Community media (newspapers and radio) had always played a vital role as the voice of the community. Because of the need for information that is specific to concerns of the community, its presence has become even more crucial during this pandemic crisis.
Like many small businesses, most community newspapers which are dependent on advertising have been experiencing terrible losses since the lockdown. According to several publishers, advertisements, notably judicial notices, are down by 80 percent. Almost half of the community newspapers had been forced to temporarily stop printing, while those that continue to operate had reduced the number of pages of their tabloid, as they continue to strengthen their digital presence. They also continue to face the difficulty of sourcing printing supplies.
Philippine Press Institute (PPI) Executive Director Ariel Sebellino notes that there are to date about 70 community newspapers. PPI is a nonprofit association of which 60 of the 70 community newspapers have membership. It is the oldest professional media organization with the mandate to “defend press freedom and promote ethical journalism practice.” Since 1996, the PPI had held annual awards called “Civic Journalism Awards” given to outstanding community newspapers. Perennial winners are Sun Star Cebu, Edge Davao, Baguio Chronicle Sun Star Davao, Baguio Midland Courier, and Business Week.
The many challenges from COVID-19 and the lockdown had resulted in limited coverage because of mobility restrictions, poor access to information, and meager resources, PPI was forced to come up with creative alternatives such as the Online COVID-19 Chronicles and the PPI News Commons – Sharing News for All which focus on the pandemic. It is the first of its kind in Asia. The link is www.ppinewscommons.net.
As PPI Chairman and President, Rolando Estabillo said, one good thing that COVID-19 has brought is that the media were forced to embrace technology and learn to use the digital tools.
Other creative approaches employed by some newspapers are the DNX which offers heavily discounted advertising packages to small businesses, who in turn help them through advertisements, and working with schools as well in offering a program such as “newspaper as part of the curriculum.
“After a year of hiatus, ala Rip van Winkle, we finally did it,” says Luz de Leon, editor-publisher of Parañaque Ngayon, an 8-page paper when it re-launched Issue #99, now in Filipino, which, in addition to its print edition has also navigated to the digital platform. Luz is a journalism alumna of the University of the Philippines and has studied journalism at the University of California Berkeley.
Parañaque Ngayon caters to residents of the community with its population of some 772,722 (estimates based on population growth rate in 2010-2015) but because of its content coverage, it has attracted a wider readership beyond its 16 barangays. In addition to current news (mostly updates on COVID-19 statistics, “The Surge is On,”“Mayor Edwin Olivarez – Magbakuna, Labanan Ang COVID-19,” “Kailan Ba Ito Matatapos?”. Pope Francis Message to Filipinos “Vaccinations for P’que Senior Citizens, Cash Assistance to Victims of Fire), and community events like Kasalang Bayan Opinions (Issue 99 has translated my Manila Bulletin piece in Filipino – Mga Bisyonaryo, Joe Montelibano’s Yung Mga Imposibleng Pangarap, Dr. Tony Leachon, May ‘Double Pandemic’ Tayo Ngayon). Past issues covered the arts and culture, education and technology, Interfaith News, Health and Nutrition, among others.
I am sure that the revival of the paper is much appreciated in this first class highly urbanized city known for its intricate hand embroidery that has continued as a household industry. It is famous for its lively festivals such as the “caracol” which revolves around boats as well as being the “fashion capital of Metro Manila, as it is home to the largest fashion boutiques and shops. Among its many attractions are The Manila Bay Beach Resort, Solaire Resort and Casino, City of Dreams, Okada, Baclaran Market.
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