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5, 000 campus journalists urged to differentiate between truth and falsehood

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By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Amid the prevalence of fake news, Education Secretary Leonor Briones urged campus journalists to enhance their skills to discern journalism from propaganda to be able to tell the “difference between truth and falsehood.”

Education Secretary Leonor Briones (DepEd / MANILA BULLETIN)

Education Secretary Leonor Briones (DepEd / MANILA BULLETIN)

Briones, during the opening ceremony of the 2019 National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) held at Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center Grandstand underscored that enhancing their skills to be able to discern journalism from propaganda is one of the many lessons that campus journalists may get from the event.

“How can you discern propaganda vis-à-vis professional, competent journalism?” Briones asked the campus journalists coming from both public and private schools nationwide. “Now, it is very hard to tell the difference between truth and falsehood, between manufactured news and real news – so you always have to seek the truth,” Briones urged.

With the theme, “Fostering 21st Century Skills and Character-based Education through Campus Journalism,” the 2019 NSPC is held from January 28 to February 1. The annual activity aims to “equip and provide students with knowledge, skills, and experience in campus journalism.”

Best of best

Braving hours of land travel, around 5,000 students across all regions gathered for this year’s NSPC.

In an exclusive interview with the Manila Bulletin, DepEd Bureau of Curriculum Development Director Jocelyn Andaya said that the event was successful despite minor snags. “I think it’s successful based on how the region and the division prepared for it,” she explained. “There were very minor concerns but there were also many positive feedbacks in the opening ceremony, the accommodation afforded to all the delegation and how the helpful and accommodating the principals in the billeting schools are – I think this is the hallmark of a successful hosting of the NSPC,” she added.

In 2018, Briones promised the student journalists that the registration fee will be waived because the Central Office will pay it. “But because of the reenacted budget, the participants were made to pay it first and later on, we will reimburse [it to them] once the 2019 budget has been approved,” Andaya said. She added that “many of the regions took the initiative of paying for the entire region so it was not a problem for the student journalists” for both public and private schools.

It can be recalled that DepEd directed participants included in the official list of delegation to this year’s NSPC to pay for their registration fee (Php 4,000 for each participant) pending the approval of the 2019 national budget. The said amount is chargeable to the School Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE)/local/regional Funds or the school Campus Journalism Fund. DepEd is currently operating under a reenacted budget.

Earlier, some concerns were raised that the number of participants might be reduced due to lack of budget. However, Pangasinan 1 Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Maria Celia Fernandez said that the number of expected participants was not affected: “Sumobra pa nga.” As host, she noted that the major “concern was not really the budget but how could we prepare for it.”

For Andaya, the biggest challenge was hosting the NSPC, itself, because of the “sheer number” of participants. Fernandez said that hosting big events like this is really challenging. “It depends on how you handle it and how you use your previous experience in attending the NSPC,” she said. The local government unit, the DepEd officials added, was also involved in terms of giving support.

With regards to the contest, Andaya said the DepEd makes sure that it is “always above board” because “we would want the people, especially the parents and the students, to trust the NSPC – meaning that if you win, you win fair and square” and not because there were irregularities.

Changes, moving forward

The 2019 NSPC, Andaya said, becomes a “pilot year” for Online Publishing before it becomes mainstream in the coming years. Fernandez added that one of the major changes this year is the “centralized venue of competition” – a very first in the history of NSPC.

The exclusion of School Paper contest from the overall scoring or ranking is also implemented this year. “In the previous years, in the competition of the total scores, we have the School Paper, Individual Contests and Group contests,” Andaya explained. “There is still a contest for School Paper but there is a separate awarding and the scores there will not be counted to the overall because we want to ensure that this is the work of the students because of the input we got from advisers,” she added.

As early as now, DepEd has already identified the 2020 NSPC host which is Region 2 – Tuguegarao City. Since there is no bidding, Andaya said that the NSPC host is chosen based on the history of hosting. “It has become our practice that there should always be two hosts for Luzon, one for Visayas, and one for Mindanao – they rotate,” she said.

For the 2020 NSPC, Andaya said that a DepEd order will be out soon requiring the conduct of the Schools Press Conference first where “everyone gets to join” and the best will be “plucked out for the division and regional.”

Andaya said that DepEd will also be looking forward to more articles on Developmental Communication (DevCom) or something that has community relevance “so the school paper will not just be about the school but will also be about the community so they [learners] will be aware that they are part of this community.”

Moving forward, Andaya said that there will be more changes in the conduct of the NSPC. Aside from making sure that the “budget is there,” she noted that strict policies in choosing judges will be continued. “We have to make sure that the judges are not from the regional and division press conference because somehow, there will be a bias – we want to eliminate this to make sure that the integrity of the contest is observed,” she said.

Meanwhile, Andaya noted that initial preparations for the centenary or 100 years of the NSPC in 2021 are also being discussed.

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