EDITORIAL: Farewell For Now
Nineteen years ago, our publisher Nilo Aureus, then a budding entrepreneur specializing in operating a commercial printing press, ventured to revive the Bicol Mail, the only regional newspaper in Bicolandia, in loving memory of his ascendant, the late Leon Sa. Aureus, the paper’s founder, an idol of Nilo and of practically all genuine local journalists.
The original Bicol Mail shut down its operations when exercise of uncensored freedom of the press became extremely difficult during martial law when only state funded or sponsored printed media outlets saw print. Bicol Mail opted to shut down rather than submit to the dictates of the conjugal dictatorship.
It was only in 2003 that copies of this paper hit the streets again on a weekly basis. With a circulation worthy of its claim of being regional, and content wise, independent and responsible. Appreciative of our initiative, advertisers supported the efforts. Its readership increased and covered the entire region, aside from attracting subscribers who paid in advance, sometimes one year ahead.
Over the years however, maintaining a local weekly paper has been a very challenging venture. First there has been a dearth of advertisers. Second, coming out with a respectable number of copies is very expensive, due to the rising cost of printing and manpower. And while it may be true that the paper had maintained some subscribers, having their copies delivered on time proved very taxing and financially depleting.That notwithstanding, we continued to be off the press on a weekly basis on time and regularly.
Then came the Covid 19 virus. During the height of the pandemic mobility became a very serious problem. Manpower also proved very difficult to field due to transportation limitations as well as health protocols particularly wearing of face shield, face masks and maintaining social and physical distancing.
Physically being around during presswork also became very problematic in the light of health consideration. As a consequence, we had to make do with the situation by collecting and collating the materials for publication mostly online. The personal touch of the journalistic itch had to give way to technological convenience.
Then came another whammy. The cost of printing this paper has become very prohibitive owing most probably to the rising cost of fuel which registered a domino effect on interrelated fields of concern, including cost of manpower and a depleting number of new talents interested in journalism. Sad to state, embracing an honest to goodness journalistic career is not financially rewarding though emotionally uplifting and professionally dignifying.
It would be hypocritical not to admit that the inroads of technological advancement reduced the audience for printed materials. Gathering information,—true or fake , is relatively easier online, or monitoring over the radio and television. But is a lazy man’s way of embracing the calling.
Moreover, the tendency of the society in preferring a less cumbersome approach of generating news and information via social media, has in effect generated a multitude of audience who cared less in counterchecking the reliability of the information as well as its purveyor.
Over and above all, the most telling aspect cannot be denied. Most of the senior staffers of Bicolandia’s only genuine regional weekly are already in their twilight who sometimes experience senior moments and battles with physical hardships.
The time therefore to hang the pen has come. It is running out of ink.
It is our fervent hope and prayer that new torches will be illuminated to guide the way of aspiring principle oriented community journalists and refill the pen with unadulterated ink to pursue a calling with passion.
Farewell for now. Let this be our swan song.