We are publishing a series of articles from Rappler employees and contributors, old and new, as part of our celebration of Rappler’s 10th anniversary in January 2022.
Manila, Philippines – Sometime in late 2011 I got a message from a good friend from my college days, asking if I could do a beta test for a website he started working for.
He said the site will be called Rappler, and it will be an online-only news and tech platform. I gladly obliged – I loved messing with systems, after all. It was the halcyon days of social media and I started exploring a career in digital marketing then.
I was too realistic with the comments you gave – lots of white space, dead links, and… a mood meter? “Disgust is an emotion, isn’t it?” But overall, I’ve found that orange gives a fresh, centipede feel — a far cry from the RGBs of leading news outlets.
She was young, she was lively, she was vibrant. Something that would really catch my 26-year-old’s attention.
And that’s what I consider to be my first job with Rappler – beta testing it.
Rappler was launched soon after and became a source of Twitter conversations – What is Rappler and who are the people behind it? After her diligent coverage of the trial of the then-President of the Supreme Court, Renato Corona.
Another friend, who at the time was a government agency spokesperson, casually mentioned in one of our conversations that he was interviewed by someone from Rappler, and that he liked the iPhone setup and tripod. With no sign of crew, a one-person multimedia reporting setup has paved the way for an agile and fast workflow.
I finally met Maria Ressa at an event. We’ve been following each other on Twitter before, and I remember asking her many questions about her show “Between Good and Evil.” This led to a long exchange that extended back and forth via text messages. Maria didn’t know that I involved her because I was having a moral dilemma myself – without going into details, I was at a point where I wasn’t sure what was right or wrong, because at that point I was beginning to believe that taking chances meant having to compromise, and in Sometimes, having to bargain with one’s conscience.
A few months later, Maria asked me if I would be interested in joining her team. I thought, sure, why not.
Maria and I met for lunch. She spoke passionately about how social media can be a force for good, and how her vision for her startup startup started from there. She spoke about the pivotal role of social media at the heart of the Arab Spring and told stories of individuals taking collective action for the common good.
Here was a 50-year-old woman, talking with wide eyes about how technology will change the world for the better. I thought it was Polyana like. How could a veteran journalist be less cynical about me? How does she choose to see the good in people, even though she has witnessed the worst of humanity in her decades-long career?
“I want you to join the Rappler because you’re searching for meaning,” she said. I didn’t reply, but more than just intended, I was looking for guidance. I’ve been walking to the beat of my own drum for about seven years, jumping from one opportunity to the next.
For weeks I have been thinking about Maria’s offer. She said that because Rappler was still very new – amorphous was the exact word she used – there were many ways for me to grow within the organization.
She accepted her offer two weeks later.
From the start I knew I didn’t join a traditional newsgroup. The way I understood Mariah’s vision for Rappler was for a tech startup to build several products, with News as its first and flagship product. I still think of the Rappler in this way, 10 years later.
Throughout my time with the organization, I moved through three different departments—from marketing to lifestyle writing to video production—to see where I fit in.
There have been many times when I have felt out of place among my colleagues who live and breathe the news. I’ve been working with Rappler for nearly 10 years, yet I’m still hesitant to call myself a journalist. The political news cycle gives me a headache. (So much more now, quite frankly.) My Twitter has more Korean fans and pictures of my cats than news. My secondary lines are few and far between.
But the things I’ve built that I’m most proud of aren’t written on the site.
My boss, Beth Frontoso, trusted my vision. Together with our production team, we’ve transformed our evening newscasts from 20-minute shows to 5-minute expendable built-in shows. We’ve built and rebuilt systems and workflows, optimizing every step of the way for efficiency and agility. We put our audience first. We have considered people who are not as familiar with the news as I am, but need – and want – to be informed.
For the first time in my career, I found purpose in what I do.
Rappler gave me the privilege to embark on an unconventional career path. Rather than specialize in a uniquely grueling task, I’ve been trained to become a versatile, multi-skilled Swiss military knife rather than a hammer. I had to know my own job description, defy established conventions, learn how to do things on my own, but also how to manage a good team.
the manang Maria, Beth, Glinda, Chai – they may not be aware of this, and I don’t say it often, but every single day, I thank the universe for letting them seize the opportunity. I enjoyed great independence while taking advantage of their guidance. I got a seat at the table where my feedback and opinions mattered, and I don’t think I would have had that privilege elsewhere.
It’s been 10 years, and in some ways, I’m still doing what I first did with Rappler, which is treating my job as an ongoing beta. After all, a good product requires a constant cycle of building and rebuilding—sometimes one has to pause and take a step back, but all in the pursuit of progress and, I believe, the greater good. – Rappler.com
Marga leads product management for Rappler’s multimedia, working at the intersection of video, technology and revenue. She’s also on a mission to make your schedules a little better. Send her dog and cat videos at firstname.lastname@example.org And tweet to her what makes your hearts sing Tweet embed