Campus Journalism: The Renaissance of Philippine Journalism

In the Martial Law days, the freedom of the press was apprehended. The dictatorship took the papers and pens away from journalists. Their mouths seemed to be covered and their camera lenses were closed. Newspapers and other forms of media were shut down.

In the midst of this dark age of Philippine journalism, there was little torch that served as a little light to boost the optimism for the renaissance of the freedom of press in the country. It was the campus publication that was used by nationalists as a channel of communication and information.

After the two decades of dictatorship and democracy was restored, journalists started to uphold the rebirth of Philippine journalism. The government looked at the crucial role of the mass media in nation-building and calling for participatory action. Awareness and participation of communities in national concerns and issues are solicited and the power of mass media is very relevant to it. This gave birth to Republic Act 7079 or the Campus Journalism Act of 1991 which is an act providing development and promotion of campus journalism and for other purposes. This act aims to strengthen, uphold and protect freedom of press in schools by creating youth that think critically and develop moral and personal characters by free and responsible journalism.

Campus Journalism in nation-building
Development does not happen over night. It is a step by step process. The ability of campus journalism in nation-building is in its charisma to compel people to action and be part of building the Filipino dream.
Lloyd Luna, awarded as 2004 Outstanding Filipino Youth Leader and CEO of Network of Campus Journalist in the Philippines said “Students need channels of communication for a variety of reasons, including access to education, information, livelihood and probable employment ahead of their schooling to mobilize its community members and maintain connections and social networks and to actively participate in democratic politics.”
In solving problems, we look at it as a big puzzle that looks so complicated if most part of it remains blank. In campus journalism, it is encouraged to have a step by step process of completing the complicated puzzle by looking and solving for its small details. Solving the country’s big problem is like the whole picture and puzzles are its little details. “ Instead of focusing on projects and programs that are national in nature, why not reach the grassroots and localize actions. Grassroots media training means empowerment of journalists down the line. It means a boost to their morale and spirit to focus on their strength and plans for their communities. Through this, they would realize their potentials as potent tools in community building rather than radical activism and sensationalism,” Luna said.

Writing arenas and the birth of press con babies
The revolution of the earth around the sun has been pulling the hands of the clock twice as its speed. The needs, demands and problems of the community that campus journalists cater has been changing too. To cope up with this, a writing arena was created to provide a venue in addressing the current issues and problems of the community and the country.

Section 8 of RA 7079 states that The Department of Education (DEPEd), shall sponsor periodic competitions, press conferences and training seminars in which student-editors/writers and teacher-adviser of student publications in the elementary, secondary and tertiary levels shall participate. Such competitions, conferences and seminars shall be held at the institutional, divisional, and regional levels, culminating.
Competitions and seminars are conducted which are planned to cater on relevant and current issues. Annually, DEPEd designs a theme in which campus journalists compete by executing the theme in different journalistic skills such as newswriting, feature writing, editorial writing, sports writing, photo journalism, editorial cartooning, copyreading and headline writing and radio broadcasting in both English and Filipino. School organ are also submitted and subjected to judging. This encourages every school to become competitive and inspired in producing responsible journalists and effective school organs. The 2010 National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) was themed Campus Journalism as a catalyst of change: Philippines towards achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. In this school year, the MDGs were popularized in campuses and local municipalities.
This writing arena also gave birth to press con babies. Press con babies are referred to students who almost grew up in press conferences from elementary to many spans of years in basic education. Most of the successful people have their stories to tell about their experiences on press conferences. This press conference became a honing ground for many students in shaping their careers, priorities and involvement.
Abigail Urbano, Executive producer at Knowledge Channel Foundation Incorporated, shared her experiences in press conferences. She started as a writer in her school organ in high school, had and made it to the national confab. The skills she acquired in campus journalism became her foundation in choosing her course in college which is Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication.
Arlyn Dela Cruz, a known- author, commentator and broadcaster also made her first steps in her success as a media personality by being press con baby.
Campus journalism produces productive individuals and inspiring the Filipino youth to aspire and reach greater heights of dreams.

Building foundation for Developmental Journalism
Widening the horizon of campus journalism, DEPEd launched the Special Program in Journalism (SPJ). SPJ is a four-year course in journalism for high school students. It is designed to develop mass communication skills and take it on a higher level learning in using different media, print, online and broadcast media. Its main focus is primarily on writing as a process and as an art.
SPJ aims to strengthen free and responsible journalism, identify areas of development in various areas of journalism, Promote a spirit of camaraderie, cooperation and commitment of our youths to contribute to the common good, national unity and progress; Ensure commitment and shared responsibility towards attainment of program goals.
“More than the skills, we anticipated this program to sow the seeds of integrity. hardwork and creativity in our youth, thus, build the foundation of developmental journalism.” This is the statement of former secretary Jesli Lapus when DEPEd opened regional pilot schools for journalism nationwide in 2009.
SPJ aims to incorporate the principles of developmental journalism to campus journalism to create more effective platform of disseminating information that call for social mobilization and nation-building.
Section 2 of RA 7079 states that the state shall undertake various programs and projects aimed at improving the journalistic skills of students concerned
and promoting responsible and free journalism.

Campus Journalism and its response to the challenge of time
Everything seems to be rapidly changing. Our needs and that of the community we belong also changed. Time has been challenging to most of us. Every second give birth to many technological advancements. This information and communication technology age has been greatly influencing our lives so as the flow of information in the community.

Alberto Goto, a campus publication adviser for twenty years and proponent of the Special Program in Journalism said “Campus journalism is very crucial tool in developing country. In my twenty years of being a school paper adviser, my students and I learned to think out of the box. We learned to dance with cadence of change and our eyes become as sharp as the eagle’s at night. We see what the community needs and what can we cater to the community. We also realized that we need to adapt to the medium in which we can reach our audience more.”
In an information society where there is a battle of ideas, many issues are raised. These gave rise to many debates and notions in the community. Goto said “Being the students as the intended audience of a school organ, the content of the organ should prepare them to become responsible students in decision making. Filling the gaps on information unknown to them will teach them to make informed decision on serious national issues at their young age. They will learn not just to go with the flow and believe in hearsays. They can learn how to weigh things.”
With the adjustment to the technological innovations, campus journalism is not only nailed on print publication anymore. In 2003, in response to the emergence of the social media, online journalism was introduced among campus journalists. Online writing was included as part of individual competition in the NSPC. Online publications were also encouraged among schools since their audience can also be found active in the cyberspace.

People from the academe, media practitioners and former press con babies started to share and offer their helping hands to shape and to hone the future of Philippine journalism. Online mentoring also arises with the popularity of social networking sites.

This is the start of the golden age of Philippine journalism- the birth of responsible campus journalists. The application of the real functions of journalism in the community can be seen visibly which are to provide the necessity of information, facilitate consensus building and to advocate better living condition and the common good.
A proverb said “Train a child the way he should go and when he is old enough, he will not depart from it.” Teaching responsible journalism for today’s generation assures the quality, credibility and integrity of Philippine journalism for the years to come.