ADHIKA (Aspiration), an initiative of three Sydney-based Filipino community radio programs, celebrated its second anniversary on March 23, at Regents Park, a western suburb in Metro Sydney.
Highlight of the celebration is a media forum attended by representatives (reporters, columnists, publishers, broadcasters, photographers) of Filipino Australian media, community organisations, business and government. Speakers were from mainstream, multicultural and Filipino media. I was one of those who spoke in the forum. / Romy
Thank you, Michelle.
I acknowledge the presence of our community leaders, my associates and peers from Media, the performing artists, and representatives of other sectors including the government.
I also acknowledge the presence of Consul General Anne Jalando-on Louis, Member of Parliament Kevin Connolly, Mr Alfredo Roces and Mr Jimmy Pimentel (who are two of my companyâ€™s early supporters), and the other Forum speakers. I am indeed privileged to sit with you in this Panel.
My thanks to the organisers of this Media Forum for inviting me as one of the speakers.
Thanks to Josie for allowing me to digress from my published topic, â€œThe Filipino Australian through the Yearsâ€, and giving me the freedom to delve on community journalism — with reference to emanila / The Filipino Australian.
THE BEGINNING OF ONLINE COMMUNITY JOURNALISM IN AUSTRALIA
Our websiteâ€™s initial services were to provide (1) a free translation service for the Filipino youth and our non-Filipino friends, (2) a free web design and hosting service for Philippine community organisations, and (3) a community news service.
Today, we are still carrying those services.
In addition, emanila today stands as a media company engaged in internet technology, photography, web advertising, content management, and social media consultancy.
To focus on emanilaâ€™s online news services:
Our 15 years of existence as an online news service company were very challenging, but also rewarding.
Unlike today, there were no web standards to guide us.
Most applications, including news publishing, appeared to be in testing mode.
Like other start-ups, the major challenge we faced was how to support our operations, financially.
Prospective advertisers were hesitant in taking us on board — based on the simple reason that fast and cheap internet connection was not available in those days.
But emanila is still around. Today, there are other players in the market.
The 15 years were rewarding too.
The Philippine Embassy in Canberra and Consulate General in Sydney were with us from day one. They also engaged emanila – on a pro bono basis – as the developer of the Consulateâ€™s website for the centennial celebration of Philippine Independence in Sydney.
We also received support and encouragement from community organisations, and from the â€œmovers and shakersâ€ in the community. They promoted us in their web pages, and linked us with relevant Australian government agencies.
At one stage, we had close to 100 community organisations with websites and webpages housed in emanilaâ€™s server.
With regard to readership, we also had a large membership base. We had more than 7,000 subscribers to our free emanila-branded webmail service.
The recognition rewards also came years later from both the Australian and Philippine Governments.
– The National Multicultural Marketing Awards for Technology in November 2000
– The Parliament of New South Wales First Multicultural Media Awards in September 2012 for Coverage of Community Affairs in Australia
– The Commission on Filipinos Overseasâ€™ Migration Advocacy and Media awards in December 2012 for helping raise the profile of overseas Filipinos and their advocacies in the world public forum.
Let me now focus on journalism:
Not a journalist by profession, what I am going to relate to you are journalism stories only, and not theories. To me, these stories reflect not only emanilaâ€™s brand of journalism, but also – I like to think – the kind of community journalism that many Filipino media outlets in Australia practise.
THE FILIPINO AUSTRALIAN WAS BORN
In June 2005, the news section of emanila became The Filipino Australian – or TFA for short â€“ with its own domain name, and editorial team.
Our first editor was Mr Jimmy Pimentel.
Prior to TFAâ€™s launch, Jimmy also helped me in writing the stories for our website at emanila focused on the participation of Filipino boxers in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Blogging in the early â€“ and mid-2000’s – was not as popular as today. But believe it or not, in those days, we at TFA were already doing our own brand of blogging.
Our bloggers (some regular, some casual) include Oscar Landicho, Ted Aritao, and Tony Dedal, and Councillor Jess Diaz, Geoffrey Little, and, of course, Jimmy Pimentel.
For three or four years, TFA focused mainly on news and events in New South Wales with a sprinkling of news from interstate or from the Philippines.
Then sometime in 2009 – 2010, our scope of community news coverage was re-defined.
It was expanded to include other areas and topics, flowing from major social, political, and economic changes in Australia and the Philippines.
In Australia, the major developments – with major impact on the Philippine community – pertained to reforms in the skilled migration program, the entry of Philippine bananas to Australia, and the empowerment of the Philippine community in Australian politics. There were, of course, other major developments in the latter years.
In the Philippines, major developments included government reforms pertaining (a) to overseas Filipinosâ€™ employment, remittances, and voting rights, (b) to the Philippines becoming the call centre of the world, (c) to the aggressive positioning of Philippine companies in business outsourcing, and (d) to the nationwide deployment of an Automated Election System in May 2010.
The expanded scope of our news coverage also led to an expanded news publishing application.
With those changes also came a new group of TFA bloggers who became the core contributors of a separate TFA website called The Filipino Australian Community Blogs.
I always look back with pride that we were able to attract people whose expertise are highly recognised in the community. Some are still with us. Some have taken a different path. And to them, we extend our sincerest thanks for sharing their views on issues affecting the community.
On the news department: The sustainability of TFAâ€™s main news content has continued. Regular and fresh materials are coming in from members of the community. They submit or publish news, views and photos to our online publication.
FOCUS, RELEVANCE, AND CONNECTION
Browsing over the list of major stories we have written for emanila and TFA, we can easily find a common thread â€“ the Philippine Community and how the stories relate to us Filipinos in Australia.
Here are some examples:
1. On a local level: We cover Philippine fiesta events, celebration of Philippine Independence, and other community events including those organised by non-Philippine groups.
2. In business: We have followed and written stories of the struggle since 1999 of Philippine banana growers to export their produce to Australia.
3. On migration policy issues: We wrote the migration stories of the Avendano family in Sydney and the Sofocado family in Perth, and other migration stories. We also wrote commentaries on Australiaâ€™s 457 visa program and its impact on overseas Filipino workers.
4. In the arts, music, sports, education, politics, and culture in general: We regularly publish stories about our young achievers – the likes of Bevan Calvert, Miko Selorio, Jayme Diaz, and also the success stories of other Filipino Australians.
5. On local and national elections: We cover elections in areas with large concentration of Philippine-born residents or those who are of Filipino heritage, particularly Blacktown and Campbelltown.
6. On Philippine national issues: We covered and ran stories on the following â€“
(a) The Philippinesâ€™ first automated election system in May 2010
(b) The standoff between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea. Our active role in this campaign includes my personal involvement as a judge in an international essay contest
(c) The fight to broaden the suffrage rights of overseas Filipinos, the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia, and the Freedom of Information bill (which up to now remains a bill).
The stories published at TFA may involve larger-than-life topics with far-ranging implications and ramifications.
Nevertheless, we at TFA embrace them as part of community journalism because the element of intimacy or connectivity found in a community is present. If not present, we look for that element. If not found, we establish it through research.
For example, last year when Australia won a seat in the United Nations Security Council, TFA went one step further in writing its story, giving it a community flavour. We highlighted in our story that the Philippines was one of the early signatories to the UN Charter, and that Filipino General Carlos P. Romulo served as the President of the Fourth Session of the UN General Assembly from 1949-1950.
In other words, when we write a story about an event or a piece of information, we strive to look at it — from the eyes of a member of the Filipino or Filipino Australian community.
WHO IS AN IDEAL COMMUNITY JOURNALIST?
By way of ending my stories, let me finish off with an anecdote.
Last September, after accepting the First Multicultural Media Awards, I was asked in a radio interview: â€œWhat makes an ideal community journalist?â€
My response was: He or she is one who observes, what I have since called, the four pillars of news reporting: substance, relevance, integrity, and sensitivity.
I briefly describe these pillars as follows:
1. Substance. Information should be useful, educational, entertaining. It should add value.
2. Relevance. The information should be appropriate to the audience.
3. Integrity. Information should be accurate, and verified. If taken from other sources, we need to cite our sources. Integrity also embraces honesty and independence.
4. Sensitivity. Our freedom of expression or speech should be equal to our respect for other human beings. Our freedom of speech has restrictions. We should respect the privacy of those concerned or who are subject of the news.
The Australian Journalists Association, now part of Media Alliance, in fact has enshrined sensitivity in its Code of Ethics as a one liner: Respect for the rights of others.
If I may also add, on this point, that, in my capacity as publisher of The Filipino Australian, I am a member of Media Alliance.
FUTURE OF COMMUNITY JOURNALISM
Last Thursday (March 21), the Labor Partyâ€™s media reforms bill was dumped due to lack of numbers. But, I think, it is only a matter of time that the bill, or one similar to it, would be re-introduced – not necessarily by Labor.
Whatever the proposed media reforms would be in the future, I am certain that Media Alliance will be there â€“ as it has done recently – to protect the interest of media practitioners.
(On this point: We are indeed very fortunate that Media Alliance campaigner Marcus Strom is here with us. He can certainly tell us more about media reforms and the future of journalism in Australia.)
But regardless of the form and shape of media in the future, what I call the four pillars of news reporting, I think, will stand the test of time in journalism – be it community, multicultural or mainstream.
And I can assure you that The Filipino Australian will remain grounded on those pillars.
Thank you for listening to my stories and commentaries.
Other ADHIKA speeches, elsewhere:
Writing stories our antidote to invisibility by Afredo Roces
Is is ‘Hasta la vista, baby!’ to newspaper journalists by Jaime K. Pimentel