It was late October of 1997 when Ms. Thea Rinen sounded me off about the plan of the Philippine Daily Inquirer to put up an affiliate in Cebu.
Practically everybody in mainstream media got wind of the news and the movement of top personnel from two other local newspapers to the new kid on the block was the other big story at that time.
After the first round of talks with Ms. Thea I had to go to the hospital for a major surgery. Looking back, I think the idea of writing for Cebu Daily News, the lone affiliate of the country’s number one broadsheet gave me a lot of positive vibes and helped me regain my health. I was still recuperating when Ms. Eileen Mangubat, then incoming editor in chief and Ms. Thea, incoming managing editor met with me at a coffee shop to finalize my engagement – three column articles a week and news stories related to the local elections of 1998.
The assignment would seem daunting now but at that time I was anchoring a news and public affairs program over DYRF. The gist of the daily broadcast conversations I had with politicians, government officials and people of all sorts who figure in news worthy events including news reports of field men simply cascaded to my column and news articles.
I intend to come up with my own top 20 stories culled from CDN’s 20 years as viewed from the lens of a broadcast journalist and political observer of over 4 decades. The events that CDN had covered rigorously and vigorously have impacted so much on the national social and political landscapes that I’m convinced the current system failed us and we’re now reaping the evil fruits as a result.
On top of my list would be the legislative hearings of the House committee on dangerous drugs conducted in Cebu City in 2000 well up to 2001. I recall that some resource persons were already talking about the Davao Death Squad and extra judicial killings at that time. One lawmaker was even advocating for extra judicial killings as a strategy to solve the illegal drug problem.
Another top story I like to tweak in my own top 20 picks is the conspiracy in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) manifested by the disappearance of MV Great Faith under the very noses of local port and Customs officials in December of 2001. The boat was loaded with 20,000 sacks of rice and because the disappearance was so brazen, it prompted the House committee on good government to conduct another public hearing in aid of legislation. This, after a congressman from the north revealed the rash of rice smuggling happening in various ports of the country.
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During the anniversary party Friday last week I was seated close to Mr. Jaime “Jimmy” Picornell, who writes a lifestyle column for this paper. Like this writer, Jimmy and I joined CDN 20 years ago and both our bylines appeared on the maiden issue. Jimmy told me he was then writing for The Freeman so when the offer from CDN came, he personally met up with the top honcho of the other paper to say his goodbyes.
Jimmy is considered the dean of society page writers in Cebu having written about the comings and goings of Cebu’s socialites, regal balls and functions of important personalities and corporate entities for decades. Twenty years ago he would deliver the hard copy of his articles on foot to CDN’s editorial office then located on Escario Street. It was a good walk from his residence which was just a few blocks away.
The iconic society page columnist said the one challenge for any writer is to do the job well. If not for the readers, you have to do the job well for your own sake, Jimmy emphasized.
CDN looks forward to an exciting future as it refocuses content towards multimedia. In just a year and a half, audience reach has tripled and closes in on the main rival. Last year’s total page views jumped from 12 million in 2016 to 22 million page views in 2017, proof that readers have migrated from reading the paper’s hard copy to soft copy.
In social media, CDN is on top of the heap with 300K followers beating its main rival by a margin of 100K. The Sinulog coverage broke all box office records so to speak, with 4 million people following the live coverage. Editor-in-chief Edra Benedicto told me CDN’s strength on social media and the web is propelling the paper’s print edition and I think this is a growth area for the paper in terms of achieving its targets.
Congratulations, and here’s to the next twenty years!