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The accidental anchor

I joined GMA in the later part of 1995. I was with Radio Mindanao Network then, serving as Vice President for FM radio operations when I was asked to join GMA. At that time GMA wanted to expand its radio business. The goal was to expand its radio business from four radio stations (one AM and one FM in Manila and the same in Cebu) to 60 stations or so, according to Mr. Menardo Jimenez, President of the Network then. His words, what he said to me in our very first conversation, will forever ring in my ears: "This expansion project for radio has long been ready — the investment, the equipment, the locations, and to a certain extent some people involved. There is only one final important element that is missing: who would manage the expansion. So here you are in front of me."

Mike Enriquez on him being an accidental anchor: "Let's just say that we are always poised for growth at the right time, under the right circumstances."
Initially I had difficulty agreeing to join GMA, because I felt perfectly fine where I was, since we had successful operations going on at Radio Mindanao Network (RMN). And the thought of joining a big network, a big television network at that, whose core business for which it is known was television more than radio, was intimidating. Finally, after eight weeks of discussion with Bobby Barreiro, Butch Jimenez and Tony Seva, I agreed to accept the challenge, which was to manage the radio expansion. My original mandate here in GMA was not to be an on-camera newscaster or a TV person. I was supposed to lead the expansion of the radio network into 60 radio stations nationwide. In 1997 the Asian crisis came, so we had to scale down the project to only 27 stations, from the 60 or so as originally planned — with of course the understanding that if things work out well, GMA would always be ready to go full blast. Let's just say that we are always poised for growth at the right time, under the right circumstances. In the 1998 elections, I was in a brainstorming session for the television coverage, because we in radio were supposed to support television. Election coverage is non-stop — at least the first 24 hours. They found out that they lacked one more male anchor for the coverage. So Bobby and Tony said, "Mike, why don't you be one of the anchors?" I thought it was a joke, and so I told them, "If this is your idea of a joke, it's not funny." It turned out they were serious, so I agreed to give it a crack. And the rest led to what I am doing today. I run the radio business, and at the same time anchor the news. I host Imbestigador, plus the other stuff I need to do for TV, like special coverage. The passion for radio is still very much with me. TV now is the main source of news, beamed satellite worldwide, and now also through the Internet. Despite all these, my passion for radio has not diminished. As a matter of fact I wake up at 4 every morning, looking forward to rush to the station, especially if I know there's a big story breaking. A significant element in the creative process here is that there's a lot of brainstorming, contributions from everybody. The culture here is not one that encourages people to raise their hands to say: "Hey, that's my idea." We throw everything on the table. It's like mahjong, where you throw in all the tiles, mix them all up, and see what you come up with. The best proof of that is how I became an on-cam person. I always tell everyone that it's credibility that carries the name of GMA News and Public Affairs. It's credibility. The heck! Who would imagine that I could anchor? I don't have a made-for-TV face. Even my own mother would say that.

I always tell everyone that it's credibility that carries the name of GMA News and Public Affairs. It's credibility! Who would imagine that I could anchor? I don't have a made-for-TV face. Even my own mother would say that.
– Mike Enriquez
I cannot lay claim to have contributed anything by myself. There are so many ideas here, that along the way, you lose track of which came from whom. Ideas come and are tried out, like being on one's feet while delivering the news. Or to be just a little bit more casual than the traditional or expected. I always tell the people I work with, in radio and TV, “No, no, no, all of that supposed thinking out of the box is old hat. Get rid of the box! When it comes to throwing ideas around, the sky's the limit." For a while, regarding our newscast look, we started to play around with it, and get away from the old traditional look of newscasters dressed in the usual well-pressed suits and designer ties, with hair neatly kept to the last strand. So there I went in front of the cameras with my long hair and just a tie, like with a straight-from-the-newsroom look. Which is true anyway. After all, we're not just talking heads here, who get made up and dressed up to face the cameras, and simply read whatever comes up. We get involved in the entire process of crafting the newscast on a daily basis. My routine goes something like this: First, for TV, we go on the air at 6:30 p.m. for 24 Oras. So I'm there at 5-5:30 p.m. for the makeup, etc. And the producers expect this already; it's a routine, it's a daily event. I sit in front of the computer and go over all the stories. I do it as early as I can so that if there's any need to discuss with the producers, there's still enough time and room to edit and change. That's also where being in radio is an advantage, because from 6 to 10 in the morning, there are a lot of news, reports, updates. The deal is, say, if there's a fire, the minute it reaches Task Force Alpha proportion, the standard procedure is I get a call, just to be informed, even in the middle of the night — like a doctor, it's 24/7. Like, one day I'm just told, you're going to Baghdad, and after that you're going to Kuwait. That was at the height of the Coalition of the Willing efforts of American President George Bush. There is really no delineation between radio and TV. The basics are the same. We are part of a whole, we are part of GMA, and GMA is guided by a set of corporate values. All departments, all business units, all sections, all programs are supposed to be guided by the same set of values. That's where everything flows from. So that's the weave. You may be in radio, you may be in new media, you may be in TV — which has many genres, like entertainment, which has its own sub-genres like comedy, drama, game show; or with news, which also has various sub-genres like public affairs, documentaries — but the common thread among all of us is the corporate values of GMA. Of course you face another reality, and you have to be pragmatic about it: how to treat your people, both your own and the audience. And on the business side, well, I don't want to say "deal" with advertisers; I would rather say how you partner with advertisers. In radio I made that very, very clear with our marketing people. Advertisers are not clients but partners, and we will treat them as partners, as we will expect them to treat us like partners also and not just as suppliers. Radio being a very personal, intimate and localized medium, but belonging to a national network, we have a calibrated mix of national and local segments. Precisely because radio is a very personal, localized medium, you are not going to hear our AM stations in Cebu — which are doing very well, by the way — you will never, never hear them talking in Tagalog. It's Cebuano all the way, 24/7. You will not hear an Iloilo station in any other language but Ilonggo. Or our Baguio station or our stations in Laoag and Tuguegarao in anything but Ilocano. But using the resources of GMA, especially in programming and the news, there's the advantage.
Mike Enriquez says his original mandate when he joined GMA Network was not to be a TV person, but lead the expansion of the radio network into 60 radio stations nationwide.
We also have a couple of guys here who already process the materials. We only deal with the major languages — Cebuano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Pangasinense, Ilocano. And we have a station in Zamboanga, so in Chavacano. Wherever we are, we have it in their language. We don't play imperialist-Manila, we don't dictate that this is what your people like, you tell us what your people like and let's talk about it. We don't play God I don't want to use the use the word "limitation" — but there are many things you can do for radio that you can't do for television, and vice versa. The principal difference is the video, the visual element in television that you don't get in radio, which can sometimes make radio more challenging, since you're supposed to make radio more visual without the benefit of a screen. There's a lot of training involved. But it all starts with the selection of the people whom you make part of the team. The marching order I got when I began the radio expansion was to get the best equipment, the best people, the best locations. That's how GMA does it, every time they go into something, and it's a trademark of excellence. They will not settle for just anything. Every month there's a regular meeting of all department heads. I attend the meetings with the Board of Directors, as a resource person, not as a member of the Board, but because of my rank as an SVP, being the head of a business unit. We're like COOs, in effect. I don't want to use the word "responsible" — we are accountable for the performance of the business unit entrusted to us. In my case, I have been entrusted with the radio business of the Network. And I answer to the Board, and to the stockholders, which include the public now. So I am accountable for the conduct of the unit I head. And then in between all of these, there is constant communication with the Chairman, Atty. Gozon — with regards radio, or sometimes he would bounce off his ideas regarding TV. Sometimes he would include me on his e-mail list, when he wants to take up certain issues, and ask for comments, or "Reco" meaning recommendations. He's a voracious reader, I guess from being a lawyer. And so I have become a more voracious reader myself. You can't help it, you just keep getting notes and memos from him, e-mail, etc. Sometimes he would send you reading materials regarding politics, regarding trends. He will send you pages from a book or a magazine article that does not necessarily have anything to do with radio or with news. With regards preserving ethical standards, you have to be constantly vigilant. You have to accept the reality that you are dealing with fellow human beings who have their own weaknesses, frailties. It's different strokes for different folks, with different reactions to temptations. It takes vigilance on the part of those responsible for the conduct of our broadcast. Of co-equal importance are training and recognition. It takes patience. It cannot be done overnight, it's a continuing process, until it becomes second nature. It's also a combination of education and inculcation. You cannot just hold them to a series of values training sessions and then forget about it. It's never-ending. This is a slightly abridged version of a chapter that appears in the recently published oral history of GMA Network, KAPUSO: The GMA Story, edited by Alfred "Krip" Yuson. The network celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
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