In Amaranth, we believe that stories can change lives. As student journalists, we consider the stories we write as the best service we can give to everyone at the moment. And we do this tirelessly with the hope that it will bring change for a better world.
Year by year, we are guided by that principle. But 2017 is notable for many things. And we’re happy to share what happened behind the stories you read.
Six months ago, I took the helm of Amaranth, succeeding Prince Darius Lina as Executive Editor. I am now working with a great team, building upon the accomplishments of those that came before us. And these are the things that happened from January to December 2017.
In February 2017, we brought home again the Campus Press of the Year Award in the Regional Tertiary School Press Conference (RTSPC).
Amaranth continued to win in most group competitions, bagging awards like: Best Advocacy video, Best Website, Best Tabloid, Best Social Networking Site, and of course, Best Magazine. Our War on Drugs art compendium placed second in Special Publication, and our first ever literary folio Mitot placed third.
Individual contest winners from Amaranth were: Ria Micate – 5th place News Writing (Filipino), Prince Darius Lina – Champion Opinion Writing (English); 3rd place Development Writing, Hariz Baliad- 5th place Opinion Writing (Filipino), Jamie De Veyra- Champion Investigative Writing (Filipino), Aljon Malot- 2nd place Sports Writing (Filipino), Joy Salve- 3rd place Science Reporting, Amphy Layola- 5th place Desktop Publishing and Jeanie Rose Deluza- Champion Photojournalism.
These are humbling titles. But as my predecessor said, there is more to campus journalism than just winning competitions. It should be the quality of service we provide to to the students as the major stakeholders that should be the true measure of excellence for a campus publication.
Rebrand: From student publication to student media organization
And we started with a plan.
This year, we developed what could be Amaranth’s very first strategic plan: A guide to what Amaranth will be, and how to get there. The vision was by 2020, we would be: “A model student media organization for the 21st century in the Visayas.”
And that vision is anchored on the mission that we: “Provide VSU students with excellent and uncompromising journalism that encourages conversations and inspires action for positive change.”
Our idea is that campus journalism should be like journalism in the real world. So we started to adopt practices that professional journalists do, like publishing stories as soon as they occur, and planning them out in advance in the form of a ‘content calendar’.
We also broadened our coverage beyond VSU’s walls. So we wrote about our communities, because Viscans are also there. As the eyes and ears of students, we did our best to speak out on behalf of every Viscan.
As we are now a student media organization, we did not limit our work to print publications. That’s why we continued our shift to online, where we knew our audience was. Most of our stories were online-first, and we worked on our website and social media pages to make that happen.
And it paid off.
Instant Articles and larger reach
Our analytics data tell us that more than 45,274 unique devices opened the Amaranth website from January 1 to December 30, 2017. The largest chunk came from smartphones: 37,166 (82%). The rest were desktop (6,584) and tablet (1,524) users.
Facebook’s Instant articles was a booster, giving VSU students better access to Amaranth’s stories online as it accommodated most who do not have proper access to the internet.
About two out of three smartphone visitors read our stories on Instant Articles, more than 23,000 visits all in all!
The cost of going online is so small compared to printing 5,000 magazines at P100. That’s half a million pesos.
The newsroom and equipment upgrades
The promised renovation of the Amaranth Newsroom was finally completed with the approval of the VSU Pres. Edgardo E. Tulin to rush it in time for the SCUAA 8. The place became the working headquarters for our fellow student journalists from all over Eastern Visayas during the games.
Thanks to your support to raise the publication fee from P50 to P100, we were able to buy new high end equipment for us to serve you better. This year, we bought two mobile workstations in the form of Macbooks, and one all-in-one multimedia-editing beast in the form of an iMac. We also bought a Panasonic Lumix GH5 camera, a mirrorless camera that could record great video aside from shooting great stills. We will make sure we put these equipment to good use, and you can expect better coverage from us in the future.
Collaboration with EV journalists through CampusJourn
Through the years, Amaranth have always been considered one of the best campus press in Eastern Visayas. We are humbled at that distinction, and with it is a responsibility to lead the way for our sister publications in the region.
In 2017, Amaranth pushed for an ambitious coverage of the 33rd Regional SCUAA games held at the Visayas State University (VSU) in December 9 to 14, 2017, with the rest of the student journalists from Eastern Visayas under the CampusJourn University platform.
The collaboration allowed for a larger team that made possible the daily score updates, newsletters, and VLOGs headed by Regional Tertiary School Press Conference (RTSPC) Journalist of the Year 2017, Clifford Colibao of EVSU’s The Industrial Wheel.
The response from you was remarkable. The page likes in CampusJourn soared with at least 1,000+ likes in just a week. Amaranth and CampusJourn’s Facebook reach about 100,000 for December 2017 alone, aside from Visayas State University’s reach of a whopping 1,100,000 users. These numbers are amazing, considering this was the first time do it.
There were hitches along the way. Few things, of course, didn't go as planned, but we are excited to build upon the lessons and insights we gained from such experience for future collaborations.
This coming 2018, we see better things to come, and we hope for nothing more but to tirelessly continue and improve on the great work we have done the previous years.