What kind of content works? A panel of UP graduates kicks around ideas for print media

It has been some time since observers within the industry and academia noticed that journalism is facing a crisis.

Solutions have been proposed. But will change in content, particularly in print media, work?

In September 2018, as the Cebu Press Freedom Week celebration was coming to a close, editor-turned university lecturer Jason Baguia sat down with a group of young University of the Philippines graduates from different parts of the country to discuss the matter.

Speed, layout

Edrian Belongilot, 25, is head of social media for a Cebu-based digital solutions agency.

For him, while little needs to change in print journalism’s core content, page design should be reinvented. Layout inspired by news websites like cnn.com would help, he said, as it makes “news and information in general easy to consume.”

Print “remains robust”; content just needs to be “bite-sized.”

Twenty-eight-year-old George Emmanuel Jaranilla, a software engineer from Negros Occidental province agreed.

“Journalism is not dying,” he said. “Print content (remains) relevant.” But newspapers, he added, should be made easier to navigate for younger readers who feel hassled by having to flip through “several pages before they find the continuation to a story printed on page 1.”

Bap Palen, 27, another software engineer with roots in Southern Leyte, said audience retention for print is all about keeping content less time-consuming to read.

“The issue is not so much the content,” he said. It just needs to be “bite-size.”

Writer-reader training, relations

A marketing communications officer, Gabrielle Padilla, 24, regularly scans newspapers to check the presentation of advertisements for the hotel she serves. Such companies still value print advertisements.

Many young readers cannot relate to material in print but they still want accuracy and reliability of news reports.

As for grabbing the attention of readers, Padilla pointed out two possible challenges.

The first has to do with how readers and writers were educated.

“Younger generations of readers,” she said, “cannot jibe with the way the older generation writes.” Jaranilla concurred.

“Some young ones cannot relate,” he said. “They want to read pocketbooks.”

The language of veteran print journalists, Padilla suggested, needs to be “made understandable for youths who are not bookish.”

The second challenge has to do with the connection between writers and their audiences.

Declining enrolment in journalism programs, she inferred, perhaps means there are fewer writers entering the industry with captive followers in tow.

Vintage, novel

So what needs to change in the content of print media?

Cebuano law student and mass communication graduate Sean Timothy Salvador, 25, lauds the traditional.

Behind-the-scene stories, those that warm the heart or spark outrage get more attention.

“Content may be made more relatable and appealing to readers, but I think dailies are already doing a great job producing stories which are relevant and well-researched,” said Salvador, a mass communication graduate.

But for Valentin Jose Adrian Bonite, 24, from Surigao del Norte, print journalists can still up their game.

More “behind-the-scenes” stories should see print, he said, citing a New York Times piece that revealed how journalists worked in covering issues related to U.S. President Donald Trump.

He drew parallels with how movies about the making of movies draw film buffs.

“Heartwarming stories” are also crowd drawers, as are “listicles,” he said.

Law student Salvador nevertheless asserts the classic values of journalism.

“With the prevalence of fake news, we need to strengthen news institutions that provide us with accurate and timely news,” he said.

“Newspapers may change their layout and packaging, but the informative stories and unbiased style of reporting needs to remain.”