THE PRIME OF LUCHI CRUZ-VALDEZ
By Pablo A. Tariman
In this noonday presscon while she faces a gaggle of media men, News5 chief Luchi Cruz-Valdez looks like a character from the Sydney Lumet film, “Network” as she bares her life as a broadcast journalist.
“If you want to get rich, pursuing a career in broadcast journalism is not the answer,” says she even as she admits she has three kids to raise and a husband who had a stroke some years back. “The mere suspicion that you are on the take is the end of your career as journalist. In the legal circle, you go by the phrase ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’ But in journalism, the mere perception of a negative character is enough not to take him seriously. In the first ten years, you make do with meager income. It is a contant struggle to earn a living and at the same time get a job done.”
As she recalls her modest beginnings, Luchi takes on a new countenance akin to Diana Christensen portrayed by Faye Dunaway in the award-winning film, “Network.”
She recalls an exclusive interview with a famous boxer whose pronouncements she easily deduced would put him into trouble. She and her staff rewinded the interview to make sure the boxer said those things and indeed, the statements were damaging. “In this job, “she said, “you don’t warn your subject that what he would be in trouble with his opinion. It is his and his alone. As a media person, you take a distance from your subject. If that’s his opinion, so be it. In this profession, you learn to accept people for what they are.”
Indeed the interview took people by storm and the subject — as expected — pleaded he was misquoted
It’s her turn to recall that Cebu presidential debate where everything seemed to tilt against her favor. Possible questions for the candidates were screened and discussed way ahead of time and that rule of no notes on stage one presidential candidate didn’t take lightly.
The delay took all of an hour and a half and at least one edgy presidential candidate quipped within her hearing distance, “Are you running a Mickey Mouse Show here?”
From the start, she made sure they were careful in trying to avoid a situation that might give rise to suspicions that they were trying to favor any of the candidates. They also expected that they might be criticized by other media outlets or even the candidates themselves. So they were transparent about where they sourced their data. “We need to show where we sourced or got the information for certain questions,” she points out.
That Cebu presidential debate episode she likes to call her “Red Sea” moments where she thought the one-hour and a half delay would be the end of her career. “Recalling everything now, it was all my fault. In this job, when you make a mistake, just say sorry. But in being part of a national coverage, you must have guts to fight for everything you believed in. You must know your subjects, possible questions should be screened and discussed before the big day. As it turned out, the result was a miracle. Everything turned out well and that’s the reason I call it my ‘Red Sea’ moment.”
Offhand, Valdez cites Bilang Pilipino as the most extensive coverage that the Kapatid Network has ever mounted for Filipinos everywhere.
TV5 recently signed a partnership with the Philippine Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting which will do parallel counting together with Stratbase, a full service public affairs and policy research consultancy group.
Beginning May 9 to May 10, TV5 will have an uninterrupted coverage of the nation-wide elections as its corps of reporters and field correspondents report from all points of the archipelago in the 28 hours of Bilang Pilipino’s special coverage.
As you review the lady’s past network connections and her present output, you realize the lady is battle-scarred and as the seasoned observer would point out, tried and tested.
“In this job, you learn from everybody, you learn to hold your ground, you learn to be combative if that is what it takes to send your message across. Of course you have to learn something new, you learn how to use FB to your advantage even if personally, I don’t like advertising my personal feelings in a medium as wide and as popular as that. We have to be contantly on the go on any project. Like in our latest project, the last thing we want to is to have a sleeper of a debate. We felt we owed it to the public to give them a true debate.”
Like it or not, the TV5 presidential debate she likes to call “a great source of validation” for TV5.
By and large, it became a template for the succeeding presidential and vice presidential debates hosted by the other networks.
She concludes: “We felt that we were able to prove that even though we’re the third network and the smallest broadcast news organization, our skills equal and rival those of our competitors. And at the end of the day, we have proven that it’s not just the numbers, it’s really the teamwork that goes into mounting such a debate.”