Friday, December 03, 2021

Editorial: Forging ahead at 39

Editorial art By Enrico Santisas

ANNIVERSARIES conjure up images of celebratory backslapping and wine corks popping, but what if there’s a revolution going on? And what’s going on in publishing is definitely not just an evolution but a full-on revolution that has walloped mass circulation newspapers worldwide. This is putting it mildly as the perfect storm of digital disruption, advertiser diaspora and changing reader habits is not even finished counting its victims yet.

SunStar marks its 39th anniversary in this maelstrom. Looking back, that nerve-wracking fail on its first day of publishing now looks like the hiccup that it really just was at the start of an amazing journey that is still unfolding. On Nov. 25, 1982, the first issue of SunStar Daily hit the streets just a few minutes before noon, delayed by a citywide brownout the night before that had set back production.

But it’s been a constant companion and crucial partner of the Cebu community since. At 39, SunStar has chronicled seven presidents, a pan-Asian crisis, a global pandemic, two People Power Revolutions, a papal visit, even the visit of a living saint; financial scandals, murders most foul, as well as countless natural and man-made disasters. It has recorded Cebu’s rise in the national consciousness with its infrastructure blitz, hosting of a President’s inaugural, and its audacity to have the national anthem translated into Cebuano, among other things.

Over 14,000 issues on, SunStar Daily, renamed SunStar Cebu in 2000, is just as dogged, now spewing news at breakneck—meaning Internet—speed. It has since become a bigger version of itself. No longer just a singular paper, it is now the flagship daily of a network of newspapers in the country. And it has taken to broadcasting like a digital native.

It faces additional headwinds, though, no thanks to a coronavirus pandemic that has caused hardship for consumers and businesses, rubbing salt in the publishing industry’s wounds. The litany of troubles calls to mind the conundrum the newspaper faced just two years into its existence when its Nov. 25, 1984 editorial lamented: “...We have survived, so far, the assault of several devaluations of the currency, tyrannical increases in the cost of newsprint, power and other factors of production, and the specter of a dwindling newspaper audience whittled further by the more urgent and basic requirements of consumers.”

In other words, challenges will never cease—as if the journalists trained in the ‘80s and ‘90s brand of journalism weren’t already crestfallen by the technology-driven shift in advertiser preference to torrents of information designed to draw the eyeballs of the attention span-challenged. That sort of journalism kicks content quality to the curb as volume of output takes precedence in the rush for clicks and advertising revenue. That doesn’t sit well with the old folks.

Luckily, at 39, we are not too old to try new things and to push boundaries. As SunStar always has, in the face of whatever life throws its way, it will forge ahead.


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