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Jessica Soho: 2013 tested GMA News

Looking back at 2013 as a challenging time for media reportage, veteran broadcast journalist Jessica Soho of GMA News expressed gratitude that the Kapuso network’s efforts to cover the year’s biggest events were duly recognized locally and abroad.

A vote of affirmation came four days away from Christmas, after the United Nations (UN) invited Soho to a one-on-one interview with its Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, in Makati City. She was the only media professional to receive the invitation, which was extended in line with Mr. Ban’s visit to the Philippines in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan).

During the 25-minute interview, Mr. Ban stressed the UN’s commitment to assist in recovery efforts.

“It was humbling for me to personally ask questions and hear the views of the most senior diplomat of the world’s largest international organization. I am grateful that the United Nations gave me this rare opportunity,” Soho said.

The interview capped a year marked by news events that were more demanding to cover from a technical operations standpoint and in terms of depth for investigative journalism.

As the leader of the production team that delivers the State of the Nation (SONA) newscast, Soho anchored live from disaster-crippled areas such as Leyte and Bohol in the aftermath of Yolanda and the Visayas quake, respectively. She performed similar reporting duties amid the conflict of the Zamboanga crisis.

The extensive damage to infrastructure, coupled with security and safety concerns, made remote setups for television difficult to establish. The SONA team delivered the goods for each live broadcast, earning best news program honors during the 35th Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA).

“The events of 2013 really tested us in GMA News. We had to overcome numerous logistical difficulties – Guiuan in Eastern Samar and Tacloban, for example, were without electricity and other utilities. Beaming live feeds under such conditions was not an easy task. More importantly, there were times when our people were at risk, near the line of fire, and it took commitment from everybody to get the job done,” she said.

For the show’s highest accolade this year, SONA’s special coverage of yet another tumultuous event – the 2012 monsoon rains – gained a Silver Screen Award during the 2013 US International Film and Video Festival.

Up close

Soho said the top stories of 2013 were not always about the big-name politicians or celebrities.

“Many times it was about the ordinary folk – the calamity victims, the voters who decided the outcome of the May elections, and the protesters who have had enough of crooked politicians,” she said.

When public uproar against the so-called pork barrel scam culminated during the Million People March last August, Soho made it a point to interview the people who came from all walks of life.

Days after Yolanda struck, she also took it upon herself to hand the microphone over to devastated Tacloban residents so they can personally relay cries for help.

“Giving ordinary people a voice on television is our modest contribution to help enlighten our viewers and bring all sides of the story,” she said.

As further recognition of her efforts, Soho was regarded as the Most Trusted News Presenter by Reader's Digest Asia Trusted Brands for the third straight year. She was also recently elevated to the Anak TV Roster of Makabata Stars Hall of Fame for consistently leading the annual Anak TV survey for the past eight years.

The GMA journalist had a golden harvest of awards in 2013, earning a total of 25 accolades – the highest single-year tally in her broadcasting career which spans four decades.

Emmys judge

Another feather in Soho’s cap for 2013 was acknowledgment from yet another prestigious award-giving body. For the fourth straight year, Soho was asked to serve as juror of the International Emmy Awards for the Current Affairs category.

This time, she was asked to judge short-listed entries from Germany, Romania, Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Hungary, Russia, Canada, Sweden, and France.

“It’s gratifying to know that an esteemed organization such as the Emmys would find value in the opinions of a Filipino broadcast journalist, and I thank them for letting me be part of the judging process,” said Soho, who is currently the First Vice President for News Programs of GMA Network.

Soho also hosts the weekend public affairs show, Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, which was consistently the highest rating program of GMA Network last year. Aside from winning Best Magazine Program honors in the 35th CMMA, it also earned a Certificate for Creative Excellence for Television (news magazine format) during the 2013 US International Film and Video Festival.