“PROBE ON ahead or turn back.”
It’s a question Captain James T. Kirk asks himself in a 1966 episode of the sci-fi classic Star Trek. An alien entity, spinning and swirling like an August cyclone, had just attacked the starship USS Enterprise. Defenses are down. Destruction is imminent.
When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut. Much of it was because of Star Trek. A gung-ho crew in space, sailing into the unknown, living among the stars and jumping from one interplanetary adventure to another.
Every episode, the show would start with its mission statement:
“Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
It was a declaration of fearlessness.
Needless to say, I did not end up trekking the stars.
Instead, I became a journalist. Which, all things considered, is light years away from space travel but the mission isn’t quite far off as one might suspect.
There’s the sense of leaving your own comforts behind and plunging into the vast unknown. It’s a pursuit of truth and an exploration of humanity and its limits.
We also end up in many strange, strange worlds. One day, I’m in a three-piece suit covering a business meeting. The next, I’m in a disaster area, knee-deep in mud and grief. Then in a congressional hall filled to the rafters with politicians doling out empty promises. Then dodging green-tipped bullets in the middle of warfare. The next, who knows. “Probe on ahead or turn back.”
It’s also a question I often ask myself as journalist. Especially in an industry that, in many ways, has transformed in warp speed. 2019 feels so much like the future we all talked about in what feels just like yesterday.
In 2007, I became a television reporter. I would often go to work with nothing but a pen and a steno notebook. Newbie reporters would visit every police station in the metro — pan de sal, instant coffee and the latest gossip in tow as offering to desk officers. We’d chase after a fire story on the other side of the city, and if we missed it even just for a few minutes, we would all go home empty-handed. If we need to do a live shot, at least a dozen crew members will show up to mount a live point — lights, audio, editing and all. When we’re done with the story, we go home, and wait for the primetime news at 6:30 PM — fingers crossed that our story would make it on air.