By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran
Special Features Assistant Editor
FOR MOST, it has not been a good year. The first half of 2020 has been marred by tragedies and calamities of all types, from uncontrollable wildfires in Australia; locust infestations causing immeasurable devastation in Africa, South Asia, and South America; to the global crisis that is the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Naturally, the world economy is reeling. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its June World Economic Outlook put this year’s global growth at -4.9%, calling the COVID-19 pandemic “a crisis like no other”. In its latest Global Economic Prospects Report, the World Bank said in June that the global economy will shrink by 5.2% in 2020, representing “the deepest recession since World War Two.” For the Philippines, the IMF said it projects a 3.6% contraction in the country ’s gross domestic product (GDP) this year, slashing its previous baseline 6.3% growth forecast given last year and the 0.6% growth outlook given in April.
More than ever, the Filipino business community needs reliable and accurate journalism to keep them updated on the latest news and issues so that they can better maneuver themselves in a changing world.
On its 33rd anniversary, BusinessWorld, the country’s oldest and most respected business newspaper, is positioning itself to fulfill that need.
“We are tapping all appropriate platforms available for us to deliver content and have torn down internal barriers to our ability to promptly take on opportunities and challenges, while being anchored on principles that have served us well through the past three decades,” Wilfredo G. Reyes, BusinessWorld editor-in chief, said in an interview.
“News, analyses and features — on print and online — have remained our castle for now, but we have small teams that continuously foray outside castle walls to test related services, especially for younger generations using digital technologies,” he added.
Miguel G. Belmonte, BusinessWorld and PhilSTAR Media Group president and chief executive officer, said in a separate interview that the company made certain key adjustments to its business model to secure its development in a continually-evolving environment while still maintaining the integrity and credibility of its reportage.
“Thirty-three years is a long time and BusinessWorld is very proud to still be around because there are many other papers that have not survived that long,” he said.
A BASTION FOR THE FILIPINO
“I have seen this company go through trials of almost every size and shape – every business has its challenges – so we no longer get rattled by anything,” Mr. Reyes said.
T he editor-in- chief shared that through the past decades, it has become clear to him that BusinessWorld’s ability to surmount obstacles — whatever they may be — is rooted in individual employees’ attitude.
“In the Editorial department, for example, I have seen some of the best content produced when the number of reporters at one time in the past dropped to just a fifth of their full complement. I suppose many others would have just given up in such a situation. But what spelled the difference was those people had a ‘whatever it takes’ mind-set that made them very competitive. With that mind-set, you can achieve anything,” he said.
Even a s COVID-1 9 has greatly challenged the newspaper industry, BusinessWorld has continued to offer valuable information and insights for the Filipino business community through newly established digital fora and platforms including the successful BusinessWorld Insights online forum series and the PhilSTAR Media Group’s COVID-19 Watch microsite launched during the community quarantine.
“Our pivot has been a continuous process and we are moving to a direction that will deepen our role in the business community through new business initiatives over the coming year,” Lucien C. D y Tioco, BusinessWorld and PhilSTAR Media Group executive vice-president, said in another interview.
Mr. Dy Tioco noted that when the PhilSTAR Media Group started managing BusinessWorld in 2015, it applied the same strategy that aimed to shift the publication to newer platforms where the audience is. Digital initiatives, such as online fora, podcasts, and other microsites, he said, have strengthened the newspaper’s relevance to the business community and have served to offer informative and insightful content that the audience can rely on and learn from.
For Mr. Belmonte, in his almost 35 years in the business, this is the most difficult time for the newspaper industry, noting the challenges that came with the need to push for more digital transformation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re still learning. There are things we are doing in order to cope with the situation. But because this is a totally new experience for us, there is no sure answer right now. There’s a lot of trial and error. But all the same, I have no doubt that BusinessWorld will overcome this. As long as everybody in the company do their part and we are open to try new things, we will overcome,” he said.