Anniversary Supplement, SunStar Milestones
AHEAD of SunStar Cebu’s 35th anniversary tomorrow, we thought it would be a good idea to share with you some milestones, especially since none of these would have been possible without your support.
After more than 12,000 issues, SunStar has built a rich collection of the Cebuano community’s stories. Here are a few of our own. It’s both a thank you to our loyal readers and an invitation to younger ones to get to know SunStar more.
In telling Cebu’s stories, we’ve also become part of Cebu’s story, and we couldn’t be happier about that.
What was SunStar Cebu’s first banner story?
It dwelt on a delay in the renovation of Unit 3 of Carbon Market, a project that cost the Cebu City Government P2.78 million. Vice Mayor Ronald Duterte, as presiding officer of the City Council, and Councilor Jose Cuenco asked for an investigation of a supposed defect in the structural design. At the time, 80 percent of the renovation had already been done.
How many copies of the first SunStar Cebu issue were printed?
Our maiden circulation was 3,000 copies, a fact that writer Willie Justimbaste reported in the Feb. 24, 1985 issue, in a story about the Cebu City Government’s decision to award SunStar as Most Outstanding Private Institution in the Mass Media.
SunStar was conceived in a Volks Beetle.
Well, its name was, anyway. Lawyer Pachico A. Seares (PAS), who served as editor-in-chief from November 1982 to March 2010, once wrote that he was crossing the bridge behind the old Cebu Jai-alai building in his Volkswagen Beetle when he thought of the name. (He also considered, but quickly dismissed, Star.Sun.) “I thought there was no other newspaper in the world sporting the name SunStar,” PAS wrote.
We’ve had 29 years of Weekends.
On Nov. 27, 1988, SunStar launched Weekend magazine as a supplement to the Sunday issue. About the experience, former Weekend editor Godofredo M. Roperos once wrote, “Between the editor and the potential contributors is a kind of game, more like a cat-and-mouse one than between a buyer and seller of professional services.” One of his challenges then was to coax contributing writers, who all had other full-time jobs, to accept assignments as well as deliver them on time.
For a few years, Weekend was incorporated into the Sunday paper as an eight-page section, but it went back to being a magazine as part of a redesign in 2013, led by current Weekend editor Noel S. Villaflor and art group chief Josua Cabrera.
Each December, Weekend publishes the Best of Cebu special edition.
Working with the Code: a first among community papers.
SunStar adopted a Code of Standards and Ethics in 1991, updated it in 2004, and added a Policy and Protocol on Protecting SunStar Journalists in 2005. SunStar journalists have committed to adopt a personal code that will stress, among others, “loyalty to the facts; respect for rules, codes, laws and arrangements that give a sense of community, instead of dividing people into hostile groups; and belief in the methods of journalism.”
Honoring community leaders: Cardinal Vidal.
In 1991, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal was the lone recipient of the SunStar Awards. (Previous winners included former Metropolitan Cebu District Command Chief Panfilo Lacson, former Cebu Gov. Emilio “Lito” Osmeña, and the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation.)
Staff members voted for Cardinal Vidal to be the lone recipient in 1991, after observing the calming presence he brought to bear on “labor strikes, the civil war waged by Communist guerrillas, a military coup attempt, and elections.” Cardinal Vidal, the citation read, “successfully brought opposing camps to dialogue, like no other public figure in Cebu has done in recent years.” This SunStar memory came to mind when the Cebuano community bade Cardinal Vidal goodbye this year.
The superb adventure that is Superbalita.
The B stands for “balita” but it could also signify Bisaya, the love of which inspired lawyer Jesus “Sonny” Garcia, chairman of the SunStar Publishing board, to push for a local-language tabloid. Superbalita first saw print on Oct. 23, 1994 and has grown steadily, eventually becoming the most widely circulated daily in Cebu. Two other cities in the SunStar network—Cagayan de Oro and Davao—publish their own editions of Superbalita.
Superbalita Cebu has also won its share of journalistic honors, including five prizes in 2017 from the Cebu Archdiocesan Mass Media Awards. More importantly, it continues to help elevate the tabloid as a source not of salacious content, but of useful, public interest stories, connecting policy- and decision-makers with the people they’re supposed to serve.
Sunnex also rises.
Starting in 1995 with SunStar Davao, SunStar has worked with partners outside of Cebu and established a network of community papers, which, combined, provide a fuller picture of the country. What happens in the cities beyond the capital are no less important, yet rarely get covered by the national press. On April 5, 1999, the SunStar Network Exchange (Sunnex) was established to facilitate the sharing of content across the SunStar network and to manage the SunStar website.
It now serves as the new media arm of the SunStar Media Group, producing various digital products to bring SunStar to more readers, in whichever form they find best fits their needs.
A more enduring record in The Cebu Yearbook.
Producing dailies and a weekly magazine was challenging enough, but the idea of creating a more lasting record proved too good to resist. In 2001, the SunStar Media Group launched The Cebu Yearbook under the guidance and leadership of Gina Garcia-Atienza, now president of SunStar Management.
The brief was ambitious: to examine and sum up the most important stories about Cebu’s economy, local government, politics, culture, and society each year, and to create for readers and potential investors a database of key facts and figures.
Seeing the big picture.
SunStar is the country’s first community paper to regularly use remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), more popularly known as drones, in its photo and video journalism. In January 2013, SunStar Publishing Inc. President Julius “Jayjay” Neri Jr. used a drone and a phone to cover the Sinulog seaborne procession, producing images and video that allowed readers to see something as familiar as the Sinulog from a new angle.
Large crowds, natural calamities, the proposed sites of new projects: these are but a few of the subjects SunStar can show more clearly now, with the use of RPAs.
Bringing out the Best of Cebu.
Each December, SunStar Weekend magazine devotes an entire issue to the best brands in Cebu. Since this project started in 2013, the blue Best of Cebu seal has become a coveted emblem, displayed by winners on their storefronts, counters, and promotional materials.
It takes about half a year to choose the Best of Cebu winners, but the result is well worth it: a guide to help Cebu’s consumers and guests find the best places to eat, shop, relish adventures or unwind.
Looking forward to No. 300.
When we’re not giving out awards, we’ve been fortunate to receive some, too. As of October 2017, SunStar has won 289 awards from institutions like the Philippine Press Institute, the Rotary Club of Manila, the Archdiocese of Cebu, Globe, Sinulog Foundation, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
We know that the community’s support and trust are far more valuable than any award, which is why we won’t avail of our bragging rights (too much) beyond our anniversary celebration.