For the very first time and in a major transparency move, the Department of Education has revealed the names of the judges who determine the winners of the National School Press Conference, the annual campus journalism competition of the best young scribes from the country’s elementary and high schools nationwide. DepEd did so through DepEd Memorandum Order No. 67 issued on April 11, 2018.
This is a major milestone in NSPC history because prior to this, the judges’ names were never officially disclosed. Unofficially, however, some school paper advisers and field offices of the DepEd find out who some of the judges were.
In an email on November 21, 2016, I asked Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones that the names of the judges be officially disclosed and some needed reforms in how the NSPC has been conducted be put in place.
Wanting to improve their performance and ranking in the NSPC, some schools and DepEd field offices invited some of the past years’ judges to train school paper advisers and campus writers. But some schools and localities had the mistaken notion that they had to have significant financial resources to get working journalists and expert communications practitioners to come to them to conduct training.
The reality on the ground is that the poor schools, towns, cities, and provinces cannot afford honoraria and travel expenses so they can have working journalists and media experts train their school paper advisers and campus scribes. Those who can afford are able to conduct better journalism training.
I wondered about this because part of a journalist’s job and role in society is to help promote media literacy and create the conditions which will produce future generations of journalists.
To remove financial capability as a campus journalism training handicap and to level the playing field between rich schools and poor schools and among rich and poor cities, towns, and provinces, I now publicly ask the DepEd and the Philippine Press Institute, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the various press corps covering the major journalism beats to enter into a multilateral agreement on the provision of editors, reporters, columnists, photojournalists, and layout designers who will share their experience and expertise in journalism and the media arts at no cost to the students and schools, with costs to be borne partly by the DepEd budget and by sponsors, advertisers, and benefactors.
For the longest time, schools and DepEd field offices have been sending out personal invites directly to the journalists. Some schools naturally invite their journalist alumni.
This process of inviting working journalists and media practitioners has to be more than just personal connections. There should be an established system and working arrangement between the DepEd and the media sector.
Considering the maturity of online web publishing, perhaps the DepEd can also invite and include the software companies, the offices of Facebook and Google in the Philippines, and the firms that distribute cameras and audio equipment to participate in the conduct of the NSPC through the provision of their technical experts and maybe conditional use of equipment during the training sessions.
DepEd ought to temporarily suspend the Layouting and Page Design contests because many schools have not been designing their school papers themselves but have relied upon the printing shops and even some of those who have conducted training sessions to design the school papers. DepEd rules require that the school papers be photo ready when given to printers.
DepEd should include the school papers in the DepEd Computerization Program and that the computers they distribute to the schools include genuine, licensed, and paid-for page design and photo manipulation software. I am certain some, if not all, of these firms can give education discounts and bulk acquisition discounts during public bidding.
The Philippine Press Institute’s Journalists’ Code of Ethics should be the journalism code recited at the start of the campus journalism conferences. For the longest time, our schools and the DepEd has been using the archaic Journalist’s Creed which emanated from the Missouri School of Journalism in the United States.
Newspapers and magazines have traditionally been the first venues for poets and creative fiction writers to become published. Now, the internet and social are new channels for creative writing. This considered, I ask the DepEd to formally create and include poetry and short story writing competition categories in the NSPC and trigger the rebirth of the literary pages in the school papers. The DepEd can surely work on this with the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas, the Palanca Foundation, the corporate foundations, and affluent patrons of the arts.
NSPC guidelines on Copyreading and Headline Writing should specify that contestants not simply identify and mark copy errors, but also rewrite the copy. I ask that the contest on Copyreading and Headline Writing be renamed, updated, and upgraded to Copy Editing and Headline Writing considering that copyreading narrowly describes what working journalists do and because copy editing is the workplace practice.
Earl Victor Rosero