Whenever I’m invited to give a journalism lecture to students, my talk would begin with the account of my love affair with Atenews.
It all began in 2007.
That year, I was Communication/Sociology student who was recovering from being booted off from the Computer Science programme. In high school, I was conditioned by television advertisements of a computer school that a course in computer programming is the way to succeed. I accepted it dogmatically that I laid my ambition to become a lawyer to rest. It was ridiculous. Even advertisements meddle with the hopes and dreams of young people.
Shifting to a new course didn’t help me bring my ambition back, though. Transferring to the Mass Communication programme was more of an escape from the rigorous mathematical problems which students like Computer Science majors go through. Some of my block mates, though, chose MC as a preparatory course for law school. Some of them are doing well as law students. Some hopped from one school to another.
I, on the other hand, became a journalist.
Few days ago, I was again invited to talk on news reporting. The audience are students from the same university I attended six years ago. All are volunteering to publish periodically. New recruits occupied almost half of the function hall’s seating area. Some seemed to be very eager to learn something. Others — drifting away, thinking what could be that pleasant smell wafting from the kitchen.
The students are part of Atenews, Ateneo de Davao’s student-run newspaper. It’s the same campus organisation I belonged to in 2007. It’s the same club that introduced me to journalism, a skill I never thought I would be doing until this day.
So when I’m invited to talk about journalism, I would never fail to recount my two-year campus journalism experience with Atenews, a student news organisation that beautifully-trapped me into journalism. Forever.
Here’s one of the articles I’ve written for Atenews’ March 2009 magazine. The piece is called “Last Minute.”
Letter from the Editor
By Mick Basa
MY HUMBLE BEGINNINGS in Atenews started in an interview with Nisa Opalla, the Editor in Chief before Hyangelo & Sonny were put into seat. Nisa, now a good friend of mine, asked me during the interview what a campus publication is. Already a third year Mass Comm major that time – my answer was that a campus publication is a paper that runs for the benefit of the students’ right to information as enshrined by the Campus Journalism Act of 1991. But after I was accepted as a staff writer and photojournalist, I began to realize that Atenews is more than just a campus paper.
I was then assigned to cover events. Still a neophyte at that time, the thrill and jitters of having to meet public figures and go to events served as increments to my journalistic barometer. I began to meet local and national media practitioners and had the opportunity to talk to them. But more often than not, my tasks were mostly to capture shots of activists at the freedom park that raged against rice crisis, oil price hikes, tuition fee increases and Ms. Arroyo.
That same year, we received criticisms coming from the students for having published stories condemning human rights violations, increasing poverty and some articles about activism and the dilapidated quality of Philippine education to the point where we were asked whether Atenews was serving the general interest of the students or not.
But what should Atenews really be and what is the general interest of the students? UP Journalism Professor & Columnist Danny Arao tells us that the campus press is the voice of the students in particular and the youth in general. Should issues on education, poverty and human rights part of our concerns?
The following year I was assigned as the news editor. I had the advantage to work hand in hand with the other editors and had the prerogative of assigning reporters on what to cover. The experience in dealing with writers and reminding them of their deadlines and at times reprimanding them for negligence had grew in me an inch of maturity. The bond that had grown during my two-year stay in this publication proved to me that Atenews is more than a campus paper.
Thriving in this small office are young and admittedly inexperienced writers who have learned a lot from reality. They taught me a lot about the greater scheme of things, that when the system running the society persists to widen the gap between the rich and poor, it is just reasonable to criticize and protest the evils that this system has wrought on us.
Atenews is not just about writing news, capturing photos, and creating the lay out. It is where a league of young minds learn some of the most important issues that are inextricably intermingled with our lives. This campus paper of ours prevented me from turning a blind eye on the crucial events of our time.
We honestly admit however, that we do have some shortcomings. English teachers have used our papers as an improvised spot-the-grammatical-errors quiz causing much aggravation to me and my fellow editors. But whether the act was deliberately done to insult us or not is of no particular importance to us. We do not consider ourselves as experts on the English grammar although we recognize that we need some level of command of the language. Yet we cannot deny that we were dismayed by the disrespect shown to us. People must understand that we do not necessarily represent the best writers in the campus but only the ones who have risen up to the call of service.
But for us, at the end of the day, it is our passion in yielding our collective metaphorical pens to seek for and write the truth that counts the most – more than any public perception of our grammatical excellence or the lack of it. We choose not to be silent because silence is the prime spoiler of freedom.
As I conclude what may be my last piece, I have come to realize that, from the very first day I joined Atenews, I chose freedom.