THE QUIET halls of the St. Raymund de Peñafort building leave an empty room filled only by a petite and simple individual, a discerning figure with eyes full of wonder and curiosity.
As a journalist who goes beyond reporting the obvious, Karol Ilagan now faces the challenges of the world with a wider perspective, utilizing her skills in investigative journalism. She commits her curious mind to uncover the truth of an issue to contribute to change.
“There are many ways for you to be able to serve the public and help other people. For me, I see journalism as difficult but I think it’s a potent way for me to be of service, to be able to contribute to positive change,” she says.
A nose to the grindstone
Given the challenges of politics, society, and the world, Ilagan believes digging deeper to the problem can help find a way to solve it.
“You see a lot of problems. You want to write about those problems para maintindihan ng tao,” she shares. Her inquisitiveness to piece together missing links of stories soon impelled her to investigative reporting, choosing the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) as her bridge.
“Kasi kung investigative reporting, I would go to PCIJ. At the time when I joined, mahaba na rin ‘yung history [niya] so I want to be a part of an organization [that upholds] the same values and principles [that I have]. I found my path [there],” she says.
Reports that matter
Ilagan believes that there is a certain quality that makes PCIJ different from mainstream media, a quality that helped her love investigative reporting more.
“We focus more on issues [that], to us, are most important, of public interest, and maybe even overlooked,” she says. “Other newspapers are covering other things. Kung doon pa kami sasawsaw, sayang ‘yung hindi nako-cover na ibang issues.”
With the public’s decreasing attention span, PCIJ commits itself to a better approach.
The senior content producer believes that PCIJ can help her bring about change in the country. “We are, I think, an important part to make that change. We do more investigative reporting on the most important issues.”
Indisputably, investigative reporting is a difficult and time-consuming work. Ilagan believes that it is what is needed to solve the problems in the society.
“You want to know how things work but […] it is more than that. Ultimately, ‘pag sinabi mong investigative journalism, watchdog ka, may binabantayan ka: government officials, businesses, offices, [the] Church, or schools. May accountabilities sila. Trabaho mo ang magche-check on that because that’s part of our r o l e naman talaga,” she says.
Experiential change within
Being part of PCIJ for almost a decade, her experiences gave her a broader perspective of the important issues in the country and the world.
“Mas naging conscious ako,” she says. “At the professional level, it helped me a lot because it opened a lot of opportunities for me. It made me realize the importance of my job and encouraged me to do better.”
For Ilagan, investigative journalism is not merely “detective work.” Her intention to connect the dots and propagate the truth allows her to unearth the deeper aspects of an important situation that affects the public.
“Siyempre, curious ka. You want to find out ‘Ano ba talagang nangyari dito?’ I want to know how these programs and projects, how these decisions impact the lives of many or the other way around,” she says.
Change through action
The Journalism instructor from the Faculty of Arts and Letters believes that the gravity of one’s effort in a profession should never be compromised. Instead, it should be done better.
“Maybe you need to do your job better ngayon in the age of social media, in the age of populist and everything. Baka akala mo ‘yung ginagawa mong enough or malaki na before, you have to do even better [now],” she says.
Mainstream media should never be a hindrance to organizations like PCIJ because they are all propelled to one goal: to uncover the truth.
Ilagan believes that the stories one writes necessitates a desired action, eventually inspiring the public to act on the issues at hand.
“[Kapag] may gusto ka, you’re more driven to write about these things because you know something has to be done,” she reiterates. “Maaaring magisa ka lang pero ‘yun palang ginagawa natin also affects other people.” F SYRAH VIVIEN J. INOCENCIO and LORRAINE B. LAZARO