“To disagree over something doesn’t mean damaging and destroying the distinct become-the-best-that-you-can-be brand.”
My first column is dedicated to quash any confusion as to the functions of a student publication—such as The Quill.
This writeup is meant to educate everybody in the Cobras community as to how a real student press operates, set the right expectations now that our official student publication has rebranded, and yes, hopefully nip ignorance in the bud.
It has been established and observed by other big universities—many of them in the country’s capital and some in big cities like Cebu—that a campus publication is not just a mere student organization. The givens: It must have full independence from the school administration and from any student entity. It is protected by law, thanks to Republic Act 7079 also known as the Campus Journalism Act of 1991, which clearly affords all student media in the country full discretion in determining editorial policies and utilizing publication funds.
Here in Southwestern University PHINMA, there is a need to set the record straight in terms of imbibing a culture of a genuinely free and fearless student press in every sense of the word.
Enter critical reporting. I understand the Cobras community is not used to this type of journalism over the past years. Introducing, or reintroducing, this culture is not easy-peasy lemon-squeezy for the publication members who are tasked to gather information from news sources.
Not much to our surprise, respondents during interviews have mixed reactions, which can be categorized into two types: those who have willingly embraced difficult and often critical questions and those who have automatically settled into defense mode, refusing to answer queries and instead sidetracking issues that need enlightenment.
The former we are grateful for. Special mention to Ms. Katrina Velasco, SWU PHINMA comptroller, for exactly understanding how it is for us to practice fearless campus journalism, even to the point of thanking our assigned writers for having been given the chance to explain her side and shed light on issues that concern her department.
The latter type, bless you and your skewed sense of “how dare you instigate issues that will potentially destroy our school’s reputation” thinking. Whether it’s tuition or miscellaneous fee increase, long queues in Finance and Registrar during enrolment and payment, lack of decent classrooms, inept instructors, double standard and inconsistent implementation of school policies, and even an unpopular type of teaching-learning process in the curriculum, let us encourage an environment that openly welcomes and constructively discusses any and all of these. Boy Abunda aptly puts it, “Tara, usap tayo!”
The more we tend to hide lapses and inadequacies, the more we become laughable, potentially snowballing any form of distrust or disappointment from the most important stakeholders in the school—our students. For all I care, no school is perfect, and the best thing to do is to embrace those imperfections as stepping stones to become our best selves, as cliché as it may sound.
It is best to clutch a campus culture of critical reportage. We should not dismiss dissent and discontent as destructive denunciation among students on school systems and policies. To disagree over something doesn’t mean damaging and destroying the distinct become-the-best-that-you-can-be brand.
The Quill doesn’t exist to essentially bolster the school brand. But don’t get me wrong on this. While it is okay to include articles that speak about the good stuff within the university, but being the school’s advertising arm or its extension is unfortunately not the publication’s main function.
Taking on the thrust as the school’s Fourth Estate, it thrives mainly as the university watchdog, messenger, opinion shaper, mover and shaker, and monitor of power. Its publisher, the students.
Considering these primary functions, articles and artworks that make it to print must be a marriage of school-based topics and sociopolitical issues. While it’s perfectly fine to publish articles on school events, being confined to what is inside the campus ceases to embody the ideals and principles of a student press.
In other words, an individual or entity cannot insist to include a school event that he or she thinks must be published. The Editorial Board reserves the right to determine what to print or post online. What’s news to you may not be necessarily newsworthy.
Which brings me to the issue of documentation versus coverage. By all means, anyone in the community can request for coverage from The Quill. However, we have seen others who treat the publication as their documentation team. For crying out loud, it is not the school’s documentation arm for events. It exists for coverage. Save for events spearheaded by the Office of the Student Life, in which we are ought to document as its official partner, other school events have to be taken on a case-to-case basis.
So how do they differ? To do the documentation is to officially assume that you are part of the organizing committee. In this context, the team is expected to set up full monitoring of everything that transpired from start to finish and make sure any material related to the event is given to the head organizers for record-keeping and other pertinent purposes.
To cover for an event requires our team to go to the venue, find out what is newsworthy, and decide whether to print or post online, or not at all. Again, the student paper has full discretion on what to include in its releases, be it online or print.
And this is a request to the community. Please do not take it against us for any failure to cover your events. Do understand that you are not dealing with school employees. Needless to say, our members are students themselves—goes to school seven to seven, does school works in between, with majority of them enrolled in health-related courses. Not that I am making excuses, but to treat the Quillers like they are available as you wish is downright inconsiderate.
We need to understand that manpower is an issue, especially that not a lot of SWU PHINMA students are eager to join the publication, a sad reality.
Bottom line: The Quill is still in its early stage of transition and processes and systems have just been established. Give it time. For now, it is a work in progress, but we have unarguably shown to you that there is progress factoring in the recent years of dismal quality and sheer mediocrity.
We won’t wane or waver, that’s for sure. We will continue to soar even higher armed with the right principles and policies that make a student publication an institution on its own.
And we can only do that by first, quelling ignorance—and stopping the spread of stupidity.