Our run-off to the Graphic’s centennial

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Philippines Graphic publisher T. Anthony C. Cabangon and Aliw Media Group chairman D. Edgard A. Cabangon

This June, the Philippines Graphic magazine turns 92 as a magazine title.

On our 100th anniversary, the year 2027 (God willing I live that long), I would have reached my 63rd year on this benighted planet—roughly 20 years of which would have been spent as editor-in-chief of the longest running and most esteemed political and literary magazine in the country—still in print.

In my close to 11 years as editor-in-chief, I’ve seen the whole team go from one unanticipated hurdle after another, the likes of which would’ve killed a rhinoceros trying his hand at motocross.

As years went by, the publishing landscape proved more difficult than anticipated. It took all of our experience and combined efforts to learn from our missteps, thereby improve on tried and tested strategies, and use this knowledge to keep the magazine on its editorial and financial track.

What sparked this determination involves the magazine’s sterling history. Suffice it that we have very big shoes to fill. The magazine’s signature aesthetic alone was nothing to laugh about, to say little of the great minds who had stirred its pages.

The Graphic’s inception in 1927 as one of the few English-language publications aimed at catering to a growing English readership saw the likes of esteemed fictionists Agustin C. Fabian and Rosario Ladia Jose taking the captain’s wheel.

Chino Roces had the wisdom to include the works not only Philippine literary greats in the magazine’s pages, but also those of editors of the team. This placed the magazine on a pedestal of its own, the masters of language themselves taking on the roles of writers and reporters in the never-ending effort to shape the magazine as the guardian of the national memory.

Since it was a job best suited for giants in the field of journalism and literature, then giants it is. Through the decades, the publication’s two previous owners—Chino Roces and Antonio Araneta—spared no effort in getting only those who’d fit the bill.

In 1972, during the outset of Marcos’ martial law regime, the Weekly Graphic closed shop, its editors all hauled into jail. It was, in many a sense, one of the Graphic’s shining moments: to have stood against a dictator.

Eight years after the fall of Marcos, in the middle of 1990, the Weekly Graphic took on a new name: the Philippines Graphic.

Amb. Antonio L. Cabangon Chua, the magazine’s new owner, stuck to the magazine’s tradition of having only great names in the world of literature and journalism to lead its newsroom and grace the publication’s pages.

Now why do I mention all this? Looking back, it dawned on me how risky this decision might have been to the owners to have such strong independent minds working as editors and writers for the magazine.

It was, and still is, no secret that while journalism is a public trust, publishing remains a business. It relies primarily on profit to meet the deadlines.

With each newsroom, expect a skeletal crew of 10 people to comprise its editorial staff, page design artists, in-house photographers and reporters, columnists, and the like. This excludes the teams which populate the different departments—from Finance, Human Resources to Advertising and Sales.

In a country where the prices of ink and paper, to say little of electricity, go from one rollercoaster ride after another, any owner of a publication must, if only for reasons of continuity, possess deeper pockets than your run-of-the-mill fast food entrepreneurs.

The introduction of online news websites had, at one point, threatened the existence of print publications, rerouting the influx of advertising to online companies. This, however, proved short-lived as the years went on.

Print still carries with it the integrity and trust it once enjoyed due to stringent editorial gatekeeping, unlike online news sites where the same leaves much to be desired.

Losses can be great, but so are the gains: For one, to build a reputation as contributor to a nation’s wealth of knowledge regardless of their affinities, political allegiances and friendships. It’s a gamble, for sure, but one worth taking.

I am proud to say that the Philippines Graphic, with all that it needs to accomplish each passing week in matters of integrity and trustworthiness, has always been fair—fair to friends and foes alike.

No story will grace our pages, regardless of its notoriety or popularity, without the necessary evidence to back it up. In the Graphic, publication and proof are intertwined, with no less one buttressing the other. It’s a rule we don’t dare break, not for anything—not even for money and power.

We will give each one a fair hearing, no matter how much they lie or even tell the truth, if only to form, in the final analysis, a balanced and intelligent assessment as to what had actually transpired.

On the run to the Graphic’s centennial, this is our continuing promise.

Last week, our chairman, D. Edgard A. Cabangon, and our publisher, T. Anthony C. Cabangon, led the Aliw Media Group to a New Year’s toast. It’s a tradition which reminds us of our enduring commitment to the fairness and journalistic integrity that have become rare these days.

Doomsayers aver that 2019 will be a difficult year for good and hard-working journalists, what with a world venting its hatred on the freedom of the press. The Duterte administration doesn’t make the job any easier. Lies litter the political and economic landscape. Let’s not even talk of the corruption which now plagues some of the newsrooms.

As such, all good journalists should bond together, campus journalists included, and work for the common good—to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield, as one poet wrote. It’s the least we can do to uphold the profession and safeguard a community of citizens hankering for real, tangible change.

And if in doing so we are left with little choice but to stand in the line of fire, then so be it. G



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