The Web and campus journalism

I didn’t realize I was already 30 years detached from campus journalism until Smart Communications Philippines invited me to share my experience as a print journalist who transitioned to online journalism.

How time flied so fast and how technology made me feel locked in a time warp.

Yes.  Three decades ago, we were literally counting spaces, characters and words on our ‘copies’ to make sure our page layouts will turn out fine.

There were only two fonts available on our typewriters: pica and elite.

We have to make a dummy on a newsprint impression of our school paper. Rush it to the printing press for encoding, proofreading and reviewing the layout in film before the stripper finalizes it for plate-making.

Not to mention advisers always on the lookout for articles that will undermine school authorities.

Then we have to wait for days until it is ready for distribution.

More often than not, it took weeks for us to come up with an issue.

Printing costs always took their toll on our ability to come up with regular issues.  In most cases, school publications only come out twice a semester.

While issues on campus press freedom and student rights and welfare remain in many colleges and universities, campus journalism has been drastically changed by technology over the last two decades.

Standing in front of bright and promising campus writers last week, it made me old for a while.  Even my reference as a Jurrasic in campus publication sound tame. Some students cannot even relate to it.

Why! I even made the big mistake of using Adobe Pagemaker as reference to lay-outing and publishing tool.  And to think, it was the software Sun.Star Publications was using only three years ago – before I ‘retired’ from the now defunct Sun.Star Business Weekly (Socsksargen).

I was told Adobe had already junked Pagemaker for a more user-friendly Adobe InDesign.

In today’s digital world, publishing news and other articles have become as handy as using your mobile phone – a techie gadget that we did not even dream of during our time.

Which brings me to the world of the Web and Internet.

I told the students that the days of newspapers could come to an end – like it or not and sooner or later.  Paperless newspaper or paperless news is increasingly becoming a popular medium and source of information.

The rapid development of the Web also connects the reader in real time with the dawning of interactive press.

Honing your writing skills is no longer a tedious physical process of writing and rewriting your copies and manuscript by hand.

You now have the computers that will allow you to review your spelling and grammar, count the words for you and allow you choose the fonts and font sizes at the click of the mouse button.

In the real world, today’s writers have technology aiding them with their craft.

Smart’s move to encourage online journalism is one of the wisest decisions made by the telecommunication company to encourage campus writers to pursue a career in journalism – whether writing for a cause, writing for a product or simply discussing one’s views and opinions.

The Internet has emerged as a powerful communications tool.

Students could use the Web to reach out to their fellow students and even connect them virtually to every school publication anywhere in the world.

They could take cue on Facebook, Flixster, Twitter and other social networking sites which allow readers to post their comments and share their views in real time with less cost and better speed – or in other words – the fastest way possible.

No need to angle your stories and news to make it relevant with the passing of each publication date and worrying if these have become history.

And it saves your publication money that otherwise will go to printing costs.

Of course, these are still protocols and journalism ethics students have to observe and to follow.

Even without joining the mainstream media, the internet could become both a hobby and passion for student writers.

Blogging has become a popular activity in the internet.

Some have gone full time blogging – earning them income while doing what they are doing best.  One blogger earns as much as P120,000 a month through Adsense.

If one gets lucky, a website could ‘buy’ and redirect your blog to its site for a fee.

The key is to be consistent, credible and committed to your craft as a blogger.

And as a blogger, you can be a better journalist.