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Friday, June 27, 2014

THEY come in parachuting with their crew. They take their aim and shoot; and then leave.

I am not talking about members of the special forces in an incisive military mission in foreign shores. But it sometimes feels that way for the rest of us engaged in community journalism when our comrades from national media outlets arrive for the occasional big stories in our turf.

I am actually describing the dynamics that takes place between national media practitioners and their local counterparts and how the balance of power always swings toward those with more resources. It easy to regard this as a turfing war when in fact it indicates a far more complex reality of who sets the agenda and how for what is considered as newsworthy in the country.


Oftentimes than not, just like how the seat of power is located in the capital, it is also national media outlets who determine what kind of information must be released for the public good. And again, oftentimes than not, these are always framed according to the limited vantage point of the blinders and exigencies of imperial Manila.

Ever wonder why it is considered worthy of a whole segment on primetime news when a Manila-based actress contracts a sexually-transmitted disease from his actor boyfriend instead of featuring the suffering evacuees of the all-out-war in Mindanao? Or how for instance Yolanda and its continuing effects are now just mere footnotes to other sensational stories such as the latest hostage-taking or infomercials about the newest trends in alternative medicine?

I don’t know what rubric or tool of assessment these powerful editors of Manila-based newspapers employ when they decide to feature a particular piece of news over another as their banner story but their privilege singularly sets the national agenda.

Such social influence has made Manila-based national media as an important base of social power in our country. This explains why the leading TV station or national daily seem like they run the country. It’s not just their proximity to the seat of power that makes them infallible but their monopoly over public information through their dominant platforms that give them the privilege to act as pseudo-governments.

Imperial Manila’s monopoly over the framing and delivery of public information must be challenged. The concentration of power in the capital has obviously privileged news from its environs excluding from the national conversation the newsworthy events and issues from the ground.
There is a need to create therefore alternative platforms of public conversations that reflect the burning issues of regions and cities yet do not find space and importance from national media outlets.

I believe this has been the important advocacy of SUN*STAR CAGAYAN DE ORO since its inception 19 years ago. One can say that while national media outlets have set the national agenda over the years, the paper has helped shape the alternative local agenda in the realm of politics, culture, and business.

This belief in community journalism is shared by the Sun.Star network of newspapers in various regions and cities all over the country who for almost two decades provided that important platform for local news and issues unique to the needs and conditions of the various locales where they are published.

It is a big operation, this effort of delivering local news and opinion to the local audience. There are a total of 12 regional and city issues covering Cebu, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Dumaguete, General Santos, Iloilo, Pampanga, and Pangasinan most of which come out with a daily printed edition. Imagine the number of dedicated people of editors-in-chief, news reporters, opinion writers, and staff who, day-in-and-out give birth to a local paper every morning, within its pages the local dilemmas of the community.

I am sure the advertising revenues of these editions could barely afford the paper that it is printed on much less provide for decent wages for the hardworking staff unlike their counterparts from national outlets who receive the equivalent of superstar rates.

But for anyone involved in community journalism, it is clear that this is more than a job. It is a mission. It is a mission to ensure that in the jostle for the public attention of what is newsworthy, it is not just the capital’s voice that should be heard; that we, in the boondocks, have opinions too about the goings-on in the capital; that ultimately, we, in the regions and cities, have our own public conversations that are newsworthy and equally important if not more.

Happy 19th anniversary to the community of dedicated journalists that makes up SUN.STAR CAGAYAN DE ORO. Onward with our mission! Padayon! ?


(Arnold P. Alamon is an Assistant Professor IV, Sociology Department, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 27, 2014.


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