“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate, yes, and it can even inspire. But, it can only do so to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.”
–journalism luminary Edward R. Murrow on television, 1958
Today, not many TV shows here aim for that potential. And the best and eldest of them has just pulled the plug, after 24 years of teaching, illuminating, inspiring, and giving currency to one word: Probing.
It was first a spark in the dark, conceived in the uncharted information void after EDSA 1.
The Probe Team has since outlived the competitors it set off, produced many of the industry’s best people, recorded history, and stayed true to its brand of hard-hitting yet ethical journalism.
Probe pioneered the news magazine in the Philippines when TV public affairs consisted mostly of studio talk.
First popularized by CBS’s 60 Minutes, the format meant sections (or segments) of topics varying from the serious to the light.
I first watched Probe already as a college freshman in 2005. Many batch mates in UP Mass Com grew up with the show, its lighter spinoffs like 5 & Up and Game Plan, and were motivated to enter media seeing Cheche Lazaro and her gang of Probers.
And Cheche Lazaro remains the industry’s icon of credibility and voice of reason.
A late entrant to media after chairing the University of the Philippines broadcast communication department, Ma’am Cheche considers herself a teacher at heart.
Her “Ang mga istoryang dapat n’yong tutukan” has educated a generation. And with all the accolades like my college’s Gawad Plaridel, she always shares the stage with her Probe Productions team.
Ending Probe was her decision, arising from a desire to focus more on her family.
Her “slowing down” comes at a time when most young viewers have already related to other news personalities who have taken mellower or more extreme on-air stances and have landed more lucrative time slots.
Yet if you name an icon in modern Philippine TV journalism, chances are that person once worked with Probe or was mentored by Cheche Lazaro.
It is at Probe, too, where I owe my first hands-on with TV journalism as an intern. The leeway my producer gave me to edit the audio bed of a segment then started me on to what would be my current job.
There I saw how a small team can bring about a great story from mind to tape. I appreciated the editorial and technical effort taken to ensure the story’s quality and credibility.
No-nonsense and sober at an era of zap and provocation, Ma’am Cheche and her team have kept their word to make a “positive contribution” to television, making it more than a box of wires and lights.
Their insistence at fair and clean reporting even in the face of losing airtime is a buoy of assurance in an industry of shaky and shifting standards.
That, I believe, is what news and current affairs shows of present and future will be measured against.
24 years of Probe–which I hope could be relived in “best of” DVDs and online–is 24 years of recent Filipino experience.
It was an experience I’m proud to have been a part of and I know this country has been fortunate to have.
Though their Wednesday nights are gone, Ma’am Cheche and The Probe Team will continue making that contribution.
*Watch Probe’s last bow in “Probe: Ang Ating Kwento” here.