THE PRESS – our printed page, that is – stopped the day the enhanced community quarantine was imposed upon the land, okay, Luzon island, March 17, 2020.
While news has never stopped, even accelerating in this health crisis with new twists and varied turns, the printing presses did, heavily impacted as they too are by the lockdown.
Newspapers, hence, were — still are – as much a victim of the coronavirus disease as the mortalities the pandemic claimed, and is still claiming.
The paralysis the ECQ inflicted upon commerce and industry, and the usual running of government, the courts included, was even more catastrophic to the print media, heavily reliant as they are on advertising. And most adversely for the local newspapers, with their dependence on the court notices and local ordinances, what with the crumbs of commercial advertising they’re getting from the pie that is almost always served the national publications.
Still, as it has long been noted, advertising is always among those first to go in any economic downturn, it being largely considered as “discretionary expense.”
With its principal source of revenue, hence, funding too, dried up, even as fixed expenditures like rent and utilities, and staff salaries have to be paid, Punto! faced the distinct possibility, aye, the dire inevitability, of putting its printed page to final rest. Of writing its final 30, as journalistic morbidity is euphemized.
Unlike publications – such as Sun-Star Pampanga – that are part of a multi-conglomerates – in this instance, the Brobdingnagian Laus Group of Companies – and therefore could always count on some financial propping, in advertisement ex-deals or even direct fund infusion, Punto! is basically an independent enterprise, and therefore most vulnerable to the economic adversities brought about by the pandemic.
So, we had to sacrifice our print edition, coming out last with Volume 13 – oh, that number! – No. 42, March 16-31, 2020.
And, in turn, revitalize our online edition. That which used to be no more than a static carbon copy of the print edition immediately became the principal, and only, incarnation of Punto! Central Luzon.
With even greater sacrifice: all the salaries/allowances/ fees from the general manager, the office staff , the editor, columnists, correspondents, down to the last contributor were slashed by a whopping 50 percent. It was hard, it was painful, but it was the only way we could keep Punto! afloat. If only to buy some more time, before the inevitable comes.
It is to the credit of our correspondents – the human infrastructure without which Punto! could not stand, much less excel; to their total commitment to the journalism profession fostering that unwavering sense of sacrifice that we have survived the economic displacement wrought about by community quarantines, from the E, to ME, to G.
Thankfully, a window of opportunity opened along with the GCQ opening up more “essential” industries for resumption of operations.
The malls are open once more. Flights are back again. The courts are in session anew, albeit by zoom. Even the hotels and restaurants are priming for the new normal.
So are the printing presses running again. So is Punto! back in print, if only weekly. But our online edition shall go on not just daily, but as the news comes, whenever and however it comes.
No, we are not out of the financial doldrums yet. We are still far from fiscal stability. But by the grace of God, and with your help, we most certainly will be there.
Yes, we are in supplication for your support, of the moral, as much if not more so of the advertising kind.