Rico Hizon on the importance of ending his newscast on an uplifting note

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As he returns home, the internationally acclaimed and award-winning broadcaster offers “a broader view of what is transpiring outside of the Philippines,” on CNN Philippines’ “The Final Word” and the forthcoming “The Exchange.” Photo by JL JAVIER

Laguna (CNN Philippines Life) — In March, internationally acclaimed news anchor Rico Hizon made headlines in local media — an industry buzz that welcomed his return to Philippine broadcast journalism. BBC World News’ “Face of Asia” has come back home after spending over 25 years between Hong Kong, Singapore, and London where he worked for global news organisations as their only Filipino journalist.

When asked what made him decide to go back to the Philippines, he was quick to answer. “It was really my family,” he shares with CNN Philippines Life, noting how the initial plan was that he was to work overseas for only five years, as per his father’s wishes. When he landed his first international stint at CNBC Business News back in 1995, his father gave him five years to work overseas in order for him to live his dream. “I wanted to live my dream and passion on the international broadcasting stage,” he says. “I wanted to see what was out there. I wanted to be a trailblazer for Filipino broadcast journalists. I knew there was opportunity here in the Philippines, but I wanted to see the world, I wanted to cross borders and I wanted to show that Filipinos can be successful as well overseas.”

Then the five years slowly grew longer, stretching to two and a half decades, establishing himself as a credible name in the industry. After staying with CNBC from 1995 to 2002, he went on to join BBC World News — a dream come true for him — where he worked until it was time to head back home. Throughout his tenure in international broadcasting, Hizon went on to receive several accolades, including the Pamana ng Pilipino Presidential Award which he received from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Malacañan Palace for excellence in International Journalism in 2008; a doctorate degree in Humanities, Honoris Causa by the University of Northeastern Philippines and the Commission on Higher Education conferred in 2012; and the People Asia Magazine Men Who Matter award in 2016.

It was when his father reached his 90s that Hizon started to plan his family's return to the Philippines. This two-year plan was finally realized earlier this year in March — the birth month of his father, who just turned 92.

Hizon is CNN Philippines' new senior anchor and director for news content development. Photo by JL JAVIER

As he reunited with his family upon moving back to the country, he also took on the chance to join a new one — CNN Philippines as the network’s new senior anchor and director for news content development.

“I didn't think twice,” he shared in the interview. “CNN Philippines provides first-class news and information that draws on the strength and worldwide news gathering power of CNN, and offers Filipino viewers a global perspective on key issues and trending stories from around the world, together with in-depth local coverage.”

Hizon’s return overlapped with what may be one of the most crucial moments for local media. The first local transmission of COVID-19 was confirmed in the same month, which soon prompted the Philippine government to implement an enhanced community quarantine. He calls the current socio-political climate “a very important and very challenging time in our lives,” and acknowledges just how grave a broadcast journalist’s responsibility is in delivering the facts to the general public.

As he returns to his roots, Hizon makes it a point to offer what he has learned from his experience overseas, giving “a broader view of what is transpiring outside of the country.” This global perspective is what he instills in his new work at CNN Philippines, beginning with “The Final Word,” his evening primetime program for the network.

Through “The Final Word,” Hizon seeks to provide multiple dimensions to broadcasting — from bringing international perspectives to offering uplifting stories. Photo by JL JAVIER

In developing news content, he follows a formula which comprises what he considers the key elements to a good newscast: the newsmaker or the hard news, international news, and a light and inspiring story to end with.

“We have international news to give viewers a global perspective of what's happening with COVID-19 beyond our shores, international politics, trade and business that affects each and every one of us,” he explains. “We now live in a borderless world; we not just rely on ourselves but also on many many other countries to survive.”

“And then, we have a light, inspiring and good vibes story in our final segment. In half an hour, we want to give our viewers an overall view of what’s happening in the Philippines, around the world, and at the end, give them a sense of hope, inspire them that there is still a light at the end of the tunnel.”

He intends to adopt the same formula in his forthcoming show titled “The Exchange,” a weekly business program which Hizon is especially excited about, as he circles back to his beginnings as a business news anchor.

Set to premiere this July, “The Exchange'' will be a 30-minute show that will aim to make business news and lifestyle as accessible to the general public as possible. There is particular interest in learning more about how business leaders will be moving forward as the country transitions into a ‘new normal’ — a topic that Hizon wants to address through “The Exchange.”

“As much as possible, we want to invite the captains of industry, movers, and shakers,” he says. “They’re the ones leading the way forward in this ‘new normal’.”

He emphasizes on the importance of closing every episode on a positive note — an aspect so crucial in today’s time.

As we live through “a very important and very challenging time in our lives,” Hizon acknowledges just how grave a broadcast journalist’s responsibility is in delivering the facts to the general public. Photo by JL JAVIER

He says, “You cannot go serious the whole way, because it can really be very stressful for the viewer if all [they] are listening to is politics, all about the health crisis... We want to always end the show light. When we end the program, viewers will say, ‘Oh, there’s still a lot of good that’s happening in this world. It’s not all negative.’”

Something that he still holds onto is the advice he received from his international colleagues, which is the same principles he learned from Atty. Dong Puno, his mentor whom he credits for having helped him become the journalist he is today.

“You know they would always tell me, ‘Every day is like you're still going to school. Every day is like a new learning process.’ You should not take anything for granted. You should always keep yourself up to date with developments across all topics. Never just focus on what you do… We have to focus on everything.”

Staying true to this advice, Hizon has kept himself well-versed in a variety of topics, from politics and business, to culture and sports. This is a trait that lends well, and is, in fact, a necessity for a journalist, much less one who has had such a successful career in international broadcasting. Hizon laughingly notes how he can even get around with discussing chismis about international and local showbiz. “I love gossip,” he shares with a smile. “And that’s what I do whenever I go around, [ask people] ‘what’s the latest?’ But amid the gossip and the noise, you still have to double check and triple check your sources, ‘cause that can be fake news, right?”

From this curiosity on casual gossip comes another key learning that sets a journalist apart from other curious minds. “That’s what I also learned from international news,” he says. “Don’t try to be ahead of others because you [may] think that [a story can be] breaking news but it could [also] be fake news. Even if you are a few minutes, a few seconds behind, as long as you get it right, that’s what makes us credible, fair, and balanced. We do not report sensationalised news. We only report the right news. We only report the right facts.”

“When we end the program, viewers will say, ‘Oh, there’s still a lot of good that’s happening in this world. It’s not all negative,’” says Hizon. Photo by JL JAVIER

“The Final Word” airs from Monday to Friday at 9 p.m. “The Exchange” premieres on July 10, Friday, at 8 p.m.