JOURNALISTS and media practitioners discuss the state of the local media industry in the time of Covid-19 pandemic during the Davao Media Freedom Day (DMFD) held on November 22-23, 2021.

Now in its 12th year, the theme ‘Pandemic Pushing Storytelling Boundaries’ discusses the influence of Covid-19 in the media practice and how journalists transcend boundaries beyond the traditional platform to deliver news stories.

The virtual seminar, streamed on Zoom and Facebook live, shed light on topics such as misinformation and fact-checking, journalism ethics, campus journalism, literary journalism, alternative online platforms, and social media’s influence in news gathering and reporting.

The first day of the event was opened by SunStar Davao Editor-in-Chief Reuel John Lumawag who shared that despite the negative changes brought by the pandemic, it also accelerated the digital and online presence of the media industry.

“As we shifted to digital, we also had to be more creative on how we deliver our stories to our audience,” he said, emphasizing that journalists are now considered multimedia journalists who write, take photos, and edit videos on their own.

Internet, gadgets, software a must

Mildred Galarpe, Digital Director of SunStar Publishing Inc., added that journalists rely on their mobile phone as their all-in-one tool to create and post stories real-time and on-the-go.

Furthermore, Galarpe said that the pandemic pushed the need for video conferencing software like Zoom and Google Meet for journalists to get connected to sources remotely. “Today’s journalists need indispensable tools like computers with internet capability to allow reporters to write and send stories from anywhere, anytime.”

The speakers also taught how Covid-19 heightened the use of social media in news consumption.

Content vs visuals

SunStar Davao social media content editor and strategist Ace June Rell S. Perez also highlighted during his talk the importance of visual content on championing storytelling on social media.

However, he underscored that while the visual component of today’s storytelling is a must, journalists and content creators should always seek for a great story as content remains king.

Factual vs fake

Former Editor-in-Chief of Superbalita Cebu, Michelle So, differentiated facts from fake news in her presentation about misinformation and fact-checking.

She said that fake news can be spotted by following steps such as checking the source of material and if other news outlets are also reporting the same issue.

She emphasized that individuals need to be critical of the information they consume. “It’s so easy [for a person] to say ‘fake news’ if they don’t like the story,” So added.

Campus journalism

During the second leg of the event, Jecy Opada, coordinator of Petroglyphs, the student publication of San Pedro College Senior High School department shared how campus journalism adjusted to the pandemic.

Opada said that Petroglyphs started featuring stories and events outside the campus since the academic experience was reduced online. It also became a reliable news source for Covid-19 updates for their students, faculty and parents.

Among the other speakers are local and national media practitioners namely Jonathan de Santo, Chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; Yas Ocampo, Social Media Specialist of Mindanews; Ria Valdez, Instructor at the University of the Philippines-Mindanao; and student journalist Sofia Roena Guan, Editor-in-Chief of Atenews.

At the end of the event, the DMFD became a positive learning experience for students, teachers, and media practitioners adjusting to the pandemic.

DMFD is an annual two-day event to commemorate the Maguindanao Massacre that happened in 2009 and see how the media industry in Davao and Mindanao pushed forward after the gruesome event that took the lives of 58 individuals, 32 of which were journalists.

As this year’s DMFD host, SunStar Davao thanks its major sponsors: Converge ICT Solutions, PLDT - Smart, Alsons Development and Investment Corporation; minor sponsors: Phoenix Petroleum, Malagos Garden Resort, NCCC, Damosa Land, Nightol, Organica; and event partners Apex Events and Marketing Solutions, SM Supermalls - Davao and Lanang Premier, and Davao Light, for making this event possible.

SunStar Davao also gives special thanks to Anytime Fitness, Abreeza Ayala Malls, San Miguel Corporation, Viva Entertainment, dusitD2 Davao Hotel, and Kriztja Marae Labrador.