a time for firsts
as one of my friends said, the eldest kids always get the brunt of the action, and they will always get the brunt of the action, because they will always and forever, be the first.

well, time for me to decide what action to take regarding this latest drama between the chicago fil-am community and a former employer of mine, NBC. i believe it is the first of its kind in chicago, where the community is protesting a media entity.

i used to work as a web producer for MSNBC in 2000 and 2001. i grabbed my copy directly from the NBC broadcasts, wires, and my own reporting. i used the broadcast reporter's info and pictures to post online. sometimes i call sources myself when i don't understand the broadcast. i worked with NBC at the same time as my current employer, the associated press in chicago. so, all my professional life, i've been part of mainstream media.

but i totally support ethnic media, such as pinoy monthly and the fil-am community builder. those who work there do it out of love - they also have full-time jobs on top of their newspapers. pinoy monthly has one full-time editor, writer, "answering service, janitor," according to the person who answered the phone friday. (just kidding, ted.)

this blog entry's stand is strictly my own - i'm not taking any sides. i'm going to tell this story the way i see it.

an editor with the fil-am community builder wants to build a committee to discuss with NBC whether the network has any idea of what it's like to be filipino in chicago - or of ethnic origin. there is an emergency meeting on this tomorrow, nov. 6, at 3 p.m. at the community builder's office at 5232 western avenue north of foster avenue. i would encourage anyone who is not yet knowledgable about this topic to attend the meting, if only to inform yourself.

i am mentioning the meeting because too many filipinos are clamoring of their invisibility in the world today - when in fact the philippines' top export are people. we all know that everywhere you turn, there will be filipinos. i rode the bus back from school today, and there was one filipina sitting up front. there was prolly another who walked past my table at the university of chicago, but all i saw was the back of her head with her straight, black hair. enter any hospital and you'd be inundated. they'd even wonder why the heck you're not working there with them.

i'll be frank: i think the community-builder is overreacting. but i won't stop them from meeting or forming any sort of meetings. i'll even announce a meeting if i can.

i just don't think that this pushy approach will convince NBC of changing. media outlets depend heavily on perception. that's the product they sell. one day after renee ferguson's broadcast, the network buried her video and replaced it with some of the most thorough reporting i've seen on their web site, considering this story is of minor importance in the broader scope of things. (it is about an alleged rape at the alden village health facility for children and young adults in bloomingdale. dupage county investigators say the person responsible for raping a resident at the nursing home is filipino; his dna matched with semen found in the girl. the web site emphasized that this is how investigators identified the suspect. click here for NBC's story.)

also, NBC is sensitive and knowledgable enough in race relations to make this mistake. the community-builder's complaint rests on semantics - they say ferguson tossed the word "filipino" insensitively out, making it sound like everyone should watch out for all filipinos now, but more so, everyone should watch out for all minorities now.

the community-builder states that to filipinos the word "filipino" means both race and nationality. ferguson used the word as just nationality, and in a conversation with community-builder editors, said she didn't know that the word actually connotes a different meaning to filipinos. i don't know of she apologized; the community-builder says that ferguson told them she was standing by her decision to keep the broadcast as it is, as she just wanted to say that the suspect is a foreign worker.

(which raises another issue of quality of hiring practices. i think this is what she wanted to raise about this facility, as she stated the facility's previous offenses in her earlier broadcasts.)

(which also raises the issue of how u.s. media behaves. the product that u.s. media sells is perception. ferguson said she stood her ground because she's not only protecting her reputation, but also the reputation of the network she belongs. the network backed her up by, one day after the video was posted on NBC's web site, taking out the video and replacing it with several long stories collected over several days as the case progressed.)

while we can safely assume that NBC is knowledgeable about journalism ethics, it is still worth finding out for sure. for this, a written letter to the community-builder about NBC's ethic practices should be sufficient. ferguson shouldn't be expected to write the letter herself. the network should explain their construction of the word "filipino."

in return, and this is very key, we should tell NBC - and the world, in fact, this i think is worthy of a front page story - of what we, filipinos living here in the u.s. (because other countries have their own community papers that can cover their own construction of the word), think of the word FILIPINO. what's that? who's that? who are they? ano yan? to us, and i see this a lot, the word FILIPINO is both race and nationality.

what's race?
what's nationality?
where are those definitions applicable?
are they applicable here in chicago?

this is why i think a protest, to sustain the campaign if no public apology is broadcast or posted online, is going overboard. i don't know the current NBC web producers and their policies, but everyone makes mistakes. let's just make sure we don't make them.

please find below the details of tomorrow's meeting. again, i believe this is the first of its kind in chicago, where the community is protesting a media entity. come, if you have concerns. thanks for reading.

Date: Sat, 5 Nov 2005 14:27:49 -0800 (PST)
From: "Alejandrino Cirera" < communitybuilder@sbcglobal.net >
Subject: Emergency Community Meeting Re NBC 5 report

Please join us in an emergency community meeting tomorrow, Sunday 11/6 at 3pm at the Community Builder's office at 5232 Western Avenue north of Foster Avenue. This meeting is an initiative of concerned Filipino Americans outraged about NBC 5’s unfair and insensitive report identifying the ethnicity of a Filipino who has been recently accused of a crime. We agree with Vanessa Vergara when she wrote that reference to the suspect's nationality was in fact a “type of blanket mischaracterization that is offensive to the Filipino American community and should be offensive to all people.”

Your confirmation will be highly appreciated.

Please call Alex Cirera at 773-334-4999/773-275-4540 or Jerry Clarito at 224-619-6677.


1. Creation of an Ad-hoc Steering Committee (a body that will serve as the representative of the community and will coordinate and sustain the protest campaign)

2. Agreement to the Community Demands
a. Public Apology - minimum
b. Creation of AntiBias commission inside NBC - maximum
c. Expansion of Community Programming to include multicultural education and outreach to underserve communities
d. Funding for fair and truth in reporting workshops.

3. Organizing to sustain the protest campaign:
a. Unified Statement of Protest
b. Coalition Building - local and national
c. Publicity campaign
d. Picket Protest in front of NBC5 office
e. logistical support

Salamat po!
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