Making Community News Worth The Read

Regional newspaper editor Leia Castro finds fulfillment in keeping her own community updated on local news.
PHOTO: MARTIN VALERIANO (ACCESSORIES) COURTESY OF JOY (MAKEUP) MARI-ANN SANTOS

Editor's Note: This was originally published in the July 2006 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Being the youngest member of the editorial staff poses a challenge, not a disadvantage, to journalist Leia Castro. A young blood who hopes to contribute a fresh perspective with her ideas, she aspires to make a community paper more relevant and appealing to younger readers and new residents of Baguio.

The First Draft

Twenty-three-year-old Leia started writing at an early age. Encouraged by her father to read and then to write, she eventually became news editor of their school paper in fourth grade. She wanted to be published the moment she saw her byline. At that time, Leia had her doubts. "I didn't think that being a journalist could be a full-time job."

Springing from her desire to work on the field, she took up Developmental Communications at UP Los Banos. After graduation, she took a teaching post at UP Baguio. "I felt that I had something important to say, and wanted people to listen," she says. The following year, she joined the staff of the Baguio Midland Courier as a News Editor.

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All In Paper

It's no joke editing a 40-plus-page paper. Every week, Leia is faced with heaps of press releases from police and government agencies, as well as articles having "their own rules in writing."

Leia also has to bear with long working hours, often working overnight from Friday to Saturday. The long nights are made bearable by a good working relationship. "The staff works as a family, so it's a good environment," she reveals.

To Leia, the best part of the job is getting to live and work in Baguio. "It's the component that keeps me in touch with my grassroots." The Baguio Midland Courier has become an institution. Being a community paper, it brings the Ilocos and Cordillera communities together by discussing news and issues relevant to them.

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The Big News

Apart from her services in the Courier, Leia is a member of the Youth Alliance Philippines North Luzon. It's a volunteer organization where students and young professionals conduct workshops on journalism and voter education for the youth. They started working with young people in Baguio and nearby provinces.

"I personally believe that young people, when given the right opportunities and the right training, can become better adults and better persons in the future."

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Community Journalism for Beginners

Practice makes perfect. Nothing beats writing and re-writing. Hone your talent and find your own style by keeping a journal.

Be updated. Know the new uses of the English language.

Be patient. In the course of your work, you have to be able to deal with a variety of people from different walks of life.

Stay awake! Putting a paper to bed requires sleepless nights of steady, focused work. 

Maintain a sense of humor. At all times.

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