To last more than two decades in the newspaper business is like a badge of honor nowadays. After all, how many times have we heard so-called experts predicting the inevitable demise of the publishing industry in this digital age? And how many newspapers, magazines, and other publications have folded in the last decade or so?
At 27, Manila Standard Today is no doubt a survivor, one of the remaining few left standing. In a previous interview with MST, pioneer and former editor-in-chief Rodolfo Reyes credited the people working behind the paper for its enduring legacy. He said, “To survive in a highly competitive atmosphere after 20 years is quite an achievement. It is a testimony to the media adventurism and boldness of her financial backers and the tenacity and fighting spirit of her workers especially the editorial staff.”
Born during Philippine print media’s heyday, right after the People Power, MST's august halls have welcomed and honed reputable journalists (some of whom already left to pursue other interests so to speak), laid witness to the shifting of technologies (think from the humble typewriter to the personal computer and the ubiquitous smartphone), adapted to the changes in leadership through the years, and embraced the Internet phenomenon by putting up its own website.
President and chief executive officer Rogelio Salazar admits that it has been a long fight for survival amid tough competition and continued technological advancement. But MST carries on.
“We remain competitive and resilient despite the odds,” says Salazar.
To stay in the race, MST has gone through a lot of changes in terms of look and content since 1987. Those who grew up with the paper will remember it transforming from a regular broadsheet to tallboy size and back to the old size. The layout is kept simple and readable.
From a general circulation paper, it has evolved into a publication intended primarily for the A, B, and C+ readers covering mostly professionals, government and corporate executives.
Content-wise, the stories have been kept concise, straight to the point and relevant.
“We keep our news articles as brief and direct to the point as possible. The idea being if you are targeting people at that level, you have to be able to bring out everything that you wanted to say [in a newspaper] within a relatively short time,” says Salazar.
MST has since beefed up its sections that now include property, world and most importantly, provincial sections. Additional pages have been added to the business, lifestyle and entertainment sections.
Salazar says they are continuing to develop if not maintain its Op-Ed section, considered THE centerpiece of the paper.
“Our target readers are people who take a stand on positions and all that matters. So we take pride in our opinion page, especially our good core of columnists,” says Salazar.
Current publisher and editor-in-chief Rolando Estabillo adds, “We call a spade a spade. I think our readers love that. We are not ambivalent on certain matters.”
The MST website is another one of the company’s most important achievements. Since 2000, it has been generating a lot of traffic from online readers worldwide.
“Many see the Internet as a threat. We don’t see that. Through the website, we are able to reach far flung areas where we are not seen physically. That gives us a lot of boost in our readership,” beams Estabillo.
The print and online versions complement each other says, managing editor Ramon Tomeldan, himself a pioneer of the paper.
“When you visit the website, it’s overwhelming and heartwarming to see our readers’ reactions and opinions,” says Tomeldan.
According to Salazar, the number of page views went from half a million a month to two and a half million today. They plan to make the website more interactive as well as include more contents to it.
Estabillo says that people read MST because of its independence.
“We give people another view of what you read from other papers,” shares Estabillo. “We try to give them more balanced news, more variety. I think we are able to find a niche in that kind of vacuum.”
Estabillo furthers that they take care to protect the face and soul of the paper.
“The two most important parts of the newspaper are its face, which is page 1, and soul, which is the editorial. That cannot be violated. Otherwise, we have no paper. And you can never fool your readers. They know when you are party to a particular [side],” explains the EIC.
He finishes, “If you’re asking where we’re headed in the coming years? Only God knows. But then again, if we have our own way of doing things we’d like to be no. 1. We just want to come up with a good paper.”