By Janvic Mateo
MANILA, Philippines — Veteran journalist Luis Teodoro, a champion of press freedom who taught generations of media practitioners, died late Monday. He was 81.
His death was confirmed by the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UPCMC), where he served as dean from 1994 to 2000.
“As educator, editor and journalist, Dean Teodoro was pivotal in fostering academic excellence in our discipline, upholding integrity in the practice of media and defending our freedoms of the press, speech and assembly,” the college said in a statement.
A known media critic, Teodoro continued to teach communication and media ethics at the university long after his retirement.
He wrote a regular column for BusinessWorld and authored several books on media and journalism. Teodoro was a trustee of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and editor of Philippine Journalism Review Reports, the Center’s media monitoring publication.
He was also the founding chairman of Altermidya, a network of independent media groups and media practitioners reporting on the concerns of marginalized sectors.
“A pillar of Philippine journalism, Dean Luis was the force behind the formation of Altermidya Network, which will carry on his work and principles,” the network said.
“He is credited with advancing the ideals of pro-people journalism, both as a respected member of the academe and through the alternative media that he helped organize in the Philippines,” it added.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) described Teodoro as “the staunchest advocate for the best in the profession and the most savage critic of its worst practices.”
“The strict standards that he set for his students and for his colleagues will remain among our guiding lights,” the NUJP said.
“The current and the future generations of journalists have been gifted by Dean Teodoro’s lessons on journalism. We pledge to continue his legacy of wielding the pen in the service of the people,” it added.
In 2019, Teodoro received the Titus Brandsma Freedom of the Press Award from the Order of Carmelites for being “a journalist, editor and journalism educator whose incisive critiques of Philippine media have inspired generations of media practitioners and scholars.”
He taught students and his readers that journalism should go beyond news reporting. For him, interpreting the news and providing context are needed for journalism to fulfill its role of providing information that can help people make decisions on issues that affect their lives.
“Getting the facts is indispensable in journalism, but is only the beginning of every journalist’s task. They must provide not ‘just the facts’ but also their meaning, and the only way they can do that is to contextualize the news and subject it to explanation and analysis,” Teodoro wrote in an article for PhilStarLife.
He also supported and was part of the alternative press in the Philippines, which he described as the part of the press that, during periods of crisis in the country’s history, resurfaces to report on topics that the mainstream media does not report because they are “either too timid or too involved with” these issues.
During the latter years of the Marcos dictatorship, Teodoro was editor of Philippine News and Features, an alternative news agency initiated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
His opinion pieces in his “Vantage Point” column in BusinessWorld covered media, politics, human rights and international affairs. The column appeared in the past on Business Mirror, Today and ABS-CBN News Online and are archived on his website, luisteodoro.com.
Teodoro was also a much sought-after resource person for journalists, students and organizations.
Filipino journalists’ dean
He served for only two consecutive terms as dean of UPCMC from 1994 to 2000. But for many journalists and UPCMC alumni, Dean Teodoro was always the dean. In conversations between many journalists, the dean means Dean Teodoro.
The professor was thrice chair of the college’s journalism department and taught various journalism subjects during his decades of service.
Teodoro’s former students, however, remember him most for his class in journalism ethics. When faced with ethical dilemmas in their jobs, they recall what the professor taught them in the classroom.
He inspired many to seriously pursue journalism as a vocation, but he was also known in class for his amusing expressions like “anyway” and for making funny faces while giving his lectures.
During Teodoro’s time as dean, the Commission on Higher Education named UPCMC’s journalism program as a Center of Excellence for Journalism for the first time.
In 2007, Diwa Learning Systems recognized the former UPCMC dean as one of the honorees in “The Many Faces of the Teacher.”
‘University of the People’
Teodoro graduated from UP with a degree in A.B. English major in journalism and creative writing in 1964. He also attended the Master of Arts Program of the UP Asian Center. He was editor of the Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP.
Writing about UP, he said being a university of the people means “offering a kind of education that’s devoted to both nation and country rather than to self.”
“It’s always been implicit in UP culture – the assumption that, having been educated by the people whose taxes support UP, graduates will give back something in terms of using their skills and knowledge to help the people realize their aspirations for a better, more just, more equitable society. It’s summed up in the admonition, known to every UP student, to ‘serve the people.’
“It’s a commitment that should occupy a special place in every UP student’s and alumnus’ heart,” Teodoro added.
Author and editor
Teodoro wrote a number of books on media and journalism, including In Medias Res: In the Middle of Things: Essays on the Philippine Press and Media. His Vantage Point: The Sixth Estate and Other Discoveries won as the Best Book for Journalism in the 2015 National Book Awards.
The Undiscovered Country, his collection of short stories published in 2006 by the UP Press, includes Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, Philippine Free Press and Carlos P. Romulo award-winning fiction.
Teodoro was editor of United States: Out of This Struggle: The Filipinos in Hawaii, published by the University Press of Hawaii in 1981. He also edited Struggle for Nationalism and Democracy, a book by Filipino revolutionary Jose Maria Sison, Teodoro’s colleague in the Philippine Collegian and Progressive Review.
Martial law and remembrance
Teodoro was among the journalists who questioned before the Supreme Court the legitimacy of Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial Law. He was imprisoned for seven months, from October 1972 to May 1973.
In a paper read during the Memory, Truth-telling and the Pursuit of Justice: A Conference on the Legacies of the Marcos Dictatorship in September 1999, he enumerated the negative legacies of authoritarianism on the Philippine media.
“Yet these legacies are mostly unremarked upon, perhaps because there is no culture of continuity in Philippine society through which the lessons learned by previous generations is transmitted to the next,” Teodoro lamented.
He said remembrance is the only antidote to the return of authoritarian rule, but added that among the enduring legacies of martial law was its own repeatability.
“Authoritarian rule, including the undeclared kind, can happen again because too many Filipinos still don’t know what happened from 1972 to 1986, let alone why it happened. About the martial law period they have nothing to remember, and they won’t know it when they see it,” Teodoro said.
What the well-loved professor said almost a quarter of a century ago still rings true today. Teodoro left in an era when journalism struggles amid disinformation, at a time when the people of this nation he often referred to as “the country of our sorrows” prefer forgetting over remembering.