Telum Talks To... Joanna Manalastas Calasanz, Editor-in-Chief, SPOT.ph

Telum Talks To... Joanna Manalastas Calasanz, Editor-in-Chief, SPOT.ph
Anika Nale

It has been more than a year since lockdown began, how have you and the SPOT.ph team been coping with remote working? Perhaps run us through what a day in the life of SPOT.ph’s Editor-in-Chief looks like?
 
Fortunately for us, Summit Media had started a gradual transition to part-time remote work even before the pandemic and quarantine. So the team didn’t have to make too big an adjustment when we switched to working from home. For me the biggest change was in the number of hours I work—I know I’m not the only one these days who has suddenly found themselves working 12-hour days, though.
 
Typically, work starts at 8 and mornings are usually spent checking and publishing stories and making the rounds on social media to see what’s been happening in the world (with the TV playing the morning news in the background). Afternoons are made up of meetings held mostly through Microsoft Teams or Zoom. By late afternoon I’m making sure my email inbox doesn’t have too much of a backlog. I try to unplug by 8 pm, but that changes depending on the day.
 
Can you recall the Eureka moment when you knew you wanted to become a journalist?
 
I distinctly remember a project we had for English class when I was a sophomore or junior in high school—we were segregated into groups and each group had to create their own newspaper. I’d always enjoyed reading magazines since I was in grade school and my older sister subscribed to YM, but I think this was the first time I actually felt a thrill from putting together a publication.
 
You have been with Summit Media for almost 20 years now, starting out as a Web Editor, what are some timeless pointers that young journalists can take note of, when it comes to creating online content?
 
It sounds obvious but stay creative. Especially these days, when it’s easy to just go after page views or likes on social media by riding on what everyone else is doing or capitalising on what’s going viral. Creativity is what will set you apart.
 
In between roles, you also took a few years off to further your journalism degree in New York and Cardiff University, how do you think it helped you adapt to the Philippine mediascape better?
 

Both those experiences have helped in terms of technical skills and journalism fundamentals from a global perspective, and I think the Masters program I took at Cardiff University specifically helped give me a more well-rounded view of what makes a good publication, apart from instilling a sense of professionalism that puts the priority on the quality of the output.
 
Speaking of the Philippine mediascape, how has the lifestyle sphere evolved since you started? Based on your observations, what are readers most invested in?
 
It was only when I started with SPOT.ph that I really had to start paying attention to the lifestyle sphere, and it’s evolved pretty radically, and in a good way. I remember a time when eating out meant going to the mall and taking your pick. It’s nice that more small neighbourhood restaurants started popping up—we’re always pulling for them to succeed, especially now.
 
Favourite story you’ve ever covered throughout your career?
 
Oh no, I can’t choose just one!
 
There are a few people in the industry who have openly shared their opinion that ‘print is dead’, what are your views on the matter?
 
I think print will always have a following. That following might grow or shrink as time goes by, but it won’t disappear completely.
 
Leading the editorial team of one of the most well-known lifestyle titles in the country, can you share some personal tips on how Filipinos can feel more fulfilled in their lives?
 
Fulfillment is such a personal thing, especially given what we’ve all gone through in the past year. Big achievements and small victories can be equally fulfilling, really—probably what matters more is knowing you’re doing everything you can to live the life you want.
 
From Dalgona coffee, baking banana bread to Chloe Ting workout videos, COVID-19 has brought about many lifestyle trends amid lockdown, what is one trend that you would like to occur/hop on?
 
Becoming a proud plantita, haha! I’ve tried. So far it hasn’t happened.
 
Lastly, what is one thing most people don't know about you?
 
I quit law school three days into my third year and sometimes still wonder what my lawyer-self is like, in an alternate universe.

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