PPI 2021 Civic Journalism Community Press Awards – Chairman’s speech

Hello again. Good afternoon.

We now reach the climax of today’s event: The PPI Civic Community Press Awards. This is the 25th edition of this annual recognition of the outstanding works of journalists in the countryside. It has gone a long way since it was launched in 1996 and the first awardees were named the following year. From an initial handful of entries limited to local dailies only, the awards program expanded to cover the weekly newspapers as well. And now, as the technology bug bites big into news outlets, perhaps it is in order to consider a wider scope of awards categories to include digital media.

The Awards program was originally aimed at raising the standards of the community press not only for editorial excellence but also for its role as a catalyst for local development. It has remained so for the last 26 years. The strong support from our partners and sponsors has enabled us to forge ahead with confidence. Allow me to make a special mention of our principal partner Nickel Asia Corp., whose generous assistance made this annual event possible over the past decade. Also, there will be no winners and awarding day if not for the secretariat work of our friends at the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication all through the years. To Nickel Asia and IAJC, and the rest of our sponsors and partners — the Hans Seidel Foundation, ILO, SMC, Century Park Hotel, PLDT/Smart, ICTSI, and SM Supermalls, SM Investments and PAGCOR — on behalf of the PPI Family, thank you for believing in this civic-oriented Awards program.

This awards program is one way to manifest our support for an important fabric of democratic societies: The community press. The unique role it plays in the social, economic, and cultural development of a community cannot be overemphasized. Studies have shown that people in the countryside give more credence to local news. Their trust is based on the belief that local news presents factual cases of what’s actually going on in their community. They find less bias and hidden agenda in news reporting.

And why not? Local news is about their city, surroundings, and neighborhood hardly, if at all, a regular fare in national media. Local folks live and work in the same area, keeping them more connected to each other and their community. That includes local journalists who have to cover people and institutions they know personally and are familiar with. This keeps reporting straightforward lest they lose their stock in trade — trust and credibility.

In my book, the unique role of local papers make them all deserving of an award: the Community Spirit Award. More so if we consider that they operate in a very challenging situation. We are all aware of the secular shift to digital by readers and advertisers and the resulting damage to the business models that have sustained the community press for decades. In many communities, there is not enough revenue to pay for the public service journalism that local newspapers have historically provided. Still, they are out there continuously playing their role against all odds, hoping that somehow good fortunes will eventually shine on the horizon.

Some of these brave souls behind the never-say-die local papers are here with us today. Can you give yourselves a big hand? Cheers to all of you. Among you will shortly be declared winners of the 2021 PPI Civic Community Press Awards. Those who won’t make the cut doesn’t mean you are losers. It just so happens that PPI lacks the budget to give everyone a plaque or trophy. Levity aside, your effort to keep your respective paper going is nothing short of heroic. No matter how big or small your operations are, the fact that you dodgedly uphold your civic and journalistic mission is truly an exemplary accomplishment and achievement. It only showcases a great deal of your determination, hard work, and commitment. In that sense, you are a winner in every sense of the word.

Congratulations to all!