Was there ever a Cebu Press Freedom Week (CPFW) celebration without the pooled editorial?

The pooled editorial is as essential and basic a feature of the annual observance by Cebu’s print and broadcast media as the parade. On its first two days: Sunday, the journalists’ street march and Monday, the pooled editorial in newspapers and public-affairs radio on Monday.

What makes it distinct is that it’s the closest to what can be called collective voice of Cebu media. On Press Freedom Week, that voice is routinely raised but at any other time, when solidarity is demanded by any crisis involving free press and free speech, Cebu media can and it will speak out as one, despite industry competition and individual differences of opinion.

Some quick facts about the pooled editorial:

[] In the first four celebrations (1988, 1994, 1995, 1997), when they were initiated by the Cebu Council of Media Leaders (CCL), I had to do the writing. The rotation started when the papers took turns as lead organizers (Freeman, 1999; CDN, 2000; Sun.Star, 2001 and so on until 2011, when Freeman begged off and CPFW board of trustees took over and has since assumed Freeman’s slot in managing the festivity). The paper lead organizer assigns the writing, usually to one of its journalists. The other editorial writers included Juan L. Mercado (a frequent contributor), Mayette Tabada, Isolde Amante, Eileen Mangubat, Bong Wenceslao, Noel Pangilinan and Jerry Tundag.

[] CPFW doesn’t specify a theme for each year as the theme is a continuing issue: press freedom and responsibility. And the editorial writer’s latitude in picking the topic is as wide as the concerns that flow from the fixed theme. Inevitably though, the staple subjects include threats to press freedom, from outside and from within; protecting it; and freedom and responsibility.  State of media is often examined. In the list, there are two editorials similarly titled “Media at a crossroad” (2008 and 2012). Other areas of self-scrutiny: “The press at the edges”; “Media at the outer limit”; “Cisterns of journalism.”

[] The pooled editorial is translated into Cebuano-Bisaya for the two native-language newspapers, Superbalita and Banat, and radio news stations. It’s condensed to fit tabloid space and limited broadcast time.

Notably, the first pooled editorial, in 1988, dealt with economics and how it affects journalists’ job and conduct. Its peg was then Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s appeal to publishers and broadcast station owners to upgrade the salaries of their journalists. Coming from a non-journalist, the editorial said, the advice “surprisingly struck the right nerve… and, like any other painful truth, it hurts.”

“Good pay is no guarantee for higher ethical standards but the journalist who is adequately paid by his employer will have compelling reason to resist attempts to corrupt him. Employers have to grapple with the problem of economics as they impose stringent rules that demand from journalists excellence in their work and scrupulous adherence to ethical rules.”
PACHICO A. SEARES, “Problem of economics affects journalists’ job and conduct” (1988)

“Along with typewriters and proofreaders, pencils can hardly be found in today’s newsrooms… There is one aspect though about pencil-pushing that might stand in good stead today’s journalists. It is the moment the lead tip is worn down to a stub and the writer pauses to sharpen the instrument. For in the absence of paper, any scrap—table napkin or prison wall—will do. What is essential is the will to sharpen oneself for the duty of witnessing and recording the truth.”
—MAYETTE Q. TABADA, “Sharpening guardians” (2007)

“Some of us peddle smut or are corrupt. Our reading is spotty. We’re often parochial. Few report in context. Fewer still probe for the buried facts and significance… Shallowness is a silent rot. Daily, it corrodes the soul of our craft. Press freedom can be killed by a thousand cuts of sloppy reporting and superficial comment.”
—JUAN L. MERCADO, “The press as frail vessel of hopes” (1998)

“Commentary, even in a free society, entails risk. Some use bullets to silence those who provide it.  Others, like certain senators, choose to dangle for the media incentives and accreditation, when they could better spend their time thinking of ways to make pork barrel spending more transparent… Care to comment on the day’s events? Hold on to the facts. That’s a challenge for everyone, but especially for journalists. Cynicism is easy. Anyone can speculate and slander. But it takes hard work and humility, open-mindedness and careful thinking to dig for the facts and in a context that attempts to offer meaning.”
—ISOLDE D. AMANTE, “Care to comment?” (2013)

(CJJ10 was published in hardcopy in September 2015.)