Most guidelines of newspapers and broadcast stations include the reminder to wear one’s press ID “and other visible insignia.”

That’s more useful in crisis situations such as protests, riots, and the like to tell clashing groups that one is a journalist and not a participant in the conflict.

Not all the time though.

During a standoff in Bogo, Cebu, still a municipality at the time, when supporters of the mayor prevented Commission on Elections officials and the police from taking ballot boxes containing election returns from the town hall, thugs pounced on Alex Badayos, Sun.Star Cebu chief photographer.

Alex didn’t wear his press ID but carried a camera and toted a bag containing other equipment. As they attacked him, Alex repeatedly said, “Press photographer ko.” (I am a press photographer.)

One assailant asked, “What paper?” and when Alex said “Sun.Star,” the inquirer retorted, “Ah, mao ba? (Oh, really?)” and, with his pals, rained more blows on the photographer. Apparently, the men were employed by the camp that thought the paper wasn’t helping their candidate.

Lesson: a press ID or any other identification would even be more harmful in some situations.

Counting fatalities

When there was no e-mail yet and Cebu-based news correspondents of Manila newspapers filed their stories via RCPI or Clavecilla teletypes, they’d sit beside one another before typewriters provided by the telecom company and compare notes.

No exclusives or scoops: the big story can’t be hidden from one another and not when they swap information as they pound the typewriter (the laptop or computer was to come years later).

When it’s a disaster story (a big fire or a collision of ships at the Cebu harbor), they don’t want their figures to vary or their editors would bitch about it the next day.

At one such story “conference,” as they rushed to meet the Manila deadline, debating on how many died, one tired voice interrupted plaintively, “OK, how many should we kill?”

Danger of ‘hoarding’

Contrary to popular belief among young reporters, hoarding stories has been practiced since Sundays were “slow” news days. And Sundays have always been slow, even now, with the supposed glut of stories at every beat.

Reporters agree among themselves to hold specific stories gathered on Friday or Saturday and submit them only on Sunday (for the Monday issue).

One time, years ago, a reporter filed a “hoarded” story prematurely. His editor published it, to the chagrin of colleagues who had complied with the agreement.

The offending reporter thought he got away with it, as the other guys in the beat didn’t confront him and days passed and nothing happened.

Then one day, all the other papers, except his, ran a big “hoarded” story on the front page. “Payback time,” they would’ve texted him if they had SMS, not Pocketbell, at the time.

Tit for tat, wire agency style

Teletypes of a wire agency carried stories from Manila, which were edited there and sent to its clients all over the country.

The wire agency’s central desk sent memos to its bureaus through the same teletypes installed in the newsrooms. There was no email then.

When a correspondent or editor goofed on grammar, fact or story structure, the central desk ran the error and a lecture, for all, including the wire agency’s clients, to read. One time, the Cebu bureau pointed to a major error in a news story released by the central desk. The critique picked on the flaws of the story.

After that, the public scolding by teletype stopped without any explanation.