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Content analysis of Sionil Jose Essay

Chapter I
The Problem and Its Setting


“Open a journalist’s desk drawer and inside you’ll find an unfinished novel.” This was what Scanlan (2004) wrote in his essay From Fact to Fiction: Making the Leap. He added that while there are people in the journalism industry who practice their expertise on news reporting, there are also those who are inclined to other forms of writing namely plays, poetry, and fiction. Based on Scanlan’s definition, Journalism is a profession inclined to writing facts. Brainworld Publishing (2011) supplements this description as “the work of gathering, writing, editing, and publishing or disseminating news, as through newspapers and magazines or by television and radio.” On the contrary, Brainworld Publishing describes fiction as the act of feigning or imagining an event, situation, and the like not existing in actual life. This includes allegory, fables, novel, romance, story, and tale describes. In relation, a fictionist is someone who writes fiction, mainly novels (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011). In the United States alone, well-known novelists or fiction writers began their career as journalists.

These great writers started out as “reporters of facts” (Fishkin, 1985). In 1835, famous 19th century American author, poet, and literary critic Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), better known for his mystery and horror-filled detective stories, had previously been an assistant editor in the magazine Southern Literary Messenger. He also acquired the same post in Burton’s Gentleman Magazine in 1839, but left for Graham’s Magazine. Poe also wrote for the Evening Mirror. He then became an editor and eventually the sole owner of The Broadway Journal, according to Bio. A&E Television Networks, (2014). Another prominent figure in literature from the late 1800s, U.S. writer Walt Whitman (1819-1892), was an essayist, a poet, as well as a journalist. He initially found a job as a newspaper apprentice at the age of 11.

In 1841, Whitman founded the weekly Long-Islander. He had been an editor of Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846. He also took charge of the editorial duty in Crescent then subsequently pioneered the Brooklyn Freeman, both in 1848. His practice in print continued for the following years until he resorted to and devoted the rest of his lifetime to realist poetry and mainly politically-influenced works (Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014). In the Philippines, award-winning script writer Ricardo “Ricky” Lee, who is known for his fiction, worked as a journalist for the Philippine Press Freedom in 1970’s. Lee was also a part of Panunulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan (PAKSA or Pen for the People’s Progress).

His experiences as a fugitive during the Martial Law served as an inspiration for some of his works (Lumbera, 2011). Yabes (2014) says that 2001 National Artist for Literature, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, and three-time first-prize Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards recipient F. Sionil Jose, used to be a campus journalist while studying Liberal Arts in the University of Santo Tomas. He had been the editor-in-chief of UST’s official publication, The Varsitarian. Jose, whose novels are widely known for their epic depiction of the Philippine life throughout history, is a publisher as well, and holds editorial positions for several local and international magazines. The researchers wonder about how the background in Journalism of selected Filipino fictionists help them transit from writing facts to writing fiction.

B.Statement of the Problem

This study will primarily aim to analyze the journalistic experiences of selected fictionists and its relationship to their writing styles. Specifically, it will target to answer the following questions:

1.How is the demographic profile of respondents be divided in terms of:

1.1. age;

1.2. media affiliation or publishing company and
1.3. years in the book industry?

2.How do journalistic experiences help the selected local fictionists in their field of work?

2.1. What are the factors that influence journalists to also venture on fiction writing?

3.How does these journalists’ sense of reality (given that they report facts) affect the contents of their fiction?

C.Significance of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to change the perception of people, especially those venturing on journalism as simply reportage of facts. The researchers believe that this will broaden the perspective of people in journalism as well as the opportunities the said field can offer. Upon completion, the study will be of importance to the following: Media practitioners. The study will give an option for practicing journalists to also venture on fiction writing since they already had a background on writing. Publishers. It will provide them new opportunities to invest on and hire journalists who can write fiction and the chance to introduce fresh writing styles to the market. In return, the publication will have more writers and eventually produce more stories. Aspiring fiction writers.

Considering that taking journalism course will improve their writing style as future fiction writers, hence, they will be able to enrich their writing capacity. Readers. It will help them understand that journalism course does not solely focus on reporting news. It will also change their common misconception on journalists that the latter are only boxed in writing fact-based stories. Journalism students. It will open other avenues in writing aside from settling on the conventional technical writing. In addition, it will give them the idea to venture on other writing jobs and to maximize their writing abilities.

College of Arts and Letters Faculty. It will give an idea to the faculty that apart from teaching technical writing to journalism students, they can also advice them to nurture their writing skills in other ways such as fiction writing. In addition, the professors and instructors will have an idea on how to further broaden their students’ writing capabilities. Future researchers. This study will serve as a reference material and a guide as well to those who will pursue a study related to this topic.

D.Scope and Delimitation

This study will cover five or more fictionists. The researchers will interview subjects who had previous background in journalism (i.e., campus journalist, columnist, newspaper researcher, etc.) but not necessarily graduates of the said course about the latter’s journalistic experiences and its probable influence to their fiction. The selection of the fictionists to be interviewed will be based on the following criteria:

•Has been in the writing industry, particularly fiction, for 10 years or more; and

•Is recognized in his/her chosen field.

It will be limited to Filipino writers who had practiced journalism then turned into fictionists, excluding international fiction authors who have also worked in the field of journalism. The methodology of the study will only last from October 2014 to March 2015.

E.Definition of Terms

The following words will be defined either conceptually or operationally: Book industry – the enterprise of producing and manufacturing books, particularly fiction Books – any printed fiction material on paperback, excluding e-books Crime Fiction – also known as detective stories. A work of fiction wherein unraveling and detection of the truth about a crime, usually but not exclusively murder, plays the central role in the plot. (Shephard and Rennison, 2006). Sport History – or sport fiction. A work of fiction that features the main characters’ struggle with issues related to sports. (Routman, 2005)

Chapter II
Review of Related Studies and Literature

This chapter contains the researchers’ readings on the topic under study.

A.Related Theories

New Historicism

New Historicism Theory proposes “several major ‘historicists’” to study a literature in social, political, and cultural history context. A nation’s literary history is an expression of “its evolving spirit” and consists of two approaches: one in the form of collection of archives and monuments of great people, and ‘historicist’ on the other, which “saw literary history as part of a larger cultural history” (Selden, 2005). The New Historicists, as Tillyard describes (1943), thus “establish the interconnections between the literature and the general culture of a period.” (Selden, 2005). The researchers will use the theory to analyze how historical events that the respondents witnessed during their journalism practice influence if their works. The theory will also serve as a basis on how the respondents perceive reality through their works.

Postcolonial Criticism

Postcolonial criticism delves into the existing relationship between the Western and Third World culture, with the former repressing the latter with its ethnocentrism. The primary goal of this theory is to trace the domination of Western culture, thought, and values over the marginalized as expressed through literature (Seldan, 1985). Said (1978, as cited in Selden, 1985) asserts the distinction made between the Occident and the Orient through Orientalism which has three overlapping areas: the 4000-year Europe-Asia relations, production of Oriental language specialists, and stereotyping the Orient as “the other.” Spivak (1976, as cited in Selden, 1985) deals with deconstructive method in criticizing and revealing “how truth is constructed rather than exposing the error” (Selden, 1985, p. 223). She further proposes how the Western tradition needs “the other” but does not readily admit it. The researchers will use the theory to interpret how the selected Filipino fictionists with journalism background express such repression and convey reality through their literary works.

How the Humanities and Journalism Can Save Each Other

Perlmutter and Dowling (2012) explain that journalism is vital in serializing fiction. They mention the 19th century best-selling novel Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin being first published in a periodical as an example. They assert that “Walt Whitman and Margaret Fuller nurtured their careers as fictionists through journalism.” They even suggested to reporters serializing “novels they always wanted to write about.” The same with the previous study, this study will focus on fictional works in print, but with different medium. Perlmutter and Dowling concentrate on American best-sellers published in newspapers, whereas the study will deal with selected Filipino fiction in a book publication. They analyze through observation and examples how journalism helps some notable American writers in producing their fiction, while the researchers of this study will conduct an interview to selected Filipino fiction writers with a journalism background, citing how their journalistic experiences help them write and publish their works.

An Intersection of Fact and Fiction: A Study of Naipaul’s ‘The Middle

Passage’ Pradhan (2014) explains the existence of a reciprocal relationship between fictional and factual writing. The researcher mentions the experiences of writer Naipaul being similar to that of Ernest Hemingway, who were both journalists turned fictionists before they ventured on nonfiction. Pradhan uses John Hellmann’s Fables of Facts in naming new journalism and nonfiction novel as contemporary genres in which journalistic materials are presented in the form of fiction. The previous study concentrates on how former journalists turned nonfiction writers benefit from their experiences in writing fiction, while the study to be conducted will deal with how the journalistic experiences of selected Filipino fictionists help them in their career. The two studies are similar in discussing the relationship of writing fact and fiction, but differ in focus.

Reflecting the Detectives: Crime Fiction and the New Journalism in Late Nineteen-Century Australia In this study, Rachael Weaver (1892) explains the correlation of crime fiction to crime reportage in Australia in the late 19th century using the detective novels The Mystery of a Hansom Cab by Fergume Hume and Murder of Madeline Brown by Francis Adams and Australia’s most famous murder case, the Windsor tragedy in 1892, as examples. Weaver states that many of the newspapers had their own interpretation on the story, making it sensationalized during that time. Those newspapers released different speculations about the murder.

For that instance, the speculated angles of every publication served an inspiration for writing investigative stories. “The intense, international media sensation that surrounded the Windsor murder provides an ideal opportunity for investigating popular print culture in late-nineteenth-century Australia… At least six book-length studies of the case were published in the weeks before and after Deeming’s execution in May, some running to several editions, each embellished more extravagantly than the last. Their anonymous authors practiced a form of sub-literary bricolage that engaged diverse generic themes, mirroring a travel adventure one moment, a penny dreadful the next. However, the most frequently deployed motifs throughout the everyday reportage and the book-length ‘histories’ were drawn – often with great clumsiness – from detective fiction.”

Weaver describes the relationship between crime journalism and detective fiction as “historical and enduring.” She mentions that reported crimes provided materials for writers of sensation fiction. She adds that Edgar Allan Poe’s The Mystery of Marie Roget was based on the reports of the real-life murder of Mary Rogers in New York. The analysis is similar to the study to be conducted because they both cite the experiences of writers to their outputs, but varies from the experiences. The essay discusses the connection of reading crime articles in newspapers of the Australian writers to their detective stories, while the study will deal with the link between the journalistic backgrounds of selected Filipino fictionists to their literary works.

B.Related Studies

From Fact to Fiction: Journalism & Imaginative Writing in America Fishkin (1985) found out how fact turned into art, as well as how journalism paved the way to American literature. She assessed the lives and careers of Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser, Ernest Hemingway, and John Dos Passos, including their corresponding works in journalism and fiction. She related the journalistic experiences of these writers and their fiction, and the factors for their gradual shift in genre. Fishkin’s study focused on the American literature, whereas this study will deal with the Philippine literature, concerning the journalistic experiences of selected Filipino fictionists in relation to their fiction. She reviewed only the biographical accounts of well-known American journalists turned fictionists, while the researchers of this study will also conduct an interview to Filipino fiction writers with a journalism background, merely concentrating on their lives and careers before shifting to writing fiction.

Gómez Alfaro: Pioneer of Interdisciplinary Studies on the Relationships between Journalism and Literature in Spain Rodríguez (2010) evaluated that journalism and literature had been long linked with each other, which was later on merged together and coined as literary journalism. He used Antonio Gómez Alfaro’s work in 1980’s and 1990’s, as an example. Rodriguez emphasized that Alfaro pioneered the concept of literary journalism by conducting a study regarding the connection between journalism and literature which Alfaro finished in 1960.

“This multi-focal approach is extraordinary considering at the time Journalism was not part of the Spanish university system; therefore, there was not a scientific platform nor were there academic precedents that supported in-depth, exhaustive research about journalism and literature, a reality that appeared forty years after the publication of the aforementioned precursor.”

Rodriguez added that journalism was considered a part of literary genre in 1845. “The work conducts a historical synthesis of the nuclear and most considered speculations about the journalistic literary union, from 1845 until 1999, and describes the progression of such contributions, to grant an adequate context to the precursory contributions made by Antonio Gómez Alfaro to interdisciplinary studies about Journalism and Literature in Spain.”

The study already performed is theoretically related to the future study, both of them focusing on the relationship between journalism and fiction. The two studies both elaborate the differences and similarities of literary and journalism, but differ in scope. The previous study concentrated on Spanish literature, particularly Alfaro’s studies, while the current study will deal with Philippine Literature, specifically the works of selected Filipino fictionists with journalistic background.

Text, Audiences, and Postmodernism: The Novel as Source in Sport History Johnes (2007) observed the recent demand to use fiction as reference for sport history. He delved into how postmodernism influenced and was received by historians in proposing fiction as a “social force” in shaping how people understands the world around them. He explored deeper into these postmodern ideas by analyzing Vernon Scannell’s 1953 novel The Fight. This study concentrated on putting such ideas into actual practice, and used fiction as sources for sport history while the study to be conducted will apply journalistic experiences in writing fiction. The previous study focused on how fiction was used as source materials for sports history while the current study will concentrate on how the journalistic experiences of selected Filipino fictionists is used in their career.

Theoretical Framework

This study is theoretically anchored in New Historicism theory which states that there is a connection between the historical background of the place where the author originated or resided from and his literary works, the former being useful to understanding the latter. In this study, the researchers will investigate on the relationship between the journalistic experiences of selected Filipino fictionists and their literary works.

Figure 1.0. Historical Criticism Diagram

Conceptual Framework

Figure 2.0. Conceptual Framework of the Study

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