By Marian Z. Codilla and Eileen G. Mangubat

One of Cebu Daily News’ most compelling stories was triggered by a Facebook photo of an unnamed teenage girl trying to stand on the back of a whale shark in the shallows of a coastal town.

The image sparked online outrage, but it took a CDN reporter to track down the joyrider to Boljoon town, south Cebu, where she tearfully apologized for what she thought was a fun, harmless antic.

It was “NO FUN FOR TUKI,” said the CDN headline.

Town officials were prompted to take more vigilant action to protect the gentle whale sharks who swim close to the shore in south Cebu’s newest tourist attraction.

In the age of social networks and the Internet, information moves with blurring speed. This offers new opportunities for newspapers to expand their storytelling capacity beyond columns of gray print.

We reinforced the website with the blog cebudailynews.wordpress, Facebook and Twitter for breaking stories, video clips and full-document images.

Our first multi-media project stemmed from the Feb. 8, 2011 kidnapping and murder of six-year-old schoolgirl Ellah Joy Pique.

A six-minute photo slide show with audio narration captured the agony of a father’s loss, the slim clues left in Ellah Joy’s burial blanket and the questions raised about the year’s most controversial child-victim crime that remains unsolved.

The first suspects, a Norwegian national and his Cebuana nurse fiancee, attracted worldwide attention until their release from detention a month later, when the police admitted they had the wrong targets.

To keep up with the running coverage, selected photos and a script provided another dimension in storytelling. We got feedback from Norway readers thanking CDN for the compressed version of this tragic mystery being followed halfway around the world.

Gone are the days of passive news consumption. Our readers have shown they want to contribute to shaping a story.
Last May 3, CDN’s popular “Siloy is Watching” photo corner moved to its own Facebook page.

This invites readers to become citizen activists who witness, snap a photo and report scenes that deserve priority attention—potholes, traffic violators, hazardous electric posts about to collapse etc.

The images still go through the vetting of a CDN editor who writes the caption. Viewers can also send videos or private messages to expose things gone askew or to give praise in the community.

Our readers—our audience—don’t just want to watch the world go by. They want to get involved in shaping it. New media opens that channel.

(Marian Codilla, senior reporter of Cebu Daily News, is the paper’s multi-media coordinator.)