What we lost

There are many online fora and seminars nowadays — from technology, to business, to history and culture. But unless you attend or listen to the replays of each one of them, you won’t know about the very rich information being shared in these discussions.

Apart from the major business events, the very interesting or informative online conferences organized by such groups like Hambin, Museo Sugbo, RAFI, Cebu universities, and even brands like Palm Grass are not written about as extensively as they used to be.

Back in the day, we could look forward to reading these in the art and lifestyle pages. We endured the look-at-us coverage of the alta sociedad because of wonderful articles on culture and heritage by the many writers we have here in Cebu. Some even end up in the main news section.

Now, we’re only seeing PRs. Our newsrooms have been gutted. The pandemic exacerbated financial difficulties caused by sharply declining revenues and decreasing readers. Beat reporting has largely disappeared in Cebu.

For the unfamiliar, beat reporting is the practice of assigning reporters to a specific news topic or coverage. We used to have church/history/culture beat reporters in Cebu. They focus on these subjects. The assignment allows a reporter to gain important subject expertise and cultivate sources through the years in the beat. Reporters did not have to choose between Dr. Mojares talking about Lapulapu or the incoming super typhoon.

Now — the assignment is more general. If you read the stories and go over the articles — deep reporting on certain subjects are gone.

What we gained in speed and distribution, we lost in depth.

I still long for the day when I would read (whether on paper or online) about the Osmeñas as discussed in the Hambin forum, the baying otinan and how we were more gender fluid pre-Spanish occupation as discussed in the Palm Grass forum, the lecture of Dr. M on LapuLapu. I missed the lecture by Dr. Resil Mojares because of the deluge of meetings, events, and online tasks.

I don’t think our news outlets covered them. We won’t be reading articles on them because newsrooms no longer have the manpower to cover these events and still report on the more traditional and demanding news about politics, crime, disasters, and COVID-19.

Our consolation is that we now have the ability to join or watch these events, whether live or on replay. It used to be so much harder to attend them either because of limitations on the number or the qualifications of those who could attend or the accessibility of the venue. Ay di ka history major? Di ka kasabot ani dong, prioritize ra namo history major kay limited seats.

But it was different when a culture beat reporter or columnist had our backs and would tell us what happened in these talks and summarize the key points. Or after an event or symposium, Professor Joebers Bersales would write about it extensively in his CDN column and add context and information. Or when it gets reported in a full-page, visually-stunning layout in the lifestyle and culture pages Cebu Daily News, Sun.Star Cebu or The Freeman. I particularly loved the lifestyle pages of CDN. Reading about it on Weekend was also a treat.

There was a time when we thought blogs would compensate and add to the mix but bloggers have largely focused on events, lifestyle, and tech. Although there are some like Marguax Camaya of TheVisualTraveler.net and Stan Cabigas who would blog extensively on these things, most bloggers largely cover the same content you already see on online publications. (A plug: we write some articles on MyCebu but it isn’t as frequent.)

The sadness of what we lost with the disappearance of beat reporting in Cebu is palpable, especially when I get reminded of having missed this forum or that online seminar. Unsa man gyuy context anang baying otinan?

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