February 2, 2023

LET BAGUIO NEWSSTANDS REMAIN IN OUR SIDEWALKS

Your Baguio Midland Courier, along with the other community newspapers in Baguio City and the Cordillera, stands with our local newsstand owners who might eventually go out of business by the year’s end, due to the plan of the city government to impose a new requirement for their continued operation.
As part of its effort to clear the sidewalks, the city government is giving owners of newsstands in the central business district along with other supposed eyesores and structures that obstruct pedestrians’ mobility until the end of the year to operate in their current location. By January 2021, newsstands stalls will have to be inside establishments, occupying space like a regular lessee.
Removing these newsstands from the sidewalks will practically curtail the chance of newspaper vendors to earn, which is already a paltry sum that compels them to sell other items that can fit in the display stand and suit the current needs of locals, such as candies then, face masks now.
Requiring them to rent a commercial space in an establishment would not only mean added cost. It will most probably drive them to stop operating, instead, due to expensive rental rates in the CBD.
Newsstands, as a vital media partner being a bridge for news and the reading public, are not an obstruction at all. They are not an eyesore either, only that the newspapers they carry would typically banner bad news or expose matters of public concern.
For the longest time, newsstands have been permitted on the sidewalks, close to the walls of establishments, and there was not any complaint of them causing harm or inconvenience to pedestrians. As one city folk points out, “Most often, newsstand sellers not only provide information through the newspapers they sell, they also become information centers for tourists, even locals.”
These have been fixtures essential to many residents, who eat breakfast while poring over the newspaper and to churchgoers who grab a copy of hot-from-the-press issues first thing after the Sunday mass. It has been a sacred tradition to get their dose of news from newsstands in the sidewalks. Even market-goers would go to the newsstands or browse front pages displayed on frontages of groceries and stores.
When looking for a newspaper, we usually go to the sidewalks, not to a bookstore or enclosed spaces. Not long ago, Baguio folks also used to rely on newsboys roaming the streets and who could even bring copies right at one’s doorsteps. Their mobility unfortunately has been limited by the city, even before the restrictions forced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the newsstands have always been there – a culture spanning generations not only in the city, but even in the most rural of areas in the country and everywhere else in the world where news matter.
We do not only want to avoid making gone newsstands a reason for nostalgia. We fear more about ending an era where we have a dependable source of news and information via physical newsstands we can easily approach in the sidewalks. While social media and virtual newsstands practically made available everything within our fingertips, sidewalk newsstands will always be the norm for many readers and the surest way we can learn about latest events – including details about those who went ahead to the great beyond, who a typical Baguio folk would care about – without need for a cellphone and Wi-Fi signal.
We cannot therefore imagine continuing to move forward as a city also known for its vibrant civic discourse and community journalism, as well as local media outfits and print journalists who have distinguished Baguio for their brand of journalism, while removing newsstands on the streets and relegating them to the recesses of a business establishment.
It smacks of utter disregard of the public’s right to information and the way people want to get hold of their news.
We would then appreciate if the plan is reviewed and reconsidered. We believe our newsstand vendors, as law-abiding citizens, would welcome working with the city and serve as ushers of better looking and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. We are a creative city, after all.
The public expects newsstands to be where they are now, and it is our stand there they should be. Surely, Baguio will never the same if our newsstands disappear from its sidewalks.

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