The next 100 years
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - February 23, 2019 - 12:00am

As I write this, The FREEMAN journalists and employees are looking forward to the opening salvo of the newspaper’s 100th anniversary celebration, Friday evening (yesterday) at the Grand Convention Center.


Kudos to the men and women who compose The FREEMAN! The community’s thanks and good wishes go to those who work and had worked to put out this daily newspaper which to this day readers find informative and trustworthy.

As a journalism student in the late 1990s, I had my first foray into newspaper reporting as an intern in another local paper. After college, I worked briefly as a news correspondent in both broadcast and print formats. But it was The FREEMAN that gave me a big break in journalism by hiring me as desk copy editor in the year 2000 even if I applied for a more low profile desk job, that of a proofreader. Back then I was aiming for any desk job because I wasn’t physically fit for field assignments.

For that, I am very thankful to The FREEMAN for the opportunity. But then I had to leave the newspaper to be able to attend evening classes and focus on my law studies. Now, I’m back in the newspaper as a columnist.

It cannot be denied that newspapers all over the world are facing unprecedented challenges with the onset of the digital and networked platform. Many of them are struggling to survive or are streamlining operations in order to remain competitive in the long term. Some have even stopped printing and have fully crossed over to the digital format.

But American media observer Peter Wilby once wrote: “Anybody who says they can predict the future of newspapers is either a liar or a fool.” That was in a 2014 column piece entitled “Newspapers: still the most important medium for understanding the world”.

Large, big-budgeted newspapers like the New York Times, for example, have been successful in building their digital subscription while maintaining their print publication. For the New York Times, that translated to US$24 million in profit in the second quarter of 2018 alone.

These events suggest that journalism will continue to be a valuable and essential industry in the future. But the industry must continue to closely keep an ear to the ground in order to explore new business models that enhance or transform its value in the community.

Many newspapers may now seem inclined to pivot here and there employing new approaches that seem cutting-edge at the moment. Yet there is danger that some may fail to distinguish between the long-term and the fleeting demands of the market.

In any event that involves dramatic changes, both an open mind and a steady hand are needed to steer an organization toward long-term existence and growth. And for this reason I am confident that with 100 years behind its belt, The FREEMAN can ably face the emerging challenges in the industry in the next 100 years, while preserving the roots that made it an institution in Cebu.

Incidentally, in my first column article for The FREEMAN over two years ago, I wrote: “We should embrace new technology but hold on to old, lasting values. Technology is an excellent aid but it cannot make everything easier.

“There are no shortcuts in upholding the values of integrity, diligent work, and critical analysis in telling accurate, balanced and fair stories that will benefit the public and arouse their interest as well. There lies my profound respect for journalists and my optimism for the future of journalism in the national conversation.”

Some media scholars have even a more positive outlook for the future of newspapers. They say that new media technologies enable citizen journalists, bloggers, and readers to participate in the community discourse and help set the agenda about matters of public interest.

This presents a new journalism “which seeks to encourage readers to join journalists in a more open and interactive discussion,” yet continue to hold the line in pursuing and upholding the truth – to go out and do the legwork, to critically examine every document and source, to verify information and provide context.

Journalist Marites D. Vitug said two years ago that even if the forms of storytelling have changed, the basics of journalism remain the same: accuracy, fairness, context, and timeliness.

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