By Prof. Rolando O. Borrinaga
(Message delivered at the program commemorating the 6th Anniversary of www.biliranisland.com, Talahid Beach Resort, Almeria, Biliran Province, 24 April 2011.)
It is my great pleasure to greet you and to speak to you today, on the occasion of the 6th anniversary of the founding of www.biliranisland.com, which now is definitely the most popular Internet website among Biliranons based in different parts of the world.
Hatagan nato ug sipâ kaayong pakpak ang www.biliranisland.com!
I suppose we are gathered here today on this fair Easter Sunday because we wish to feel good that we have marked another year of active involvement in community journalism in this province that we call home. And that we deserve a party and a get-together affair like this.
Apart from the annual Christmas giving activity, I guess the anniversary celebration is the only other activity where many of us actually get together physically as a group. At other times of the year, each of us operate almost independently of each other, and our common window for contact is the computer monitor, and our common bond is the Internet. We may be physically far from each other most of the time, yet we also feel close to each other because of www.biliranisland.com, the cyberspace corner where we hang around a lot, almost on a daily basis.
Video by Zarahemla
When Marlon Mecaral, our website’s founder, invited me to speak before this gathering today, my first instinct was to refuse. I was supposed to be just a shadow presence in the operation of the website, doing something here and there in perfect anonymity. But since the rumor is already out, I might as well confirm that there is some truth in it.
In fairness to Marlon, he calls the shots and makes the basic decisions for the website. My role is mostly advisory, although I am asked to occasionally edit some items to be posted and to write occasional un-bylined pieces that define the position of the website on certain issues.
My basic effort as volunteer adviser is to help keep the website right in the middle of contending forces and influences that demand media attention in our province. We may have leaned to one side or the other at certain times, but there was always this basic determination to stick to a middle course. Of course, being in the middle does not mean we just have to stand there; we also had to jump at the right time to avoid being crushed by the clash of conflicting forces and influences. But in many instances, we just had to protect ourselves from the heat of discontent coming from all sides. After all, we cannot please everybody at the same time.
We are mostly volunteers in this website, and we cannot really demand a lot from those who are involved. But we insist on sticking to the basic tenets of journalism – of being factual, of being objective, and most importantly, of being accurate. I wish I could add “being fair” and “being balanced” in the list, but I simply cannot do this because we have already been accused of being unfair and lacking balance in many of our published items in the website. Like beauty, fairness and balance are in the eye of the beholder. Our items may look fair and balanced enough to most of our readers, but they almost always fall short of the expectations particularly of one influential sector that demands virtually free coverage from us, on the one hand, but splurge money and resources for slanted and self-serving media coverage by outsiders, on the other hand. Of course, many Biliranons hardly care about these expensive items about our province that border on legend and fairy tales.
We operate under severe constraints and limitations. But we try to make do with whatever we have. For example, we have introduced some novelty in news writing that has been inspired by the so-called “group poetry” writing exercise in literature, where each writer adds a line premised on the previously written line or lines to complete an entire poem out of the contributions of many authors. In our case, over the past two years, we have developed a style of writing and presenting news that starts with a catchy headline and a few facts, which becomes fuller as other details are blogged in by other eyewitnesses and observers, using their aliases. Of course, what we get is not always a neat and clean item, but they still supply the 5 W’s and 1 H requirements of news writing, which our discriminating readers can actually pick out themselves, often from a large pile of adversarial opinions. We have a sufficient number of loud critics of this style; but one thing is certain, they cannot argue with our success at “group news writing.”
Www.biliranisland.com has truly gone a long way after six years. And much of the praise must go to Marlon for his determination to keep this website up above our necks even during the most trying times. I know the physical, emotional and economic costs of this endeavor, apart from the occasional threats of libel, having pioneered websites for Biliran Province and Hometown Naval many years ago. I would like also to recognize the in-house and affiliated reporters and photographers, who provide updates of developments in and around the province for our news and current events section. Credit must also go to the numerous but anonymous bloggers and contributors, who make the website a real urban jungle of people loudly interacting with each other from different parts of the world. Special recognition must also go to the donors of funds and services for the maintenance and upkeep of this website, and for this fellowship.
Now we may continue our party. Thank you and good afternoon.