In Asia today the mass media exercises a
powerful influence, informing the public and shaping its attitudes. And
increasingly so. Yet, when monopolized by government or vested interests,
media's power is easily used for propaganda purposes. In open societies it
is often squandered in trivial entertainments. Father JAMES BERTRAM REUTER
JR, S.J., swims against the tide.
As a young American religious scholastic assigned to the Philippines, Father
REUTER directed his first stage play in 1941 and wrote scripts for the
"Commonweal Hour," a popular Catholic radio program. Imprisoned during the
war, he wrote songs and skits to rally fellow internees. Following
ordination in the United States in 1946, and a course in broadcasting, he
returned to the Philippines. At the Jesuit academies Ateneo de Naga and,
from 1952, Ateneo de Manila, he immersed himself in a whirlwind life of
teaching, coaching, and supervising everything from the school newspaper to
the glee club.
He made his mark in dramatics. Year after year his Ateneo Players— augmented
from Manila's Catholic schools for girls staged memorable plays and gala
musicals. He was an exacting director who subjected young thespians to his
passion for achieving perfection by hard work. They yielded and learned.
Some launched successful careers in professional broadcasting and theater.
But for most, Father REUTER's amateur theatricals were really a school for
life. To many he became a lifelong mentor and friend.
In time Father REUTER became the church's all-around media man—a priest
whose parish encompassed stage and studio, airwaves and press. He introduced
Catholic programming to Philippine television and helped set up Radio
Veritas. He wrote, adapted, directed, and produced radio, television, and
stage plays. These bore lessons of Christian faith, social responsibility,
and personal morality to Philippine audiences and exemplified his crusade
for high standards, substance, and ethics in media.
Under Martial Law, Father REUTER struggled to keep Catholic radio stations
alive and raised his voice in a small weekly magazine. But like his earlier
newspaper column and television programs, this, too, was muzzled. Arrested
and tried by the government, he was released under an uncertain amnesty. In
the presidential polls of 1986, REUTER's fellow Catholic broadcasters
challenged election fraud by helping orchestrate a nationwide independent
vote count. During the ensuing "People Power Revolution," he moved behind
the scenes to keep a radio voice on the air. Prominent among those from
media who put their lives on the line to inform and mobilize the public were
his former students and players.
Father REUTER once described the early Jesuits as "great-souled men with
powerful minds and strong wills." Hard-driving yet compassionate, REUTER is
described this way himself, not least by his erstwhile student actors and
stage hands whose lives he touched permanently by insisting from them their
In electing FR. JAMES BERTRAM REUTER JR., S.J., to receive the 1989 Ramon
Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts,
the Board of Trustees recognizes his employing his gifts as writer,
theatrical director, and broadcaster, but most of all as teacher, to make
the performing arts and mass media a vital force for good in the