Is there a place for the campus press in the coming May elections?

Their contributions can be many, school reporters were told, particularly in the larger context of the youth actively monitoring the process and outcome of the country’s first-ever automated national elections.

Such was the top agenda in this year’s Inkblots, the annual UST-organized gathering of campus reporters from across the country last October 21 to 23.

Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, President Macapagal-Arroyo’s latest appointee to the Commission on Elections, said the 2010 polls were “for and owned by the youth.”

He told fellows not only to help spread information, but also to lessen the confusion that could attend the elections.

Larrazabal dispelled fears that one had to be computer-literate to participate in the automated elections. He did so via a demonstration using a virtual machine flashed in a PowerPoint presentation.

Charie Villa, news gathering head of ABS-CBN, said the youth could help monitor the conduct of elections in their respective towns.

Bro. Clifford Sorita of the Parish Pastoral Council on Responsible Voting called on writers to look at the elections in its four aspects: ideological, personal, social obligation and political.

Though much confidence is vested on the youth, National Artist for Literature and former Varsitarian editor in chief Francisco Sionil Jose warned the participants not to repeat the mistakes of his generation. He said the youth could serve as “the new intellectuals, the anointed intelligentsia.”

“In becoming media workers, you become the brains of the nation. You may not be aware of this role but it is so when you shape public opinion and light the darkened labyrinths of public perception and murky corridors of power,” he told the participants at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex Auditorium.

Write with a twist

Student publications need not confine themselves to the university setting alone as national issues could also be a potential goldmine for news.

But to do this, campus reporters should “repackage that issue to suit your readers, primarily the students,” said Christian Esguerra, Malacañang beat reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, who lectured on news reporting.

“Where does your loyalty lie? Are you your school’s PR agent? These are questions that you have to answer,” he said.

Healing herbs of Christmas

Tempo editor Nestor Cuartero lamented on the idea that newspaper readership among the youth was waning, the very reason why stories had to veer away from the usual five W’s structure and be written with a “featurized” twist.

“We have to keep the audience interested in what we’re doing—in what we’re writing about—so that subscription to our newspapers will continue and our circulation will be at par with the competition’s,” said Cuartero, who also brought along young actor JC de Vera as a guest for a mock press conference.

In his photojournalism lecture, Inquirer chief photographer Ernie Sarmiento captured the audience with his picturesque slideshows where he pointed out the do’s and don’ts of photography and putting captions.

“Photographers covering the President or a senator have the same mission—to make an accurate reporting of the subject’s activities,” Sarmiento said.

Go multimedia

Sandra Aguinaldo of GMA Network opened the second day with her lecture on investigative journalism, where she touched on reporting crime and corruption in the country. Unlike in news reports, investigative reporters spend more time digging for more information.

“I want to focus on corruption because it affects all of us and it’s very complicated to investigate. But I think the key rule here is to always ask yourself: is this investigative report beneficial to the public?” the I-Witness documentarist said.

Award-winning director and GMA Network senior reporter Cesar Apolinario showed a video about the process of news gathering and editing. He gave the fellows a peek into the workplace of a broadcast journalist, showing them the newsroom, editing room, and recording studio where he does his voice over.

“When it comes to news gathering, it’s essential to have a ‘nose for news.’ Always listen to the radio because there you’ll get potential news stories for the day,” Apolinario said. “It’s also important to have good videos, but there should always be the substance of your story.”

The seminar proceeded with the parallel sessions on Cartooning, Lifestyle and Culture Writing, and two of the newest addition to Inkblots: Literary Journalism and Layouting.

For cartooning, Inquirer cartoonist Jess Abrera said that one could draw and make a cartoon even if he’s not an artist himself. He did this by starting with a dot, circle, and stick figures and doodled them into caricatures like former presidents Joseph Estrada and Corazon Aquino.

Viral resist

“What’s more important than form is the content. Cartooning is part of art, and the message it conveys should not be disregarded,” said the creator of “Guyito,” Inquirer’s carabao mascot.

Sunday Inquirer Magazine associate editor Ruel de Vera said critiquing was part of the Filipinos’ nature, but asked participants to avoid writing a review for bad films since they were best ignored. For him, theater experience still reigns over DVDs.

“You cannot write reviews for movies you have just seen in DVDs. You have to experience the film in the theater, because in DVDs you see shadows of people walking and sounds of them talking. The experience is very different once you’ve seen it in theater. It can even change your perspective of the movie,” De Vera said during the lecture on Lifestyle and Culture Writing.

Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, award-winning fictionist and University of the Philippines vice president for Public Affairs, tackled the relationship between literature and journalism, citing the contributions of writers such as the late Nick Joaquin.

“Literary journalism is writing in a personal way about the facts in a news event; writing journalism in a personal way. Creative non-fiction is a more imaginative way of reporting,” Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo advised writers to be critical and to “change the way they think,” in order to be a good writer.

Lynette Villariba, art and design director of the Inquirer, dissected the anatomy of a newspaper with layouting principles and emphasized on style, aesthetics and balance of elements.

“There is beauty in alignment. You have to train your eyes to appreciate it,” said Villariba, who also made a critique of some past issues of the Varsitarian.

‘Unifying element’

The role of the media in relation to that of the Church was explained by Inquirer editor John Nery’s lecture on Catholic journalism. According to him, the same rules in reporting still apply, but there was no room for cynical Catholics in journalism.

“The Church recognizes that print media can be of great service to mankind because of its two basic functions of contributing to entertainment and instruction,” Nery said. “There is no better substitute for preaching than the printed word.”

Pharmacy senior is batch 2010 valedictorian

Sports columnist and commentator Joaquin “Quinito” Henson, a fixture of Inkblots for almost 10 years, asked budding sports writers to further hone their craft saying sports was a “unifying element” in a community.

“I think sports is the most vibrant, most lively, and most exciting section in the newspaper. It is so full of impact that somehow the public reacts to sports developments more than political developments,” he said. Henson also brought along PBA player Wynne Arboleda of Burger King for a mock press conference.

Next generation

Hard-hitting Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros kicked off the last day of Inkblots with the rudiments of editorial writing. He told aspiring columnists to write about things they were most passionate about and to always support their premises with facts.

De Quiros also delved on the death of Aquino and predicted the kind of leadership presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino might bring in the context of the Edsa revolution’s legacy.

Palanca hall-of-famer Roberto Añonuevo lamented on the sad state of newspapers written in Filipino. He blamed the lack of proper training and discipline in using the language, making newspapermen guilty of not maintaining logic and art in their write-ups.

“Kinakailangan ang dibdibang pagtataguyod at pagpapahusay sa bagong hanay ng mga manunulat at editor sa Filipino nang maiwaksi nang ganap ang mga mali at kapabayaan ng kasalukuyan,” Añonuevo said.

Publishing a campus paper may be a difficult task, giving pressure to students who might be writing sensitive issues.

But Felipe Salvosa II, BusinessWorld associate editor and Varsitarian assistant publications adviser, told campus writers that they were in good hands with the Campus Journalism Act of 1991.

“I feel lucky that we have a law protecting us. It is a policy of the state to protect the press at the campus level. We are protected, even if we are journalists who are also students,” Salvosa said.

This year’s seminar marked the 11th year for Inkblots. There’s still more to come if only to keep the fires of the campus press burning.


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