‘Ed Talks’

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

You read it right.
The title for today’s column is “Ed Talks” and it is also the title of the long-running Journalism and Media Training series organized by the Corporate Affairs Group of San Miguel Corporation that aims to help media practitioners outside Metro Manila to enhance their skills, share best practices and create connections among practitioners and subject matter experts.

I was recently invited by SMC to give an “Ed Talk” on “Developmental Communications” as against Developmental Journalism as well as share my knowledge and experience on “the fine art of compelling interviews.” During the pre-seminar briefing, I learned that the Ed Talks series covers a wide spectrum of topics, such as business writing, cyber libel, historical reporting, sports writing, weather reporting, video production, gender and cultural sensitivity, digital research, science journalism, media safety and getting into new media platforms.

Aside from the wide range of relevant topics, I found the list of resource speakers very impressive and their subject matter expertise beyond question. There was AA Patawaran, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle editor for promoting heritage; Stanley Cris Larano, dwIZ anchor and former Dow Jones/Wall Street correspondent on business; Tony Lopez, president of BizNewsAsia and columnist of The Philippine STAR; Atty. Danilo Balucos, faculty member of Ateneo de Davao University and columnist speaking on cyber libel.

There were also Sports editors and writers like Francis Ochoa of the Inquirer and Dennis Principe of Bulletin, Ces Dimalanta of the Charlton Media group on diving into digital media. Dax Lucas, former PDI Business editor on business writing, among many others.

The program has been ongoing since March 2, 2019 and since then, there have been 17 Ed Talks seminars in 14 provinces that featured 26 different speakers, all experts in their field. As a result, SMC Ed Talks has given certificates of completion to over 850 participants including reporters, editors, bloggers, even journalism students. Interestingly, even veteran practitioners have participated and responded positively to the program.

Partly due to the interruptions caused by COVID lockdowns, the Ed Talks have been intentionally intimate and low-key by design. The program was supposed to be all about the topics, speakers and participants and as little about SMC as possible. But given the strong acceptance, working journalists and media practitioners themselves have suggested that the program should be given more exposure and publicity and done more often in order for more members of media to take part.

During our conversations, it was also raised that parallel or complimentary seminars for local government units and agencies as well as business groups and personalities should be offered in the area of media management, media training for interviews, hosting press conferences and developing networks among media practitioners. By doing this, the program comes full circle, and a positive partnership can develop.

For my part, I suggested the topic of Developmental Communications or Journalism as a tool for social and economic development in cooperation with business and industry versus the traditional ways of media being generally critical gate keepers, the Fourth Estate that distances themselves from cooperating with the “establishment” or the business community. I also opted to skip the term “Developmental Journalism” because there is a prevalent misunderstanding that it’s all about agricultural development and community development in the rural areas.

There are many businesses, provinces, localities outside Metro Manila that are thriving or have huge business potential but are not getting any exposure or publicity from local or national media. In contrast, anything to do with crime, disaster or political conflict always gets mileage and ends up painting an inaccurate picture of a community. This is because of the age-old notion that the media’s priority must be about sensational news or all the negative stuff that happens to people.

While the old guards and traditionalists were standing their ground, digitalization, social media platforms and two generations of consumers have risen and practically displaced traditional media. The technology is faster, less stringent and the consumers more lifestyle and events oriented than their parents, who are fast running out of intelligent topics and issues to talk about. The new consumers are also keen on tech, finance, business development and entrepreneurship, which is shaping the story choices and topics offered by new media.

This reality is what makes SMC’s Ed Talks relevant and a “must attend” event. There is now a real pressure on media practitioners to adjust to the new business environment and technologies, not to mention attitudes. Instead of distancing themselves, today’s practitioners must be “interactive in both technology and the community.” They no longer have the exclusive privilege of deciding what the public should read, watch or talk about or talking down to the public.

The accessibility of social media and flock of influencers has created so much competition and distraction to the disadvantage of media practitioners. Every little bit of knowledge, skill and connection nationwide can only do good and be good for traditional journalists and broadcasters. On the other side of the fence, public and private establishments and leaders now have to learn to engage and also be interactive with media, both social and traditional.

New Media as they call it offers so many possibilities and opportunities in terms of publicity, marketing and promotion. The ones who understand the New Media, the technology and is first to adopt it in their business platforms stand to gain the most in terms of cost effectivity, reach and especially influence.

Given what SMC has organized for Ed Talks, alongside future offerings for media training and management for the private and public sector, I don’t see this program running out of steam or interested participants signing up. Looking forward to joining the next Ed Talks in your neighborhood.

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