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PUP Journalism Students Explore Community Journalism in Digital Age

Pinoy Weekly EIC Marc Lino Abila discusses the history and present status of Community Journalism with students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. Photo by Ma. Kathlen Hitosis.

Journalism students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) explored the state of community journalism amid the digital information age during a campus seminar featuring Pinoy Weekly and AlterMidya.

The senior students of Seminar on Journalism Issues, the course tackling the current state of community journalism and its role in highlighting local stories in the Philippines, organized the seminar “Kuwentong Barangay, Kuwento ng Bayan: The State of Community Journalism in the Midst of Digital Information” at the PUP College of Communication Audio-Visual Room (COC AVR) on June 26, 2024.

The seminar delved into the importance of community journalism in elevating local narratives, assessing its current state in the country, and envisioning its future in a digital setting.

Course adviser Professor Aileen Camille Dimatatac emphasized the relevance of community journalism, noting the lack of attention in the national discourse.

This is something na hindi napag-uusapan, hindi nabibigyan ng pansin kasi ang iniisip lang naman Metro Manila issues lang naman ang importante kapag tungkol sa Pilipinas. Pero hindi iniisip na ang istorya ng Pilipinas ay nasa iba’t ibang bahagi ng ating bansa at yun ang gustong tukuyin ng community journalism,” Prof. Dimatatac said.

[“This is something we don’t talk about and not given attention because people think that only Metro Manila issues are important in the Philippines. But they do not consider that the story of the Philippines is in various parts of our country, and that is what community journalism aims to highlight.”]

The in-depth discussions were led by alternative media journalists Marc Lino Abila, Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of Pinoy Weekly, and Avon Ang, the National Coordinator of AlterMidya Network.

Abila discussed community journalism’s historical and current landscapes, while Ang focused on its prospects.

Community Journalism in the Past and Present

Pinoy Weekly’s Abila reiterated that in Philippine history, journalism did not start in just a “she said” or “he said” narrative, but has roots in community-based and revolutionary efforts during the colonial period.

Unang una sa lahat, kaya naman nagkaroon ng mga community papers ay doon sa kagustuhan ng mga mamamayan na makalaya from colonial powers,” Abila said.

[“First of all, the reason why community papers exist is because of the people’s desire to be freed from colonial powers.”]

Doon nanggagaling kung bakit hanggang sa ngayon, nagpupursige at patuloy na dumadami, though online, patuloy na dumadami yung community media na meron tayo,” he added.

[“That is why community media persist and continue to grow, and although online, the number of community media we have continue to increase.”]

According to Abila, the number of community media is continuously increasing with most coming from the Visayas. These community media are not just online, but also in other platforms of disseminating information such as the traditional newspaper and radio.

These various media platforms provide timely information on local and national issues connecting closer to understanding concerns of people in such communities.

Mas malapit doon sa pag-unawa, mas malapit doon sa bituka ng mamamayan na nandoon sa mga lugar,” Abila explained.

[“They are closer to understanding, closer to the core of the people who are in those areas.”]

Abila encouraged students to prioritize provincial issues and find correspondents to report on these areas, emphasizing the severe challenges faced in the provinces compared to urban centers.

Sa totoo, mas malala pa ang nangyayari sa kanila sa probinsya. So kung tayo, nagrereklamo tayo sa traffic, sila pinapaalis sila sa mga lugar nila at pinapatay sila,” Abila stated.

[“In reality, the situation is worse for those in the province. While we complain about the traffic, they are being forced out of the homes and are killed.”]

Before ending his discussion, Abila reminded the students that the role of a journalist is to challenge power through journalism.

Alternative and Community Journalism is the future

AlterMidya’s Avon Ang asserted that community journalism represents the future of journalism, driven by the people’s growing interest in finding alternatives to all the disinformation and unethical media practices.

The media network’s national coordinator added that the number one problem in the country is the system itself pushing media practitioners to be unethical, decreasing the trust in the media.

Bakit siya future? Kasi nga yung corporate press sa Pilipinas ay controlled by political-economic interest. Hindi kasalanan ng isang journalist ang sitwasyon. Yun ay systemic,” Ang said.

[“Why is it the future? Because political-economic interests control the corporate press in the Philippines. It is not the fault of any one journalist: it’s systemic.”]

Citing Philippine journalism icon Luis Teodoro, Ang stressed that alternative and community media have no reason to be unethical as no one controls them and are bound only by the desire to seek the truth and serve the community.

Kaya ito yung tinutulak natin na yung future na ‘to, ang kailangan niya ay mahigpit na pagkapit sa principles na adhere to high ethical standards to maintain credibility and trust with their audience,” Ang elaborated.

[“What we’re pushing for the future is the need to stick to principles, adhere to high ethical standards to maintain credibility and trust with their audience.”]

Ang told the seminar participants that journalism is a commitment to public service and a human responsibility, not just a job.

Ang also emphasized the importance of media literacy programs to empower people to express their views on issues, which journalists can report.

Kailangan makapagsalita din sila kasi kapag ‘di sila nakapagsalita, ano ang ibabalita natin? Kung hindi nila na-e-express kung ano yung kanilang tingin doon sa isyung panlipunan, ano ang isusulat natin, ano ang irereport natin?,” she expressed.

[“They also need to be able to speak because if they don’t speak, what will we report? If they cannot express their views on social issues, what will we write about, what will we report?”]

In 2022, Filipino journalist Lady Ann Salem was nominated for the RSF Press Freedom Awards for her bravery in informing the public despite the dangers, obstacles, and persecution she faced. Salem is described as the journalist who embodies the future of journalism, following 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa who fought pressures against her news organization, Rappler.

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Mary Ann R. Tapalla
Mary Ann R. Tapalla
Mary Ann R. Tapalla is a senior journalism student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. She is an enthusiast of outdoor activities, enjoys engaging with others, and participates in sports such as jogging, volleyball, and badminton. She was born and raised in Bicolandia where she nurtured her aspiration to become a journalist from a young age.

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