A lifetime of changes


Pinky Concha Colmenares

Yesterday, Feb. 2, Manila Bulletin celebrated its 123rd anniversary.

Before 2020, that day was just another day that we marked with a thick print edition supplement, and when social media came, with special videos and bits of history which were recorded in the pages of Manila Bulletin.

Yesterday, the day was more significant because we are stepping out from the pandemic years. Manila Bulletin had not celebrated three anniversaries since 2020. Because of the Taal Volcano eruption in Jan. 12, 2020, we did not have a celebration but instead donated to the relief efforts in the Batangas towns affected by the thick ashfall where hundreds of thousands of residents had been displaced. In the following years – 2021 and 2022 – restrictions did not allow for social gatherings.

Yesterday was also more significant to me as I reviewed my journey in media which started at the tail end of the “hot printing process” of the linotype machine, a process which must be in a museum now. Shortly after I entered journalism, which was during the days of the active student movement in the cities while insurgency in the countryside was boiling, computerization came and changed the delivery of the printed news through films and plates. At about that time, editors had their own handheld cutters which we used to literally “cut-and-paste” the incorrect letters or words or even lines on the page layout.

Those who have passed this period will know what I mean. Those of you who only knew the internet and the digital process can imagine the challenging times we editors went through before sending the pages down to the printer.

A few years ago, digital transformation was introduced. I attended an international conference to learn as much about that, but most of how it will be introduced and will change the working processes in the Manila Bulletin I learned from my boss, Emil C. Yap III, the president of the company. When he first talked about digital transformation, I was entertained by the idea but I did not think I’ll still be here when it totally takes over the way news will be written, edited, posted, and consumed by the readers. Perhaps I was so entertained by the processes that I forgot to get off the ship negotiating the rough waters of another era.

It was not difficult for me to adapt because I like technology and I enjoy the learning process of anything new – like the online landscape. The first obstacle for me was “the deadline is now” reality — writing the story soon after the event happens, or in my case, editing a story at any time of the day, wherever I am, before it is posted online.

I came from the era of set deadlines (like the 3 p.m. deadline for tomorrow’s edition), and was taught to get the “complete story” before you write it. Writing the story soon after it happens, having no time to think of prose only purpose, I had to adapt with a lot of agonizing and anxiety attacks which came after I posted every story.

Then, fake news came. That added another factor to writing and editing – fact-checking the information in the story.

It was easy to learn how to fact-check, but my curious nature usually kept me stranded on an issue as the google search opens so many versions of an issue, or even of the truth. That would take precious minutes out of the “speed record” our minds aspire for in posting a story ahead of the other media. Especially if the story requires accuracy, I still cannot kick the habit of checking and rechecking the accuracy of an item, even the spelling of names.

Today, Manila Bulletin is deep into digital transformation. The pandemic pushed the speed of getting here because we in media know the importance of informing people, especially during the pandemic when so little was yet known about Covid.

After 40 years, (I marked my 40th year in Manila Bulletin a few months ago) I still look forward to what’s up ahead. As I ask those about to join media in MB’s training program: Are you looking for a job, or a career? In my case, this career has turned into a vocation.