The Times ‘knights’ at the round table


Striving to exceed the future volume of dialogues

Beyond reporting the news and presenting top-notch views on current issues through the pages of its broadsheet, The Manila Times has plumbed sources of information deeper by going straight to the newsmakers and making them stars of the round table interviews through the years.

Like the knights of the Arthurian legend, the Times’ reporters and editors gather round the conference table in the privacy of the editorial office about 13 times a year to get the quotes straight from the source.

Diplomats, Cabinet members, business owners, presidents, CEOs and academic experts, honor the Times with a visit to the newsroom, fielding questions on anything within their vast areas of expertise.

Streamed live on social media, the Times’ interactive discussions with thought leaders from different parts of the world have, indeed, gone far beyond the confines of the medieval round table around which the best minds discoursed the issues of the day in the magical kingdom of Camelot.

In the here and now, or from May 2013 to September 2017, the Times had conducted a total of 63 exclusive interviews with a stellar panel of experts from various disciplines at its headquarters in Manila’s walled district of Intramuros.

Politics, govt, the economy
The Manila Times round tables have delved into politics, economics, business and governance, exploring various areas of interest from diplomatic programs and democratic processes, to dialogues on the controversial affairs of the state and society.

This year, an envoy coming from Germany proceeded to the Times office with his suitcase in tow, but well prepared to discuss his views on the nation’s political landscape. For Gordon Kricke, a federalist framework is right for the Philippines as this deploys a strategic system of government and fosters political participation and democracy. He expressed Germany’s support for the Philippines if it decides to embark on a quest for federalism.

The Times has also welcomed leaders of political and scholarly edge, putting in their contributions to a diverse range of political voices that cultivated a deeper understanding of events across the country and beyond.

Last March, Russian Ambassador to Manila Igor Khovaev was all smiles as he visited the paper, addressing Philippine-Russian relations. He delved into Russia’s ready support in science and technology, noting advances in nuclear power—a plan particularly favored by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Lion City of Asia, meanwhile, also shared the same bearing with Germany and Russia. Optimistic of the country’s flourishing economy, Singaporean Ambassador Kok Li Peng shed light on the Duterte administration. She said the Philippines, under Duterte’s rule, was on its way toward prosperity.

As it nurtures the culture of diversity, the Times grew its round table roots by watering the grounds of environmental issues. Illustrating the ecosystems in vibrant colors, Regina Lopez, the then-designated Environment secretary, stressed what she described as the biggest fault in the mining industry: It did not end poverty. “Let them breathe,” she said, referring to the communities “suffocated” by mining operations.

In 2013 and 2017, in the meantime, agriculture leaders planted the seeds of their presence at the Times, delivering round tables on rice. “Rice ready for climate change is being developed,” said Bruce Tolentino, deputy director-general of the IRRI, or International Rice Research Institute. His talk last month not only cultivated an interest in the technological advancements on rice, it also made familiar a similar dialogue four years ago: a round table on rice self-sufficiency, led by then-Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

The Times has, indeed, been reaping what it sowed in 2013: it has since moved forward, nourished its discourse on the agricultural field, and harvested its fruits in later years for future endeavors.

Around the world
Venturing into diplomatic disciplines, one of the prized privileges of the Times round table is having a roster of guests comprising envoys from around the world. Colors of flags represented by diplomats remain rich and vibrant in round table history—a total of 35 international speakers since 2013.

Leaders hailing from Western, Asian and Middle Eastern countries have all booked a slot in the Times conference room, with some visiting more than once. The former US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, for instance, had visited the Times twice in two years. In 2014, Goldberg said good governance and reform must be pursued by the Philippines. After two years, he again came to address civic and foreign affairs.

Also forging ties with the country’s oldest English-language newspaper was Ali Asghar Mohammadi, Iran’s ambassador to the Philippines. In his 2013 visit, he told the Times’ executives, editors and reporters that Iran was an ideal trading partner for the Philippines. The following year, he addressed the Iranian-Philippine relations, even expressing support in solving the power crisis in Mindanao.

Stream of scholars
When the 2016 political climate heightened, The Manila Times news team kept the tradition of critical talks vivid, vibrant and vigorous. With the presidential and national polls, the year accumulated into a flourishing of social critics, scholars and political analysts—a community of thinkers that navigated through social awareness and insight.

On May 17, 2016, Prof. Antonio Contreras analyzed the VP electoral votes. A Times columnist himself, he explained his principles on the vice-presidential data statistics, debunking what he described as misleading figures. A group of Chinese scholars, meanwhile, lectured on the landscape of Philippines-China relations, tackling a talk on multinational trade and infrastructure network.

From 2013 to 2017, The Manila Times had vested its interests in upholding one goal: to constitute the truth. Looking four years back, officials and lawmakers alike flocked in groups to the paper’s offices, as the editorial staff circled the conference desk and patiently listened. With the Times President and CEO Dante Francis Ang 2nd present at those round tables, numerous points of inquiry have been addressed, varying from interests in recent business news to simple chats with the Miss Earth personalities.

The overall statistics on speakers are as follows:

• Interviewees (89)
Consisting of:
o Government officials – 16
o Directors, company presidents, managers, CEOs – 9
o Foreign envoys – 35
o Business leaders – 17
o Scholars, analysts, critics – 10
o Celebrities

• Roundtables (63)
o 2017 – 11
o 2016 – 14
o 2015 – 12
o 2014 – 15
o 2013 – 11

Pride and prestige
Round tables have engaged journalists in an atmosphere of critical thinking, shedding light on the various socioeconomic and political issues. The pulse of discourse has kept beating and will continue to reverberate in many more endeavors.

The Manila Times will pursue this vision: To strive and exceed its volume of dialogues in the future, and keep the culture of discourse alive and thriving. With its diverse and democratic conventions, the Times family will continue to remain humble, hopeful and committed to its very own round tables, which are also its pride and prestige.

On its 119th anniversary, The Manila Times celebrates its existence and accomplishments as a family, with reporters, writers and editors making time to reflect on their past triumphs and challenges amid the busy drift of office work and daily news publication.

The annual gathering recognizes all events—from story conferences, journalism seminars and media workshops to the fruitful evolution of the Times, inspiring and influencing readers since its birth in 1898. And wrapping up more projects for 2018, the Times news team devotes this day, Wednesday, October 11, to calling to mind its past events with pride.


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