Sharing a common dislike for Math, community journalists find career reporting the news

From left: Moderator Jen Furer, panelists Lenn Almadin Thornhill, Monette Rivera, and Marivir Montebon, and moderator Momar Visaya. Photo: Monette Rivera

From left: Moderator Jen Furer, panelists Lenn Almadin Thornhill, Monette Rivera, and Marivir Montebon, and moderator Momar Visaya. Photo: Monette Rivera

By Jen Furer

“Meet and Ask the Press” was an event meant to ‘turn the tables’ on the journalists who write the stories of our community, our leaders, events, and occasional celebrities. It was a panel discussion organized by the Fil-Am Press Club of New York (FAPCNY) where the community got to ask questions about the reporters, their start in the business, and the challenges they face as they chase their stories.

The panel was composed of Lenn Almadin-Thornhill of WRNN Fios 1 News, Monette Rivera of ABS-CBN TFC’s NYC Chika in the City and Marivir Montebon of OSM! online magazine.

Inquirer’s Carol Tanjutco welcomed the guests and mentioned the fact that the FAPCNY is one of about 400 community organizations in the NY area.

Club President Monette Rivera provided a bit of history. The club, now on its fifth year, was originally organized as a social club. The idea of forming a club was hatched — pun intended — at Max’s fried chicken restaurant. At the time, the restaurant was on a soft launch and it was one of those rare occasions where many of the reporters had gathered. The club was just waiting to be born. The first president was Luis Gata. Monette is the second. The club will elect its third president in December.

Asian Journal Editor-in-chief and the Club’s Vice President Momar Visaya, and I, representing MAKILALA TV, were the evening’s moderators.

As each panelist was introduced, the room was full of applause and cheers. It was a heartwarming moment. I felt like I was at a football game.

The reporters shared their “aha moment,” that time in their lives when they decided they wanted to be journalists. They shared a common dislike for Math. The curriculum for Journalism only includes Basic Math!

The common frustration of the job is having an article or inclusive interview which gets killed by the news executives. According to Momar, even the editors-in-chief don’t have the final say on what goes on air or in print – sometimes the truth gets clouded or “hidden” because of advertisers.

As journalists, isn’t one of the perks attending events for free?

Lenn replied, “I’m working so I’m not really having fun, and we don’t eat or drink at these events. It’s all work.”

Carol asked how the online media can compete with the print media?

As a fan of, I added my opinion that “The is the encyclopedia of anything Filipino-Americans.” I also mentioned that it was featured at a recent interactive exhibit on the ethnic media at The Newseum curated by the Smithsonian Institution.

Momar pointed out how people have been predicting the death of the print media, and yet The New York Times only recently announced that their print media revenue has increased.

Lenn added that in Trinidad Tobago, where she lived and worked as a news producer, online media is financially sustainable because the news or “click bait” does not feature the entire article. “People need to pay 99 cents to click and read the entire article – and people are doing it,” she said.

How to get mainstream society or fellow FilAms to take note that Filipino Americans are not just domestic helpers, entertainers, nurses, and that there are other many more emerging leaders. And that there is more to us than Manny Pacquiao, although Marivir, whose OSM! magazine has logged more than a million clicks mostly for her articles about the boxing legend. One of the guests in the audience, talent manager Cicero Oca, asked, “What is your social mission?”

Proud of our little TV talk show, MAKILALA, I said that “We at MAKILALA engage in a conversation to get to know the community leaders, innovators, advocates and emerging artists who affect Filipino life in the NY Tristate – and to talk about topics that affect our lives, such as bullying, domestic violence, parenting, social good, etc.”

One thing everyone agreed on: We as members of the community and as members of the working press, need to celebrate one another’s success and to work together as one to get the Filipino voice heard.

Jen Furer is the author of the immigration memoir “Out of Status,” and one of the co-hosts of Makilala TV, the first FilAm TV show in the New York area. You can read more of her essays in her blog,

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