ROUGH CUTS| We’ve walked the corridors of the Times

WE ARE back with the Times for over a year already. This time however, we have evolved into another sphere of the journalistic practice – as an opinion writer.

     Some years back, specifically from October 1999 to April 2003, we took the bigger responsibility of working as the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of this now 70 years old newspaper. Running the editorial unit of the Mindanao Times then was different and, in our opinion, was more difficult than it is today. There were no internet connections, no Face Books and only a few units of computer machines mainly for the purpose of encoding the news and doing the layout of the paper. We also did not enjoy the luxury of electronic mail. And there was no fax machine yet. In other words, editing articles for inclusion in a day’s issue was almost one hundred percent manual doing it on the printouts provided by the encoders or the reporters themselves who had the luck of getting into the office with a computer from the very few units still vacant. If none is available, then the reporter had to wait.

     During our times with the Mindanao Times it was difficult as well to track down the whereabouts of reporters as mobile phones were considered luxuries. Only the rich, the famous and the braggarts were wont to have these gadgets then. So, when something of public significance happened, the EIC has to pray that any of his reporters got wind of it and do what is expected of him – go to the incident site, gather data, and write a story about it.

     News gathering organizations during those times, specifically the national government’s Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the Philippine News Agency (PNA), and the local City Information Office (CIO), were also hard to access. They too, were not “wired” and had to print copies of government press releases and distribute the same to newspaper offices.

     But luckily, it was also during my stint as EIC that the management of the publication with Guillermo “Willy” Torres Jr. at the helm started enhancing the facilities of the newspaper. His initial move with us was upgrading the salaries of reporters and then taking a hard look at the needs of facilities and equipment that will make the Timesmen’s work easier and faster.

     As the improvement started coming in so were the number of pages of the Mindanao Times commenced increasing. From an average of twelve to 14 pages when we first set our hands on the paper it moved on from 16 to 24 pages per issue during the first year that we were the EIC.

     We did not have any doubt then that Boss Willy was out to prove to his departed father Atty. Guillermo Torres Sr., the founder of the Mindanao Times, that he did not err in entrusting to him his treasured legacy; that he was not just sustaining the publication to perpetuate the memory of his father but modernizing it and keeping the paper attuned to the times.

     Yes, being a new daily in Davao City during my EIC days, the Mindanao Times was sometimes called “that other paper.” But we felt then that the other dailies suddenly felt the competition offered by the Times. We sensed that the newspapers that were ahead in the daily publication were already seeing the Times very much in the league. This development actually brought newspapering in Davao City to a new level. All the papers were up on its toes and started upgrading not just its printing facilities and offices, newsgathering tools and connectivity but also on its contents as well.

     In other words, the aggressive presence of the Mindanao Times in the daily publication started some kind of a “revolution” in the newspapering business in Davao City.

     But much as we love the journalistic profession, our stint with the Mindanao Times was actually done on an aside basis. We were connected with another corporate establishment that was also demanding much of our time. We cannot sacrifice one over the other. And we knew as well that to continue doing two different things at the same time will eventually take its toll on our physical well-being and the quality of the work that we deliver to both employers.

     On our third year as EIC, and with some unfortunate yet unexpected incidents, we came to a point to make a decision which work quality we should not sacrifice. And our choice was we have to ensure that the quality of the end products of both must be retained.

     Yes, newspapering is our passion; it is very much a part of our being. To abandon it is like taking a portion of our life. But then, again, we know that we cannot go into the proverbial “have our cake and eat it too.” Our final decision was to quit our Mindanao Times job and concentrate on our other corporate employment.

     We were certain then that our leaving the Times was the best decision we could ever thought of to preserve the quality level that the newspaper was already in at that time. We knew then that a new EIC who can have all his or her time devoted to the publication will push the paper to a much higher journalistic pedestal.

     But we could not be more than happy when we left the Mindanao Times despite a heavy heart. The paper was already averaging 30 to 34 pages daily roughly with almost 50 percent occupied by revenue –generating advertisements.

     And the choice of our replacement in Amalia “Amy” Cabusao, an even more competent journalist, was the best assurance that the newspaper will stay on course; that Boss Willy has the best partner in taking care of the editorial aspect of the publication; that with his guidance the Mindanao Times under EIC Amy will keep the flame of press freedom burning.

     Indeed Mindanao Times is one of today’s exponents of ferreting out the truth. After all, that’s what its motto stands for. “Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Freedom.” And seeking for the truth cannot be pursued unless freedom of information and expression is abridged.

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Posted in Opinion