Staffer inactivity, bureaucracy challenge UP pubs’ operations

Waning staffer participation has become increasingly common among student-led newsrooms across the University of the Philippines (UP) System, setting up another barrier to covering issues efficiently.

Based on reports to the 2024 UP Systemwide Alliance of Student Publications and Writer’s Organizations (UP Solidaridad) Congress held at UP Visayas, Miagao campus on Feb. 5, various campus publications discussed their struggles with getting their current members to cover events and write stories.

From long-established newsrooms of UP Los Baños’ (UPLB) Perspective to the newly opened publication of UP Open University’s (UPOU) The Cursor, editorial heads reported about running thin on staffers who go out for on-ground coverages.

On top of this, other publications are also hounded by staffers who have yet to attend recommended educational discussions and journalism skills training.

To resolve these issues, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) national spokesperson Brell Lacerna suggested building better relations within the newsroom, starting with the editorial board.

“Dapat we converse on a daily basis. We are storytellers, we talk a lot every day and it’s important na naa-attribute siya sa meeting ng pubs,” Lacerna explained.

The Manila Collegian news editor Jermaine Abcede, meanwhile, highlighted the editorial board’s “shared responsibility” in ensuring that staffers understand the vision and direction of the publication.

“Responsibilidad natin na magabayan ‘yung mga writers, madala sila sa tamang linya… [at] nakaangkla sa kampanya o journalism na dinadala ng publication,” he explained.

He adds that there should be a better transition between outgoing and succeeding editorial boards to prevent disarray that might discourage staffers from continuing publication work.

On top of bureaucracy

The strain on human resources comes amid continuing problems with tedious and snail-paced bureaucratic processes that prevent campus publications from getting their funding— or even having any funding at all.

Even the Philippine Collegian, which had the largest budget allocation among UP Solidaridad member publications, already faced difficulties accessing their P4.2 million budget, which was exacerbated by unfamiliarity with the Diliman unit’s Budget Utilization and Liquidation System Analytics (BULSA).

Unlike paper-based forms, BULSA is a newly developed homegrown information system where budget and reimbursement requests are processed online. 

Similarly, the paperwork for accessing funds also prompted UP Vista’s editor-in-chief to spend on the printing of their newsletters. The UP Tacloban College-based publication has also yet to receive the camera they procured and promised by its local administration.

“From October 2023, the admin promised us that it will only take us two to three weeks. Pero February na hindi pa rin namin natatanggap ‘yung camera namin,” the publication reported.

While it has allocations listed on the registration system’s payment module, UP Diliman College of Social Sciences and Philosophy’s Sinag said they have not been able to access the fund.

Other publications have worse fates as they have not been recognized by their local officials. Three publications— Lanog of UP Cebu, Tanglaw of UPLB, and Tinig ng Plaridel (TNP) of UP Diliman— have yet to be recognized in their respective colleges.

The lack of official recognition bars student publications from receiving a regular budget from the UP System.

Despite the setbacks, Lacerna stressed the importance of celebrating the wins of the publications to inspire other publications that goals such as getting official recognition are achievable.

“These are student campaigns, we should make articles that celebrate our struggles and achievements in life,” he said.

Such is the case for Tanglaw, which is nearing the completion of its recognition process at the UP College of Development Communication.

TNP, on the other hand, is on track to hold a referendum among mass communication students to be recognized as the official student publication of the college.

Student publications have also won awards for their reportage. UP Baguio’s Outcrop bagged several awards at the Mountain Collegian Intercollegiate Invitational Press Conference Cup 2023, while TNP managed to win Best Feature Story at the recently concluded 9th UST National Campus Journalism Awards.

RELATED: Breaking barriers: ‘High’ demand for Anthro 198 reveals need for FSL course

New campus publications were also established in the UP OU and UP Cebu’s College of Communication, Art and Design. These are The Cursor and Lanog, respectively.