stories have made a difference to the extent that any enduring media can: raise awareness, connect with a loyal audience, and help to shape whatever materializes in policy and public opinion.
Some might even say the HFC was born as a people’s movement of sort. Its mission: linked to the Filipino community’s needs. As it always had been from the beginning.
HFC co-publisher (her husband Dr. Charlie Sonido is the other co-publisher) and managing editor Chona Montesines-Sonido, explains: “The newspaper was created at a time when there was division in the Filipino community. How members in our community have chosen to separate themselves back in the late 80s, early 90s, was over where they stood on former President Ferdinand Marcos who had been in exile in Hawaii. You were either pro-Marcos or anti-Marcos.”
It’s arguable that the community had been fragmented even before Marcos came to the island; that it was never fully united before his arrival in part because the community was still in its early stages of developing.
In a way, a newspaper like the Chronicle came at the right time. It had to be created to help bring about unity and help to steer and report on the community through its maturation.
Montesines-Sonido said the newspaper’s very first issue had this intention of unity in mind. “It was an issue on the situation surrounding President Marcos’ exile. It was an issue to unify Filipinos. The editorial board at the time felt it was the most appropriate topic for our inaugural issue.”
She reflects on the first issue, “It was the hardest one to produce. I remember my associate editors then, and myself worked into the wee hours of the morning before submitting our first issue. Until 5 a.m.
“We were working with our publishing consultants from MW Consultants. They did our marketing analysis for advertising, did our marketing brochures and our logo. They helped us layout our first issue. I am ever grateful to this day to MW Consultants and our staff who’ve helped put together our inaugural issue.”
Since then, especially in the beginning, she says there had been many sleepless nights to produce the newspaper.
Dr. Sonido points out that besides bringing about a more unified local Filipino community, HFC was created for other reasons – for immigrants to learn about their new country and for non-Filipinos to also learn about Filipino culture.
He said: “Thirty years ago as recent immigrants, we looked up to established Filipino institutions to help us learn about the local and mainland Filipino American experiences. One of those was the ethnic Filipino print media that already existed which provided a very good source of not only the most current news but also acted as an excellent vehicle to highlight the achievements and challenges of Filipinos, local and immigrants that were not fully covered by the local media.
“We wanted a reputable local Filipino newspaper where immigrant Filipinos learn not only about what is happening in the Philippines but also about Filipinos in Hawaii or on the mainland. At the same time, we wanted non-Filipinos and local- born Filipinos to have a better understanding of the Filipino culture and experience.”
What goes into production?
A tour de force in driving HFC, Montesines-Sonido said there are three major phases in producing a newspaper: editorial planning, production, and marketing.
“We work on all three, all year-round. First editorial content is developed. That is planned two months before the new year starts. But time-sensitive and hot issues of the time will often take precedence and change some of our original editorial plans. Editorial planning is fluid and changes throughout the year.”
The Chronicle’s editorial board considers content in the following weight. “First, because we are an ethnic newspaper, we determine content based on its relevance and importance to the Filipino community and our readers,” said Montesines-Sonido.
“It could be pressing issues also covered by the mainstream media. What’s unique is we also mix into planning topics not covered by other media, for example, stories related to our Filipino heritage, culture and tradition, that we would like our young generation to know about.
“Topics that empower us as a community such as politics, voting, immigration, education, are also given priority.
“We also like to showcase role models and Filipinos who make a difference in our community and state, people whom we could all be proud of.”
In the next phase, production, she says articles are then assigned and the angle we want conveyed to writers. “Before assigning articles, I make sure to be well aware of the topic and do my own research, so I can explain the angle we’d want to pursue. After the articles are submitted to us, the story is reviewed by my editors who sometimes add to it or rewrite content.
“On the other side of production, I work with my graphic artist on creative presentation, layout of articles and the cover page. This often takes juggling and moving things around like a puzzle. The pieces must fit together nicely with the entire issue in mind. As urgent news come in, we make sure to make room for them.
“We are constantly editing until the very end when we submit the paper for printing.”
Finally as marketing goes, it goes hand-in-hand with budgeting and every other phase in producing the newspaper.
“Sometimes we produce supplements that accompany thematic issues which help to generate additional revenue. For example, we do an annual health supplement.”
In the beginning months of the newspaper, it was important that the public knew we existed, said Montesines-Sonido.
As part of the initial marketing, the newspaper was mailed to thousands of homes in the state. Outlets were set up at restaurants, book stores, physicians’ offices, and all kinds of businesses where people could get a free copy of the newspaper.
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