The glory of a byline
Bylines validate my existence. As a journalist, seeing my name flash on TV screens every Sunday night refreshes my exhausted body and burnt-out mind. The feeling is quite similar to drinking a cup of coffee during an “all-nighter,” or when waking up from a much-needed nap after an exhausting day. Bylines have intrinsic appeal that only journalists can appreciate.
Bylines have saved my life in more ways than one. As someone who had low self-esteem during grade school, I knew that my capability to tell stories could salvage me from being the forgotten kid in class. I might not be conventionally attractive to be a muse in beauty pageants, or physically fit to be a school athlete, but I knew the one thing that I was good at: writing. I treated my byline as a badge of honor and as a sign of authority that only few could earn. During those times, I wore myself out writing stories mostly for the satisfaction of reading my name in the campus newspaper. I treated writing as a solace for my otherwise mundane grade school life.
My favorite journalism professor, Leia, loved to mention that while the pay in the industry is quite low, reading your byline in print or the TV screen makes the career worth pursuing. In truth, I am aware that very few people care about bylines. Still, my heart swells with “kilig” and excitement whenever I see my name. It is as if bylines are the antidote to the exhaustion and sleep deprivation that I endured while drafting articles.
Eventually I realized that my name was not up there for mere glory, but for accountability—so that people would know who to call out if a feature or a segment was reported inaccurately. So bylines morphed from being an entity meant to serve my egotistical needs to something like an enemy waiting for my every mistake.
In reality, gaining that coveted byline meant losing sleep because a crucial element in the story was still missing. I learned through time that there are no better stories—we just have to tell stories better. The story of a six-year-old girl who goes missing in Divisoria is not uncommon. But knowing that the child got lost because her father intentionally left her paints an entirely different story. One sign of being an effective journalist is the ability to ask compelling questions and digging out the hidden story.
Bylines are more than just ego boosters. People working behind the scenes do not receive as much praise as people appearing on our TV screens. We are often unseen, and I think that is where bylines serve their purpose. They are meant not only to acknowledge us, but also to solidify our role in helping craft the narratives that audiences consume.
The glory of every journalist does not and will never reside in a byline. Bylines merely affirm that a specific work of a journalist makes sense to a general public. Rather, the true glory stems from seemingly minute things. Like hearing someone tell you about a story and realizing it was your story that got them excited. Or making a small but nevertheless uplifting impact on ordinary people who are just trying to make ends meet. At the end of the day, journalism should not revolve around journalists, but should speak of the people’s hopes and dreams for the nation.
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Chelsea Joy B. Serezo, 22, is an alumna of the University of the Philippines Baguio. She works as a program researcher in the media industry.
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