McLuhan Fellow Speaks on Press and Natural Disasters By Mary Ann R. Mandap
Marshall McLuhan 2013 Fellow Eileen Mangubat was in town recently to speak on the unique challenges faced by journalists covering typhoon Haiyan. Vancouver was the first stop for her lecture series, “Journalism in time of Haiyan: The evolving role of the community press in covering natural disasters.”
At a well-attended forum jointly organized by the Canadian Embassy in Manila and British Columbia community groups at The Network Hub in Downtown last February 17, Mangubat astutely described community journalists as “both victims and bearers of bad news,” caught literally in the eye of the storm while trying to bring fresh news to whom it mattered most.
Mangubat, a 30-year veteran in the profession, is currently the publisher and acting editor-in-chief of Cebu Daily News (CDN) She took up Journalism at the University of the Philippines Institute (now College) of Mass Communication and worked as a reporter in various beats, then as news editor, opinion editor and editor-in-chief. In 1998, she led the start-up CDN, which claims to be Cebu’s only independent newspaper, and an affiliate of the country’s largest national broadsheet, the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The US Embassy in Manila had been previously awarded Mangubat with the 2003 Benigno S. Aquino Fellowship Award. She likewise received recognition from various award-giving bodies like the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Philippine Press Institute, the Rotary Club of Manila, the Archdiocese of Cebu, and the U.P. Alumni Association.
Mangubat is the first Cebuano and the third community journalist to be named a McLuhan Fellow. The other two were Diosa Labiste of Iloilo City in 2010 and MindaNews editor Carol Arguilles of Davao City in 2011.
Her presentation focused on the critical role of community journalists in times of disasters. “At that time, journalists from all over the world were dispatched to Tacloban, the hardest hit city in the Philippines. But for journalists living in the area, the assignment posed unique challenges.”
Mangubat said her paper, CDN was lucky because it was not crippled or severely affected by the disaster, unlike its counterparts in Tacloban. “They had to resort to communicating through a billboard where they pinned their news stories,” she recalled. She added that two editor-friends from Tacloban asked to use CDN’s facilities to publish their newspapers. She told them to go ahead, believing that journalism is a shared responsibility.
Nevertheless, CDN staff also had to undergo trauma debriefing since many reporters really struggled to live through the disaster while reporting on it.
The Marshal McLuhan Fellowship, named after the Canadian communication guru renowned for coining the expressions “the medium is the message” and the “global village” was established in 1997 between the University of Toronto and the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines.
The award is given yearly to a recipient who embodies the outstanding qualities in the field of investigative journalism.