Even before the global pandemic became full-blow, many journalists all over the country were already finding themselves out of work as social media displaced many community newspapers, and no less than 11,000 workers found themselves jobless with the closure of ABS-CBN.
However, being journalists and by nature resourceful, it did not take long for some to reinvent themselves in digital media, without straying far from their passion for telling stories.
Following is the experience of three groups of displaced journalists from the Visayas and Mindanao who faced adversity squarely and lifted themselves up.
Cotabato City : The iMinds Experience
When ABS-CBN went off the air on May 5 at 7:52 PM following the last airtime of its primetime newscast TV Patrol, it left its employees not only without a job but with the bleak prospect for the future as the country went under a nationwide lockdown as the Covid-19 pandemic surged.
But a pool of talents from ABS-CBN Cotabato pulled themselves together and created iMINDS Studio.
As described by Lerio Bompat-Kulayan, former News Desk of ABS- CBN Cotabato who manages the team, iMINDS Studio is a digital radio and television production company mainly producing educational learning and instructional materials for radio and television such as E-learning materials, visual and motion graphics (animation), audio-video material, and social media content.
For its first client Research Triangle Institute (RTI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) iMINDS Studio produced 32 TV and radio-based Instruction materials now being used by public school students in Regions V and VI.
Following the success of its first project, iMINDS is currently engaged in producing radio advocacy materials of the International Organization for Migration IOM. iMINDS is also handling content management and promotions of several public and private organizations and institutions all over the Philippines.
It has since diversified to social media content management and promotions. In the absence of local TV newscasts, the company evolved into Digital Media and in March 2021, it launched its Digital News, Digital TV, Digital Radio, and Digital Magazines.
Its programs include iNEWS, a weekday news program, with reportage of stories from South-Central Mindanao and the BARMM that is streamed online and simulcast over DXMM 107.3 Magnet FM; iTALK, a one-on-one interview of personalities involved in current issues on peace and security, health, education, and politics; SANA OL, a weekly entertainment program showcasing people who impacted the lives of many homegrown enterprises, travel destinations, and other mundane topics that bring colors to the mood of viewers.
Since its FB Page iMindsPH was launched in December, 2020 it now has over 50,000 followers with another 5,000 in its YouTube channel. One of its produced video materials has been viewed nearly 3 million times.
Bompat-Kulayan, former producer of TV Patrol Central Mindanao for 17 years, is also the chief content officer of the company. The content team members are graduates of mass communications from a local college with modest experience and exposure in media broadcasting. Its video and audio editors are licensed radio technicians from ABS-CBN while IT specialists, Computer Engineers, and licensed radio technicians take care of their technical requirements.
Looking forward, iMinds Studio envisions itself to become the leading source of credible news and information in Southern Mindanao and the BARMM; a creative producer of video, audio, and social media materials; and an emerging social media content management and promotions company. It soon plans to launch its own FM radio station soon.
Bacolod City: SERBISYO Patrol
Bacolod SERBISYO Patrol is a developmental communication project which features stories of progress, inspiring stories of Bacoleños, stories of survival, hope and unity that underscore what a Genuine Bacoleño especially in the midst of a pandemic.
The team includes former TV Patrol Bacolod anchor and executive producer Yasmin Pascual-Dormido and former ABS-CBN Bacolod Reporter Mark Salanga, Former TV Patrol Director Rene Jun Ogapong as Creative Editor, and Benjie Torre as Executive Producer.
“We believe that in the time of pandemic people would rather have more stories of hope and inspiration aside from helpful information on the ongoing covid 19 response of government and other services they can avail of from the government,” said Pascual-Dormido. “It also features outstanding Bacolodnons and stories of struggles and triumphs of micro and small entrepreneurs and how government can motivate people to keep going despite the hardships.”
The project started when Pascual-Dormido started vlogging soon after the ABS-CBN shutdown, and is a product of the team’s shared and collaborative vision.
“My vlog is all about positive stories as my personal vision mission, since for over 2 decades of media work, I’ve been mostly telling stories that are sad, gruesome, and negative. I though that because of the pandemic people would rather that are light and hopeful, rather than the depressing and negative news which have dominated media since the pandemic started.”
Bacolod SERBISYO Patrol is basically a public affairs digital platform presented in a magazine format and focused on developmental stories.
With a collective pool of resources made possible by their settlement package from ABS-CBN following the closure, the five former Kapamilyas set up their new media outfit.
“We’re a small team since we are already trained in multitasking, thanks to ABS-CBN. We outsource staff for additional camera work when the situation warrants.”
The team broadcasts from a virtual studio made possible by the latest software, and had its maiden broadcast last October 25, 2021 at 5PM simulcast on their FB Live and YouTube.
Cagayan de Oro: the Northern Mindanao Daily Source
Another venture born out of adversity, the Northern Mindanao Daily Source (NMDS) started on July 1, 2020, exactly a day after Sun Star Cagayan de Oro closed down a day earlier.
“We were told of the closure one month before, so we met right away to decide what we could do so we wouldn’t be idle,” said Alwen Saliring, former editor-in-chief of the closed paper. Joining him were Super Balita Cagayan de Oro Chief Reporter Stephanie Berganio, and Pamela Jay Orias, also a former editor in chief of Sun Star Cagayan de Oro.
NMDS describes itself as a newly-established content and news provider in digital platform, committed to deliver quality information anchored on the tenets and ethics of journalism.
Despite its relatively new status as a digital news platform, the firm already has 145,000 followers on its FB page.
For now, Saliring said they are still newscasting from home due to restrictions mandated by the quarantine protocols to keep the covid-19 pandemic at bay.
“I use a virtual studio every time I go live for a news report,” Saliring said. “If it will already be allowed by then, we plan to rent a studio by January next year.”
At present, NMDS is focusing on news and information, and has managed to keep going since the three principals also have other means of livelihood.
“So far so good, we have been able to get public and private clients since we are a legitimate firm with a legal personality,” Saliring noted. “We also have other jobs, like I have a full teaching load at USTP (University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines) while Pam works for Philhealth and Steph also has a buy-and-sell business.”
Thus, most of the content creation for their FB page and website is done by Saliring and Berganio.
“I have managed to do it since my classes are still being held online, so this keeps me stuck in my computer most of the day,” Saliring confessed. “It really is rather stressful, since classes in USTP are still not regular and not all my students have internet access, I just manage my time, including my masteral classes. This situation has certainly improved my time management.”
Indeed, it sure beats staying at home with nothing to do all the time.