mon, go back to high school!” Roxas would shout at me after I overlooked some grammatical and spelling errors in a reporter’s copy.

If Roxas was abrasive, Tagle was fatherly in “bad cop, good cop” style.

Accuracy and objectivity were always drilled into our minds by these two journalism giants before whom we trembled.

Looking back, Panaligan, Deocadiz and I agree that Roxas and Tagle in particular and the PNA in general shaped our future as journalists.

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TAGS: DOLE, Dole Corp., Ferdinand Marcos, On Target, Philippine News Agency, PNA, Ramon Tulfo
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