Issue of January 25, 2015
     
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Rating CAR’s best secondary papers

In a few weeks from now, the best secondary school paper in the region will face up with the best regional bets from all over the country.

As one of the judges in the news category, I had occasion last week to go over more than 30 school publications in both the secondary and elementary levels.

The major criteria revolved around the technical aspect and content in both categories.

The secondary category, in my opinion, has several entries that had more work and effort put into them than the others. It was on this basis that I chose the top 10 then rated them based on the technical and content criteria.

My top bet was a secondary publication from Ifugao whose lay-out was neatly done, the sections well-organized, and the titles easy to understand. It had also more news or variety.

Also in the top 10 were several from the city that had some feature and opinion writers that deserved more than a second look.

One publication from Southern Benguet had variety and looked impressive at first glance. Alas, the impression it gave was that of a corporate mouthpiece that was heavy on news concerning a mining company rather than on the school as a community.

It was the right decision to disqualify it.

Some of the publications featured news and features on the environment, revealing an awareness of what is happening outside of the schools.

Over-all the top 20 secondary newspapers had their share of talents and competent advisers. Over-all, their strengths lie in the opinion and features pages where some talents stood out in developing their pieces and who can go places under expert guidance and given the chances to excel.

Other than cluttered lay-out, it is in the evaluation and writing of news that I believed much work needs to be done if they are to contend on a national level. This is because while there is general understanding on what is news, the craftsmanship leaves much to be desired in terms of writing and packaging (to include what should come first as well as the need for clear and appropriate titles and headlines).

Majority, it appeared, are also saddled by limited usage of verbs especially in crafting headlines and titles. In both titles and contents, for instance, I have yet to read the use of the word “bear” in verb form (to bear out, to bear with, to bear down, etc.)

The word “grab” (as in winning a regional competition or a title) to my mind was over-used and looked inappropriate at times. But the fault is not solely theirs. Believe it or not, the problem extends to the community and national publications where staffs struggle continually with the appropriate combination of nouns and verbs.

This can be remedied by requiring all staff members to alternate in writing all kinds of printable news, from sports to all that is of interest to a community and that is capable of being understood by that community or in the case of the publication, in the school itself. I’d like to say this will do wonders to any reporter who wants to excel at his or her job.

But a sure-fire remedy and one that gets to be very handy is to indulge into the newsroom exercise of picking up a verb and enumerating its alternates or synonyms by mouth or on the board (or on a notebook) on a day-to-day basis, individually or as group.

The verb “to initiate” for instance can be replaced, depending on the need or whichever was appropriate, with to trigger, to engineer (a break-away as in sports or a coup), to uncork (a combination, a winning move, a novelty), to spark, to open the ball, to ignite, to kick off, to instigate, etc.

One of the reasons why the printed word continues to hold its own even with the advent of electronic media is the magic that verbs do to writing. If pawns are the soul of chess, verbs are what provide life to all forms of journalistic work. They are the gems in the trough or the nuggets in the pan that provide sparkle to a finished product and the barometer as well in unmasking good from bad work.



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