Learn a thing or two from us on our 24th anniversary
This paper was meant as a way of giving back. It was started by yours truly and Atty. Odemar Cabalda. Dorothy Pucay who was here sent by the US government as a consultant to the DECS on English as a second language was just tagging along, but much later, she became the life of the paper somewhere in the middle of its existence.
We thought it was a way of giving back as me and Atty. Cabalda were sort of doing OK with our law office in Makati City. We were getting by, one could say. We were giving our all for our clients and so we were busy enough. Then we decided to put up this paper which changed everything in our lives.
Even a community paper requires everything from the founders. Time, economic resources, everything. And so almost nothing was left for lawyering. But we had to if only to survive.
This paper was conceptualized a few days before Christmas day of 1995 over cups of coffee at the lobby of the Millenium Plaza Hotel along Makati Avenue. There was no budget (zilch), no feasibility study. We thought we could just muddle through, by raising whatever would be the financial requirements by lawyering as we go along.
Then we found out how wrong we were in our presumptions. First, was the financial requirements were humongous. As one veteran media person in Baguio put it a few years after, this is a game for multi-millionaires. Certainly, that we were not.
Second was the amount of work involved. We were putting all our effort or energy into the paper as we were so short-handed due to lack of capital to hire the required number of people to run things. We were killing ourselves practically.
Then the biggest mistake which so many people up to now would not know anything about. The required gestation period of a community paper in this environment. We presumed that like any other business, a community paper would take just about five years to reach profitability. We were so off the mark.
This paper was almost a decade old when I learned from an unimpeachable source that the Baguio Midland Courier only started making money after 30 years. And they did not even have a credible competition then. So there, the required gestation period.
And one could say that a community paper is no business. The Salvosas of the University of the Cordilleras’ fame found this out after 22 years of their The Gold Ore’s existence.
Indeed, as we also found out. A local paper is more of a charity than a business.
Not knowing of all these things was a blessing in disguise for otherwise this paper would not have seen the light of day.
Learning of the 30 year required gestation period did not however dissuade me because I was already in the middle of the lake. Swimming backwards or forward would mean the same distance. So I went on. I was already alone then at that critical period because Atty. Odemar Cabalda got tired of the charity work and went to the US where he took the New York State bar and so he is now lawyering at the State of Maryland, per my last info.
The same thing with Dorothy Pucay. She also woke up to reality and went back to the US.
Could not blame them as it appeared that there was no end of the tunnel, much less a light. Yet I still had that “beg, borrow or steal” determination to see this paper through.
But even with that steely determination I would have been run to the ground had not technology intervened.
What am I talking about? One was the coming of the internet. It lessened our costs substantially. All the things we publish now are sent through the internet. No more encoders who often add to the mistakes, and whom you have to pay and feed during press nights.
Another is the production process. With technology, the production of the hard copies has now become shorter and cheaper.
Computers are also very reliable now. Not like before when painstakingly worked on files would disappear when copied to a disc to be transferred to another unit, so you start all over again. Computers also would get disoriented when moved even from one table to another thus had to be reformatted. Sometimes all their contents would disappear.
Lastly, the lay-outing softwares or programs have vastly improved. Now one person can easily layout the whole paper in a matter of hours. It used to take about three people more than a day.
Thus we are a little bit better in the sense that we can go on with a very lean organization.
Other MSMEs can learn some things from us. First, if you are an underdog in the business you have to have a steely determination. Also, when you don’t have enough capital.
Second, you have to innovate. We had been doing that every step of the way. In the marketing side, for instance, you would see copies of this paper in stores, restaurants, even in car-wash areas all over the Cordillera. Later, we had to scale down because it would have been financial suicide.
Thirdly, you have to take advantage of advances in technology. It will not do to be using highly inefficient Jurassic processes when we are already in the digital age.
Lastly, you have to remember that there are constants you can not run away from. You still have to work hard, adapt to the times and prepare for the future. In short, the basics are still the same. **APP