WHEN YOU want to excel as a journalist, you learn by experience and you learn from the masters—that’s what “Inkblots” is all about.

For its 10th year, UST’s popular national campus journalism seminar again gathered some of the biggest names in Philippine journalism, including broadcaster Ces Drilon whose hunt for news had led her to the Abu Sayyaf lair earlier this year.

Her closing remarks prudently veered away from the incident, which had revived some enduring questions in journalism: How far would you go for a good story? When is personal safety more important than the story? How do you evaluate tips for a possible scoop?

She focused instead on her journey as a broadcast journalist, an account just as engaging and inspiring for more than 240 participants in this year’s Inkblots.

Others, like the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Volt Contreras, invited campus newsmen to see journalism today in the light of emerging multimedia platforms, particularly the Internet.

Veteran journalist Alice Colet-Villadolid called on fellows to see journalism primarily as communication, especially amid the ongoing convergence of the traditional media with the so-called “new media.”

“Journalism has been a vehicle that had transported me to many places, and many regions, and many fields of imagination. So journalism and communication are quite liberating,” she told participants gathered at the Thomas Aquinas Research Center (TARC) and Albertus Magnus building auditorium from Oct. 20 to 22.


Pillars of the pen

Contreras tackled innovations in the newspaper industry, particularly its growing presence in the Internet. News writers, he said, should adapt to the “real-time” demands of the online world, especially since it required news to be delivered almost instantly.

“If newspapers compete with each other only during the morning, (websites) require you to woo your readers up to three times a day. On the part of the reporter, we have to write stories as soon as we get it,” he said.

But he added that newspapers, in turn, should ensure that they incorporated more depth and analysis in their articles since websites mostly left out “the why and the how” from the stories.

“Newspapers should have more inside stories since the audience (of newspapers) are deeper readers,” Contreras said.

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GMA7’s I-Witness host Sandra Aguinaldo talked about investigative journalism.

“Investigative journalism requires not just knowledge in journalism itself, but also techniques on investigation. It requires journalists to dig deeper on a particular subject,” she said.

Aguinaldo related that corruption in the country often took priority over other topics because it was something experienced by many Filipinos, especially when millions of pesos were lost because of it.

“There are many ways to investigate corruption, but the first and best way is to catch wrongdoers on the act,” Aguinaldo said. “Sometimes, you need to experience corruption yourself.”

The lecture was followed by a film showing of I-Witness featuring a corrupt official who hid his economic assets through the use of multiple pseudonyms.

Former Manila Times editor and current BusinessWorld editorial board chair Vergel Santos delivered an inspiring speech about saving journalism ethics.

According to him, the journalism industry after the time of Martial Law often ostracized ethics-conscious journalists because majority of “pseudo-journalists” concerned themselves more with marketability.

“The free market has commercialized everything. On the other hand, technology that constantly renews and improves itself drives the market, cheapening journalism in particular because it has made everyone a potential journalist,” Santos said.

To counter this negative trend, Santos proposed that bona fide journalists resist the temptations of the market and to listen to their own conscience for guidance.

Nestor Cuartero from the Manila Bulletin highlighted in his lecture on feature writing the importance of details in an article.

“The best journalists are those who pay attention to details and it is a threat nowadays that some potential journalists are forgetful,” Cuartero said.

Cuartero added that feature writers should also be able to touch the sentiments of the readers and appeal to their emotions.

Inkblots’ opening day ended with a cocktails night at the Tan Yan Kee Student Center, hosted by the Varsitarian to welcome the fellows to UST.


Different shades of ink

On the second day, Don Carlos Palanca awardee Michael Coroza made a comeback in discussing the issues on using Filipino in global communication. He urged the fellows to make it a habit to use the native language in writing.

“Kikilalanin pa rin tayo [ng ibang bansa] sa ating wika (You will still be recognized in other countries if you use your own language),” the former Varsitarian Filipino editor said.

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Inkblots then proceeded with parallel sessions on Broadcast Journalism, Cartooning, Photojournalism, Book Review, and Catholic Journalism.

Net-25 reporter Arlyn Dela Cruz emphasized the importance of knowing the basics of news writing as foundation for those who aspire to be television reporters.

“A journalist should be involved in the news gathering, not merely reading the news,” she said.

But she said writing for broadcast should be “tight, punchy, and engaging” so as to hook the audience within a limited time.

Inquirer editorial writer John Nery introduced the relationship of the Church with the media and how they worked together in stroking the public’s conscience during the Catholic Journalism session, a new addition in this year’s series of lectures.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) chief photographer Romeo Gacad showed the fellows a slide-show of different photographs taken during the Vietnam War. The Pulitzer nominee related his experiences in capturing the gloom scenarios of war through his lens. He said that soldiers almost stopped him from taking pictures.

“That is the kind of situation you’ll be facing later on if you become a photographer. You have to exercise your persistence and aggressiveness,” he said.

Sunday Inquirer Magazine associate editor Ruel De Vera delivered pointers on how to digest the contents of a book without spoiling the surprise to the readers, using Stephanie Myers’ Twilight as an example.

Cartoonist Manix Abrera showed fellows different kinds of comic books ranging from the mainstream to the alternative. The Kiko Machine comic series creator also encouraged aspiring cartoonists to “make the artist that you idolize your inspiration, but don’t imitate their style.”

“There are a lot of things you could draw inspiration from. Just muster them until you find your own hand in drawing,” Abrera said.


More than just a writing workshop

The last day of Inkblots started at the Albertus Magnus building with a plenary session by BusinessWorld sub-editor Felipe Salvosa on campus paper management.

The former Varsitarian editor in chief began his discussion with a question: “In this age of blogging, is campus journalism still relevant?”

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“Unlike bloggers, student journalists go through the editorial process. Unlike personal publishing, online diaries, orblogs, where there is no editorial supervision, campus papers instill discipline, professionalism, circumspection and a host of other values,” he said.

Making his eighth appearance as a speaker in Inkblots, Philippine Star sports columnist Joaquin “Quinito” Henson delivered a lecture on sports writing.

Henson said that campus sports journalists should know the goal of a campus athlete and they should focus on that as the theme of their article.

“Sports is a struggle and a dramatization of life itself,” he said. “It’s a unifying element.”

Afterwards, Henson invited Red Bull rookie Cyrus Baguio to be the subject of a mock press conference for their on-the-spot writing exercise.

Later during the day, Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros gave a few pieces of advice to aspiring columnists: to write what they know and do lots of reading. He also reminded them to support their opinion with facts.

“You’re entitled to your own bias for as long as you support it with facts and truth of the story,” he said.

Villadolid and former Varsitarian editor-in-chief Eldric Peredo then proposed a draft for a campus journalism code of ethics to be adopted by the different school publications in the country.

“(The fellows) are lucky to be here in Inkblots because they have the chance to participate in the drafting of a code of ethics for campus writing,” Peredo said.

To conclude this year’s Inkblots and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the lecture series, a fellowship night was held at the Quadricentennial Square. Mainstream band 6 Cycle Mind began the evening festivities with a short set composed of their hit singles as the fellows had their dinner.

After eating, the participants were led to the football field where they witnessed a cake-cutting ceremony to mark the decade-old campus journalism fellowship, follwed by an ornate fireworks display.

Upcoming solo artist Myrus then serenaded the crowd with his rendition of a Guy Sebastian hit “Angels brought me here.”

The Cebu-based band Urbandub and the Thomasian band Hale capped off the night with performances of their singles that had graced the alternative and mainstream airwaves. Joseinne Jowin L. Ignacio, Sarah Jane P. Pauyo, and Raydon L. Reyes

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