#Linangan2014 keynote: The call of the times and the campus press

Here are my prepared remarks and deck for the keynote speech at #Linangan2014, a Luzon-wide campus journalism seminar-workshop held on August 30, 2014 at the Philippine Normal University, Manila:


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The big news today are about Hello Kitty and Senator Grace Poe taking the MRT Rush Hour Challenge.

It took us no time to find out, to search for photos and news articles about them. By the time we watched the primetime newscast, we already knew the stories and we were looking for follow-ups.

These are interesting examples about the call of the changing times to campus journalists, campus newspapers and advisers.

Together let’s go through the challenges to the campus press to remain responsive and relevant.

1. The media is changing.

There is no doubt that the internet and social media are gamechangers in the media landscape.

All major news organizations are now both online and active on social media.

Before, the news gets delivered only on primetime, late night and early morning. Or in the morning, via the newspaper or the radio.

Before, our concept of “breaking news” was either turning on the AM radio or watching flash reports in between our favorite TV or radio programs.

Today, news is pushed online on a 24/7 basis.

Parang Mercury Drug, ang balita ay laging bago at bukas 24 oras.

2. Media consumption is changing.

Mobile phones, internet and social media have also transformed the audience.

Today, over one-third of the Philippine population or upwards of 35-million have access to the internet. Meanwhile, most Filipinos have at least one mobile phone. Some have two or even three.

According to the market research firm Nielsen says more and more Filipinos have become three-screen consumers. That means, we use the three screens of TV, the internet (on a PC, notebook or tablet) and mobile.

Whether it is about news or entertainment, tech or travel, education or porn, it now highly probable that any Filipino, aged 35 and below, would juggle these three screens of the TV, the computer and the phone to get information. Do you agree? Are you one of them?

Not only that, the Filipino audience and readers are no longer satisfied in receiving or reading information. Internet and social media have shattered the line separating media and the audience, and the audience are demanding engagement, pushing feedback, contributing content, and helping shape the discourse. In some cases, the audience become the news, like the trending topics, video scandals and artists who got discovered on YouTube.

3. The campus press must embrace this change.

Why do we have campus newspapers?

Campus newspapers like the Torch of PNU, Collegian of UP Diliman, Dawn of UE, Guidon of Ateneo, Varsitarian of UST and Perspective of UPLB have long fulfilled two fundamental roles:

As student organ: Published by students and managed by student journalists, campus newspapers raise the awareness of students and take a stridently pro-student and pro-people position on issues and concerns affecting them.

As a laboratory for future practitioners in media and related fields: Campus papers have long produced journalists, writers, poets, artists, photographers, designers and creatives. Most of the top editors and veteran journalists started in campus newspapers.

Up until the last decade, campus newspapers were enough. Enough to satisfy students’ hunger for news and information. Enough as a training ground for future practitioners.

Not anymore.

There is now a disconnect or a gap between the campus press and its audience and publishers.

Before, students waited for the campus newspaper for reports on school events like intramurals, student council elections, tuition fee increases, upgrades of school facilities, visits of guests, new appointments, contests won by students, events organized by student groups and the like.

Today, students themselves publish those news, sometimes live, complete with photos and videos. They have their own websites, blogs and social media accounts. They have become publishers of their own media.

Notice the disconnect, notice the gap?

Before, the newspaper- and journalism-related skills from newswriting to layouting, campus paper management to poetry, photography to editorial-writing were a special domain of campus journalists (and advisers) and sometimes more than enough a preparation to media-related careers.

Today, media, advertising, public relations, marketing, creative fields and more areas are quickly going digital. There are now multimedia reporters and online editors, social news networks and social media managers.

Notice the disconnect, notice the gap?

The challenge now is for the campus press to bridge these gaps.

4. Transform the campus press

I am not saying that we disband and abolish campus newspapers. No one wants that to happen.

But both the changing media landscape and media consumption habits of students compel the campus press to rethink its role, its chosen medium and its choice of what to cover and how.

How do we transform the campus press?

If all media outlets have gone digital, so should the campus press! If the students have gone social, so should their official organ!

Keep pace with, nay, lead students, the community and country. Toward this, the campus press could start with the following:

Facebook Page and Twitter
A website or blog
Magazine format
YouTube and podcasts
Infographics and data visualization

If the campus press would embrace the change and be the gamechanger in media consumption on campus, you would continue to be both responsive and relevant to your publishers, the students, and the larger community students are part of. You would continue to be thought-leaders on campus.

If and when you decide to go digital and social, you would also free yourselves from the constraints of the medium of the newspaper. If before, you could only publish once a month or once a semester, going digital would get rid of that stumbling block. Wala nang article na di mapapublish. Lahat may pagkakataon nang makita ang byline. Mas maraming photos at drawings na mailalabas.

5. Transform not just the form. Transform the content.

More space also means more opportunity to raise awareness, to practice skills, to ask questions, to feature what’s important or relevant, to try investigative or in-depth reporting, and so on. I-alay natin ang bago at mas malaking espasyo para sa estudyante, komunidad at bayan.

For example, report more on the challenges that PNU faces as the country’s National Center for Teacher Education. Is the government budget for PNU growing or shrinking? Is the government raising more revenue from PNU students through tuition and other school fees?

Another example, report on the plight of new and veteran teachers, especially graduates of PNU. Are salaries going up? How are the non-cash benefits? Do they have medical insurance? Are they provided with opportunities for career growth like postgraduate education? Are teachers honored as national treasures or maltreated like our national animal, the beast of burden called the kalabaw?

By asking the right and tough questions, you will become thought-leaders inside and outside campus, focusing on Teachers and Teacher Education.

Besides, no other media is expected to be experts on these issues other than you, PNU’s campus journalists and campus newspapers.

6. Two torches to light the way

Be not afraid, PNU campus press. Be not afraid because you have two torches that light your way.

The first torch comes from your publishers, the students. It is a reminder that the campus newspaper is the student organ. Always look up to that torch and always be the undisputed champion of students, their welfare, concerns and interests.

The second torch comes from your tradition, our tradition as Members of the Press and Media. It is a tradition of honor, integrity and credibility. The Code of Ethics remain the same: (a) be honest and fair; (b) minimize harm; and (c) be accountable. This code is our safeguard so we don’t abuse ourselves and especially others.

Yes, you have two torches lighting your way forward as you answer the call of the times and transform yourselves and your campus newspapers into becoming more responsive and relevant.

7. The call of the times is to move forward.

To move forward is to fight for and achieve change.

I have an interesting discovery to share with you. While I was researching on the budget and pork barrel, I chanced upon a report of the Senate’s Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office.

Do you know that the government expects state colleges and universities, including PNU, to raise revenues? Do you know by how much?

According to the LBRMO, the government expects SCUs to collect P7.3-billion from tuition fees and another P4.04-billion in other fees also from students.

Kung iisipin, P11.34-billion lamang ang kailangang itustos ng pamahalaan para magbigay ng libreng edukasyon sa lahat ng mga “iskolar ng bayan”.

Yung nawala pa lang na P10-billion sa PDAF scam, katumbas na ng 90 percent tuition discount. Pero mas masakit pa dito, ang P11.34-billion na ito ay patak lang, mumo lang kumpara sa P237-billion na pork barrel ng Pangulo.

There is so much public funds in the President’s pork barrel, so much that the government could immediately raise the basic salary of public school teachers to P25,000 a month.

Just imagine the possibilities if we take back control over our public funds. Tuition-free is possible. A minimum pay of P25,000 for public school teachers is possible. The possibilities are endless.

Change the medium, change the conversation, change the country. Answer the call of the times. We have done so this morning. From Hello Kitty, to the MRT rush hour ride with Sen. Grace Poe, we have gone through steps to going digital and social, and we now end it with Mr. Clean who turned out to be most rotten and fattest pig.

Change the medium, change the conversation, change the country. Answer the call of the times. Don’t miss the call. Say hello to change.

Maraming salamat po.

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