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CDN goes beyond gray print columns

/ 07:31 AM September 23, 2012

(This article appears in the magazine CJJ7, the 7th edition of Cebu Journalism and Journalists, launched on Friday.  The issue’s main theme  “How newsrooms cope with the new media” explores the way Cebu newspapers adapt to the digital economy.)

One of Cebu Daily News’ most compelling stories was triggered by a Facebook photo of an unnamed  teenage girl trying to stand on the back of a whale shark in the shallows of a coastal town.

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The image sparked online outrage but it took a CDN reporter to track down the joyrider to Boljoon town, south Cebu, where the girl tearfully apologized for what she thought was a fun, harmless antic.

It was “NO FUN FOR TUKI” said the CDN headline.

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Town officials were prompted to take more vigilant action to protect the gentle whale sharks that  swim close to the shore as south Cebu’s newest tourist attraction.  (The sea giants are called ‘butanding’ in Luzon, ‘tuki’ in south Cebu)

In the age of social networks and the Internet,  information moves with blurring speed.   This offers new opportunities for a newspaper to expand its storytelling capacity beyond columns of gray print.

CDN took on the challenge to serve a wider online audience, including young professionals and Cebuanos too busy to grab a paper in the morning.

We reinforced the cdn.ph website  with the  blog cebudailynews.wordpress, Facebook and Twitter for breaking stories, video clips and full-document images.

Staff reporters and correspondents collaborate, eager to try new roles as “mojos” – mobile journalists.

Our first multi-media project stemmed from the Feb. 8, 2011 kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old schoolgirl Ellah Joy Pique.

A 6-minute photo slide show with audio narration captured the the agony of  a father’s loss, the slim clues left in Ellah Joy’s burial blanket and the questions raised about the year’s most controversial child-victim crime that remains unsolved.

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The first suspects, a Norwegian national and his Cebuana nurse fiance,  attracted worldwide attention up until their release from detention a month  later, when the police admitted that they had the wrong targets.

To keep up with the running coverage, selected photos and a script provided another dimension in story telling. We got feedback from Norway readers thanking CDN for the compressed version of this tragic mystery being followed halfway around the world.

The project – and the popularity of camera phones –  encouraged staff reporters to take their own photos and video clips.

Reporters have their own choice of digital tools – Samsung tablets, digital cameras and digital recorders are standard gear. (Last month CDN and other Inquirer employees were offered Hauwei tablets branded as the Inquirer Tab on convenient salary deduction schemes.)

It’s not about how expensive the equipment is, but how well one can use it to frame a story.

In June 2011, CDN joined the Digital Newsstand of the Inquirer Group

Entire pages can be read on the iPad, Android tablets, smart phones or the desk top.(See http://bit.ly/Inquirer-digital) .

“We’re excited about giving a different reader experience,” said publisher  Eileen G. Mangubat.

“You can flip through pages on your desktop or handheld device, something that appeals to a wider audience that appreciates the look and feel of a classic paper in a digital environment.”

This gives a full view of  ads, photos, classifieds, columns, and supplements.

It has interactive features of a website. Stories can be tweeted, shared on Facebook, sent by e-mail, read out loud, and printed. E-mail alerts can notify readers when a topic is mentioned in an issue annually.

After a 30-day free trial, readers can choose to subscribe to CDN alone or all titles of the Inquirer  for $17.95 a month (Bandera, Cocoon magazine, Inquirer Golf, Inquirer Sunday to name a few).

Gone are the days of passive news consumption. Our readers have shown they want to contribute to shaping a story.

Last May 3, 2012, CDN’s popular “Siloy is Watching” photo corner moved to its own Facebook page.

This invites readers to become citizen activists who witness, snap a photo and report scenes that deserve priority attention – potholes, traffic violators, hazardous electric posts about to collapse, etc.

The images still go through the vetting of a CDN editor who writes the caption.  Viewers can also send videos or private messages to expose things gone askew or to give praise in the community.

We recognize that our readers – our audience – don’t just want to watch the world go by.  They want to get involved in shaping it.  New media opens that channel. –  Eileen G. Mangubat and Marian Codilla.  Codilla, senior reporter of Cebu Daily News, was designated the paper’s multi-media coordinator to explore the full potential of new media.

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