The Columbia Journalism School in New York City awarded Rappler Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Executive Editor Maria Ressa with the 2019 Columbia Journalism Award on Thursday, May 23 for her “singular journalistic performance in the public interest.”
Ressa along with Rappler and its reporters received a total of 11 cases filed by the administration in a span of 14 months. Ressa has since posted bail 8 times and has been arrested twice.
A known critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, the Rappler CEO spoke before the 2019 graduates of the Ivy-league educational institution. According to her, they must keep in mind that “the battle for truth” is one fight they must take in order to ensure democracy.
“The battle for truth – this is at the heart of protecting our democracies. Please don’t accept the world as you see it today. Our information ecosystem is broken,” the Rappler executive editor explained.
“A virus has been unleashed in this global body politik and it is slowly killing us. I wish you the courage to lead the way in finding a global solution,” she added.
Ressa encouraged the graduates to become idealistic and “dream of a better future” as she urged them to make those dreams a reality. She emphasized that they must maintain their purpose so as not to be sidetracked once tested.
“You’re coming of age at a time that matters. What you do matters. What you report and how you fight for truth matters. Our future now depends on you. Dream of a better future then go and make it happen,” Ressa said.
“The only way you will stick to the ideals you have now is if you define this now. Before you’re tested, know your whys to figure out the what,” she added.
In a report from Rappler, Ressa said that it is essential for them to “hold the line” since they are deemed as the “guardians of truth.” She also noted that they must uphold their ethics and moral standards with high regard at a time like this.
“You are graduating at this crucial moment in history when journalists all around the world are under attack because we hold the line. Because we live our mission. Because as TIME magazine wrote, we are the guardians of truth,” Ressa said.
“All I do is put one foot in front of the other. Hold up the sky so my team can continue to work. It’s just my bad luck that the baton was passed to me at this time. This is the time when standards and ethics matter. This is the time that determines who you really are,” Ressa added.
She urged the graduating class to “live according to the values” of journalism as she dedicated the award to her team of reporters who bravely faced all the criticisms from the public and do the job just fine.
“I find hope from Rapplers. This award belongs to them. The way our sales and research teams defined a new business model. The way they used data to fight back. The way our young reporters stand up to power and continue reporting. They are creating the future today, and they inspire me,” Ressa stated.
“I find hope from the grandfather who came up to me at the airport with his grandson, and with tears in his eyes, asked me what will happen to our country. Or the family that asked to take a photo and then hugged me as if I was a long-lost daughter, sending their support to Rappler,” she added.
The Columbia Journalism Award has been given annually since 1958. It’s past recipients include journalists David Halberstam, Ben Bradlee, Pete Hamill, Joan Didion, Walter Cronkite, Alan Rusbridger, Nina Totenbeg, Lyse Doucet, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Ira Glass.