NOTEBOOK: Some hot stories we covered since 1989; The Reporter turns sweet 16

IT’S BEEN A LONG JOURNEY since March 1989 when The Philippine Reporter started publishing as a twice- monthly community newspaper.

At that time there were only four papers serving the Filipino community in Toronto, the Reporter being the fourth. Now, 16 years later, there are a dozen of them, giving the impression to readers that this business of community publishing is a lucrative one. If they only knew.

Through those 16 years, The Reporter grew in circulation and readership and its influence in the community broadened. Its prestige and credibility also grew significantly when it started to cover controversial issues and events that traditionally were shunned by other papers.

Its baptism of fire was the issue of the accounting of funds of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Filipino Community Centre in the early 90s. Some members of its board of directors submitted an open letter to us questioning what they called the lack or non-accounting of funds. We promptly asked the then president for his reply to the information but he ignored our request for an interview. The editors decided to publish the open letter of the board members.

We found out later that a leader of the group being questioned conducted a campaign for our advertisers to withdraw their ads, ala-Erap vs Inquirer before EDSA 2.
Our “confirmation” of fire, so to speak, was the Scarborough Town Centre banning of Filipino kids from the giant mall in Scarborough. We gave it full publicity, especially the community mass campaign provoked  by the racist management policy.

The management, we were told, wanted to file libel charges against The Reporter but when it learned that the paper had a shoestring budget, it didn’t bother. An insider later told us the management lost a big prospective leasee because of the mass actions outside the mall held by Filipinos.

Another controversy was the prohibition of political flyers at the celebration of the Philippines’s 100th National Day at the SkyDome in 1998. The Reporter criticized this ironic curtailment of the freedom of expression in the midst of a grand celebration of freedom day.

We even had a cartoon with  the organizer Kalayaan organization leader doing a Bonifacio (Balintawak) cry: “Bawal ang flyers dito!”

The board of directors of that Mississauga group later faxed a letter or position paper to us supporting the prohibition at the SkyDome. It’s interesting how they could justify that in this time and age. We were told  later that the letter was debated with much acrimony and frayed nerves.
We later received first hand information that the leader involved also campaigned for an ad boycott against The Reporter.

We were too happy to learn thatboth  ad boycott campaigns didn’t take off because our advertisers stood by us.

The next big issue our paper reported was the case of a Philippine consul in Toronto who was charged in court with physical abuse of her live-in caregiver. The paper ran a story to break the news and another when the consul’s case was dismissed. We even had a photo or two during the court hearing and a photo of the complainant domestic worker.

Maybe we shocked the more conservative elements and groups in the community. We’re the only paper that covered the story. The consul general, a personal friend of mine, took issue with me and said our paper was becoming “tabloid” because of some personal information revealed in the story. But, we argued, that info was part of a testimony made in court and it was relevant to the story. Otherwise, nobody disputed the objectivity and fairness of the story.

Another “fight” we had with the Consulate was when it confiscated, or   “borrowed” or “took possession” of the passports of visiting Filipino students attending the World Youth Day when Pope John Paul II visited Toronto. The students were reportedly intending to stay in Toronto or leave for the U.S. The story was written by our  reporter who attended the meeting between the youths and the Consulate officials so that it was an eyewitness account.

Other hot stories were about a pageant that made the participants’ parents spend a lot of money and about entertainment event organizers who were not upfront with their customers about their no-show performers. We were threatened with libel again here. And of course, the fatal shooting of Jeffrey Reodica and the forming of the Community Alliance for Social Justice, which are too recent to review in detail.

What to expect in future issues?  More of the exciting