EXCELLENCE AND ENGAGEMENT

 

By Luis V. Teodoro

 

I AM NOT a CMC alumnus, but I did attend the journalism classes of three members of the Department of English and Comparative Literature of the then College of Arts and Sciences who were among the first faculty members of the Journalism Program when the Institute of Mass Communication was founded in 1965.  These were Professors Hernando J. Abaya, who wrote the definitive work on elite collaboration with the Japanese, Betrayal in the Philippines; Armando J. Malay, who at that time was still a senior editor of the then leading broadsheet the Manila Times; and I.P. Soliongco, executive editor and lead political columnist of the nationalist newspaper the Manila Chronicle

They were great professors during a time of great professors, each offering to the students under their  care their own individual, distinct approach to journalism.  As different as they were in experience and background, they were nevertheless one in their commitment to journalism as  an invaluable instrument  in the human imperative to interpret the world in order to change it.  As the pioneers in the teaching of journalism in the then Institute, they nurtured among their students not only the value of excellence in the craft and equally sullen art of reporting, comment and analysis upon which millions depend in making sense of the complexities of the human environment, but also the need for  militancy, fairness and honesty in providing that service.

The need for the reaffirmation and resurgence of the  tradition of excellence and engagement these professors established during the early years of the Institute was, I would like to think, what drove my  colleagues to nominate me for the deanship in 1993.  Either that—or they didn’t particularly like me.

I was dean of the College from 1994 to 2000, or six years before the advent of the second millennium. During those years   the Commission on Higher Education designated  the departments of Journalism and Communication Research as Centers of Excellence in communication education; we began the construction of the Media Center; we continued with the now usual College practice of issuing statements on communication and media-related events and issues;  we renovated the Luis Beltran Newsroom; curricular changes, among them the introduction of  new  courses and the reorientation of older ones and the division of the MA program into four areas, took place;  and the Film Center was integrated into the Film Department of the College to later morph into the present Film Institute.

That’s not everything that happened, of course, but this event doesn’t seem to be the appropriate venue in which to discuss the College’s problems then with leaking roofs, filthy toilets, or, that element that makes being in UP such an interesting adventure in interpersonal relations, faculty politics. Quite apart from, and above all that, what was happening  in the teaching, extension and research programs were among the indicators of the directions that the College needed to take and was taking.

The Construction of the Media Center had nothing to do with dirty toilets, although clean restrooms were  a collateral advantage.  It was crucial to the need to prepare the College for the 21st century, as the already rapid changes in information and communication technology further accelerated.  Although media newsrooms were already shifting to digital technology, with newspapers, for example, abandoning the traditional and literal cut-and-paste methods in writing and processing in favor of virtual cutting and pasting, and the usual phoned-in reports were yielding to email and fax transmission, most CMC students were in 1994 yet to be introduced to the use of computers in writing, editing, and page design.  Meanwhile, only a few days after I assumed the deanship, a faculty delegation from the broadcast department informed me that they couldn’t teach several courses anymore because most of the department cameras were no longer working, and were, in any case, all outdated, as were the department’s editing facilities.

Equipment is of course vital to the course offerings of this college, and despite student demands that we hold the government—then as now miserly in its appropriations for education while profligate with unaudited pork barrel, intelligence and other funds--to its responsibility of providing the College, indeed the entire University, the means with which to meet its public mandate, it was urgent that that need be addressed through donations as well as purchasesm mostly through the College Foundation. Among the latter were a US Information Agency donation of TV cameras, the donation by then film special student Richard Gomez of sound equipment, that of film producer Lily Monteverde of an OB van, and  the endowment by the heirs of the late Luis Beltran of the Beltran Newsroom. Meanwhile  the College Foundation, through the two million pesos it earned in an environmental protection project with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which was then headed by CMC alumnus Victor Ramos, was able to purchase other equipment.

It was also through the same project that the College was able to revive the Graciano Lopez Jaena workshop, which we held, to the best of my remembrance, four times between 1994 and 2000, bringing it again to the communities themselves—to,  among other places, Cebu and Iloilo.    The Graciano Lopez Jaena workshop has been, since the term of Dean Encanto,  both our flagship extension program and our link to the community press, where the killing of journalists has been concentrated.     

Despite the decline in their number  from 1994-2000—an average of two per year during the six years of the Ramos Presidency compared to the current seven per year during the past three years--  the killing of journalists has been part of the Philippine media landscape since 1986.   But we did issue statements on the killings that took place during that time, as well on such other issues as film censorship—during the same period the MTRCB was aggressively using its censorship powers to cut and even stop the showing of films it considered objectionable.   

But I’m going ahead of myself. Let me recall the state of the College by the time my first term ended in 1997. 

 

A.  Academic  Programs 

In 1994 I had proposed to work for the construction of a Media Center not only to address CMC space problems but also to provide a facility adequate to house new equipment.  In March 1997 we broke ground for its construction, which began by May. The funds we raised, with the help of Dean Encanto, through the pork barrel funds of, among others, Senators Edgardo Angara, Franklin Drilon, and Loren Legarda.

In  constructing   new CMC buildings—the Media Center will consist of three-- I was not moved by any fixation with construction for its own sake. The further development and expansion of CMC programs could not then be achieved without, among others,   additional space and provisions for facilities and equipment. The Media Center was to be the physical expression of  the expansion of  College programs as well as their innovation.

In journalism,  the plan to offer a diploma course for non-communication graduates, then in the final stages of refinement,  could not be fully implemented without  additional faculty, as well as  space and facilities.  Neither could department plans to expand into broadcast and online journalism flourish without these conditions' being present. 

In 1994 I proposed the development of institutes of journalism and broadcasting within the college, on the assumption that the merger of the film department and the film center into a film institute would soon be realized. Only the latter has been achieved.

Similarly the development of what would  was envisioned to be the only MA film program in the country, while possible within a year as two of its faculty returned from studies in the United States, was hindered by space, equipment and facility problems.  The future of an expanded broadcasting program--the program, despite tremendous demand, could then accept only 30 freshmen each year-- was similarly constricted without room for expansion.

Not all program developments were in the future, however. Journalism had added three new courses since 1994, among them Journalism 121, the Electronic Newsroom.  The absence of this course was especially glaring before 1994, considering the computerization of all the broadsheet and even tabloid newsrooms in Manila. The second new journalism course, abolished several years back but reintroduced, was Journalism 192, an ethics course exclusively for journalism majors, who previously were required to take Communication 191, a non-media specific ethics course which  other majors were required to take pending the development of film- and broadcast-specific ethics courses. The third was Journalism 197, Special Topics, meant to address current issues and problems in the Philippine press.

The film department also completed the revision of its course offerings in 1993, and instituted two new courses in graduate studies in preparation for its MA program, even as broadcast communication continued to reexamine its program.  Communication Research also completed its curricular revisions, including the introduction of new courses and the redirection of existing ones. 

In January 1997 the graduate studies MA  programs in broadcasting, communication research, and journalism were totally revised, as was the PhD Communication program. In journalism the directions were towards the interpretation of media texts and refining student understanding of popular culture in addition to enhancing student appreciation of the press' role in authentic national development and developing editorial management skills.      

Graduate studies was also refining a media studies proposal for approval by the CMC faculty, which had been approved in principle by the President's Advisory Council, via distance education mode. It was also putting into final form  a proposal for a diploma in journalism for non-communication graduates.

 

B. Equipment and facilities

CMC programs are equipment- and software-intensive. The state of college equipment and facilities is thus critical to CMC academic programs.

There was in 1994 an acute equipment problem in the broadcast communication, film and journalism departments. Several broadcasting courses were hampered by equipment so old and so beyond their time they were more often under repair than in use. The film department needed cameras, editing equipment, a sound studio and several enlargers for its photo laboratory.  The journalism department had  four 286 computers, two of them already beyond repair. The department of communication research also made clear its need for computers. Please remember that this was all of 20 years ago, and that much of what we now take for granted were at the time mere items in wish lists.  

By 1997 the broadcasting program had three sub-professional cameras including peripherals, and an editing facility replacing the ancient editing machine it had until 1994.  The film department had developed a sound studio, a projection room, a computer for animation work, editing facilities and a fully functional darkroom.

The two Jurassic computers of the journalism newsroom were replaced by 14 less Jurassic computers in a totally renovated newsroom  (the Luis Beltran Newsroom). The department of communication research acquired six  computers and appropriate software.  Graduate studies courses  complement the usual  slide and overhead projectors with VHS facilities and a TV monitor, plus  a Pentium computer in addition to two acquired earlier.   All the departments as well as administrative offices were eventually wired to the Internet. And yes, we were among the first colleges in UP Diliman to be so wired.

The re-equipment of the departments and the College as a whole was made possible, first, by a policy of complete return of student laboratory fees   to the departments that collected them,  and the division of EDF funds equally among the five departments; second, by a policy of encouraging department initiatives to acquire needed equipment; and third, by an aggressive campaign for Foundation projects, and by channeling Foundation earnings, where they used to be primarily used for honoraria,  to the purchase of  equipment for the College.

 

C. Research/Creative Work

The College has history of commissioned research. This served it well in the past, when research in communication was relatively  new in the Philippine setting. But over the years there had been a tendency to accept research projects whose priorities were determined by the client to the detriment of what should be College priorities.  Much of the ensuing research wass unreported, either because reporting the research would reveal them to be not among College priorities, or else subject the funds acquired to UPCMC Foundation mediation.

 One of the consequences of underreporting is that the CMC Faculty Development Fund, the level of which depends upon the amount of research undertaken by the College, was among the lowest in Diliman.  In addition, much of the research was not reported in terms of publication because  the results of commissioned research belonged to the client, not the researcher.  The practice  also had ethical implications, in terms of the tendency to legitimize the viewpoint and interests of the client, a fact which too often leads to an affirmation of the existing state of things, as when one undertakes research on the image of a government agency or media treatment  of a political figure.

In addition to these no doubt salient factors, CMC also had a shortage of faculty, which was no less crucial to its research capabilities as well as to such administrative imperatives as committee and other work.  CMC does have an entire department devoted to communication research, whose mandate is to identify the priority research needs of the College in support of instruction, policy and curricular imperatives, and the overall enhancement of understanding media in  the media-based departments.  However,  despite the limitations imposed by their faculties' having to teach more than 12 units each semester, the media-based  departments do undertake their own research. 

Film Department faculty, for example, produced two books between 1994 and 1997, while three more were in preparation. In journalism a book on investigative journalism was completed during the period, as were two others, one on the Law of the Mass Media for the Asian Media and Information Center (AMIC) in Singapore,  and another on  Reporting the Judiciary. This was in addition to a book on the history of the Philippine press and a stylebook, both in Filipino.  In graduate studies, issues of media policy have been examined, and the results published in, among others,  Media Asia, a publication of AMIC. Journalism faculty also regularly wrote articles for professional publications like the quarterly Philippine Journalism Review, which still monitors press performance.

This was occurring despite the undeniable fact that CMC faculty were uniformly overloaded due to the number of classes CMC had to offer as a consequence of enrolment growth.  While CMC then had  a  faculty base  of 32, only 26 of these were active during the first semester of 1996-97.

 While it is true that some student theses are best left unmentioned, it is no less a generalization to say that they are uniformly useless as it is to claim that they are all as good as Kruggerands. Certainly theses that include an examination of sexual harassment in the newsroom, the cultural uses of the "Betahan" theaters in Bohol, the impact of Mexican soap operas like Mari Mar,  or how  images of violence are received by newspaper readers are of value. Student theses are in fact as much a part of the College's research thrusts as faculty research. 

To provide a venue for these as well as other research,  the College proposed to the Diliman Chancellor  a public affairs publication to be jointly edited with other colleges in the public affairs complex.  This was only one of the initiatives taken by the college, efforts to acquire a publication budget as well as to revive college-based faculty publications not having prospered in the past. I salute Dean Tiongson for his untiring and successful efforts in publishing the Plaridel Journal, which had an antecedent in the  Philippine Communication Journal.

An additional venue, however,  both for the discussion of research results as well as current media issues was the  Mass Media and Society lecture series of the College, which was  ongoing from 1994 to 2000.

The CMC  library was reputed to be the best in the country in terms of media and cultural studies, as a result of the efforts of our library committee. In 1997 it acquired CD-Rom facilities, to which we eventually  added, via the already pledged donations of both equipment and CD titles from Infocom, the Internet service provider.     

 

D. Extension and Linkages

The highly successful but nevertheless discontinued (in 1992) Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop, which represented our  commitment to the development of the community press, was revived in 1996 and was assured of funding for the next three years. Together with the Social Mobilization Program supported by UNICEF, and an annual screenwriting workshop with France's La Femis, Jaena comprised a major part of our extension program. 

However, CMC faculty also served as resource persons, speakers, judges, panel members, and so on for organizations both governmental as well as non-governmental organizations. CMC was then   the first, and usually the only, school of mass communication  consulted by government, media organizations and media advocacy groups when they require expertise in media.

CMC faculty who are media practitioners were also columnists, analysts, publication editors, producers, directors, and screenwriters in the various mass media. In addition, media-based CMC faculty are deeply involved in the ongoing reform and standardization of mass communication education through the Commission on Higher Education. 

The College was then  implementing the Department of Environment national  environmental awareness program, even as journalism faculty were also involved in monitoring the Philippine press as well as in continuing education through working relationships with the Philippine Press Institute, the National Union of Journalists, the National Press Club, the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation, the Philippine Journalism Review,  the Center for Media Freedom and Resposibility,  the National Center for Philippine Media, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism,  the International Organization of Journalists, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, and AMIC.

In Film the faculty were involved in the same capacities as members of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, the Film and Audio Visual Educators of the Philippines, the Screenwriters' Guild, and the Producers' Association of the Philippines.  It had active links with  France's La Femis International Film School, CILECT, the international association of film schools based in Europe, and the University Film and Video Association of  the international association of film schools based in the United States. The productions of  several CMC film students were also winning  citations or awards here and abroad.  The department  also provided film and book research materials for several TV programs.

Broadcast faculty were similarly active in extension actitivies, in addition to being members of the board of TV stations and of broadcast advocacy and self-regulatory groups like the Kapisanan ng Brodkasters ng Pilipinas, or KBP, as well as professional organizations.

 

E. Faculty Recruitment and Development

Faculty development is a crucial element in College development. Without appropriate faculty the College would remain locked in the prisons of old assumptions and paradigms, and will graduate students unprepared for both the coming century as well as  the new age then unfolding before our eyes. That is why the college  encouraged faculty not only to undertake further studies in universities abroad, but also to leave the college premises to study in other units of the University, the better for them to gain new perspectives into CMC disciplines and to escape the deleterious consequences of inbreeding.

In addition, some practice or experience in the media professions had become a criterion for the recruitment of faculty, not only because practice enriches classroom instruction. Understanding how Philippine media work is also crucial to whether one can ask the right questions about them when undertaking research. A pioneering work on the Philippine romance novel by Dean Encanto, for example, was among the dissertations completed in 1996.

The College recruited lecturers in practice in media, as well as regular faculty, but only to replace those who had resigned or else gone on leave. Active regular faculty numbered 26 out of a faculty base of 32 as of 1997. The faculty-student ratio was  1 to 22, one of the highest in Diliman. The need for additional faculty items was evident, not only to relieve overloaded faculty, but to give faculty more time and opportunity to undertake research. Since 1994 the College had been asking  for additional faculty items.    

 

F. Enrolment

The College had around 1,500 students in both  the graduate and undergraduate levels, making the College the fifth biggest in Diliman in terms of student enrolment.  This was one of the reasons for the space and facilities problems that have been noted by CMC constituencies. 

Let me conclude this already lengthy talk by saying that these efforts, while focused on the development of the College, were also addressed to the larger communication and media community.  The making of  a transformative press and media system the College can help achieve only if it maintains its credibility as the country’s premier communication school capable of turning out competent, skilled practitioners aware of their responsibilities in the making of a just society, and its extension program, as well as the statements it releases on press, media and communication issues are as vital to sustaining that credibility as its academic programs.  The Lopez Jaena workshop has kept us in the consciousness of thousands of practitioners all over the country, and not only among its graduates, and every statement we issue strengthens our credentials as lead participants in the transformation of the media. Every one of our deans has happily kept these in mind, even as every one of them has had to cope with leaking roofs, filthy toilets, and foul politics.--####