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By May Anne Cacdac

The Iron Maiden

Thursday, February 6, 2014

THERE is a term I usually use to refer to JM, especially when he’s hungry and to Rodz when he’s on sugar high. “Maligalig.” I don’t exactly know what its English translation is but I believe it is “restless”.

Something I have been for the better part of January. I was missing someone so bad. And I just wanted to get away from the cold. And so I decided to, by hook or by crook, go down to Manila where my expectations were more than fulfilled.

But still there is this bug. A feeling which refuses to go away especially when I am here at work and I stare at the glut of contributed “articles” in my email only to find one or two out of the twenty which are actually publish worthy.


You may say, “There goes the snob again. Thinking her English is above everyone else’s.”

See, there lies the problem. A lot of these articles are sound. But the topics are just – boring.

Reading my reporters’ stories, I get the feeling they share the same restlessness. How do I know that? When you’ve been with these guys for years now, you know when they are passionate about what they’ve written.

And you know if they took their place in front of the computer and just dished out a story mechanically.

I am thinking it could be the “beat system” in a publication that is getting to them already.

In one of my subscribed emails from Nieman Journalism Laboratory, I saw this one: “Just imagine having a beat not tethered to a physical place or set topic, but an abstract and ever-changing linked set of ideas that you get to explore in real time with other curious people.”

This made me wonder, do we really read the stories or do we follow the person who wrote it?

Because if the answer happens to be the latter, it would be so easy as an editor to veer away from the traditional structure of a news publication and indulge in, well, our whims and even caprices.

In the same Nieman article, writer Adrienne Lafrance wrote: “A favorite editor of mine used to say that you can tell a news organization’s values by what it chooses NOT (emphasis this Maiden’s) to cover.”

Exactly. And so I guess rethinking about what this paper chooses to cover is in line. I have been thinking there is a way to reconcile the values of SunStar Baguio, the people behind the Editorial Services and what the community truly wants and needs to read.

Every day we are confronted with a plethora of information. From the press conferences we attend to the things we read online to conversations over my favorite bottle of Absolut vodka.

And every day there is this challenge to make sense of all these information, separating the grain from the chaff and passing it on as news to the readers.

Sometimes I wonder if our readers are being cheated by the stories we tell them or if writers are also cheated out of the stories they truly care about but are hesitant to put down.

Ms. Lafrance predicted in her article: “In 2014, I believe we’ll see more news organizations experiment with fluid beat structures. Reporters will organize their coverage around sets of evolving ideas rather than fixed places or topics.”

She suggested creating beats around ideas and she explains:

“So what might a fluid beat structure actually look like in practice?

“Let’s say my beat is ‘transparency.’ That’s pretty abstract and unwieldy by itself. So to make sense of it, my premise — this driving principle, this value system that informs all of my journalistic work about transparency — might be something like: The public has a right to scrutinize influential gatekeepers who handle public money, personal data, and access to pivotal information. My job would be to track how that premise holds up in the real world, the extent to which there are exceptions, where and why it gets murky, and so on.”

It’s worth the try, I think. If only to get my people out of the plateau. If only to get me out of this plateau.
So there. I’ll wrap my head around this and hopefully it soon translates into a better publication for our readers.

We owe you that much. For the meantime, forgive our restlessness.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 07, 2014.


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