There are 150 junior high school students from the 21 member-schools of the Association of Science and Mathematics Educators of Philippine Private Schools (ASMEPPS) who learned something new about writing and producing broadcast reports on science topics with gender-sensitive content.

On 22 to 23 April 2022, the Department of Science and Technology-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII) spearheaded a two-day webinar session on Enhancing Science Communication Skills with Gender Lens.

This e-learning session aims to help the student-participants acquire better appreciation on the significant contributions of science in our daily lives and eventually inspire and help them to craft compelling science articles and broadcast content suitable for print, online, radio, and television. Empowering the student-participants at a young age with basic knowledge in creating gender-fair and empowering content was also the goal of this webinar.

In his message, Director Richard P. Burgos said that DOST-STII, together with ASMEPPS, is working together to let our students learn and realize how science and technology can improve our lives and eventually inspire them to become science communicators or science journalists in the future.

“I am confident that these learning sessions will provide you with the skills you would need to produce compelling science stories, and I would not be surprised if many will become science communication advocates and champions of gender and development in the coming years,” said Director Burgos.

The first day of the webinar focused on lectures on science news and feature writing as well as on broadcast reporting for TV and radio. Ruby Shaira Panela, a seasoned science journalist, shared numerous tips on how to find better story angles on science related topics and translate them into interesting and impactful articles. Meanwhile, Kristine B. Sabillo, a former multimedia reporter from ABS-CBN, delivered a lecture on how to produce bite-sized science reports for TV and radio.

Among the tips shared by Sabillo was about understanding the basic concept of the inverted pyramid, both in news writing and scripts for broadcast reports. She explained that with that you can easily identify the main characters and elements of your story out of the data provided to you.

In her lecture, Sabillo admitted that she understands the complexity of writing and reporting science related stories. One of her suggestions was to break down and simplify the definitions of complicated science topics by using case studies to introduce the problem or a concept. Also, she stressed the importance of getting an interviewee that knows how to communicate well with the public, particularly in identifying the data one could include in the stories.

Lastly, Sabillo emphasized to the participants to choose the most important and significant information only since broadcast reports are more often limited to just one to two-minute-long reports.

“Just go back to the principle of 5Ws and 1H as well.  You can answer these questions in your mind. Why is this important to my audience? What information can be useful for them? Then read your draft to another person and remove the parts that might sound confusing to them,” she explained.

On the other hand, seasoned science journalist Panela emphasized that in writing science, either news or feature, one’s goal as a journalist is to help people understand science; one only has to simplify it but not dumb it down.

She also said that a good science journalist should always try to strike a balance between what the audience needs to know, want to know, and what they already know.

“The good thing about writing about science is that we have the “edge”, which can be described as our ability to understand the audience because we are members of it too,” Panela said.

Lastly, she reminded the student-participants that science does not happen in a vacuum; so that it is important to give proper context. So, when we communicate science, look at its implication to our country and impact on the people as Panela advised.

Crafting gender-sensitive and gender-fair science content

The student-participants also learned the basic principles of gender and development (GAD) through the use of non-sexist language, avoiding gender stereotyping, and balanced representation in numerous content materials.

Dr. Mary Barby P. Badayos-Jover, an associate professor from the University of the Philippines-Visayas and part of the National GAD Resource Pool of the Philippine Commission on Women, shared numerous insights on gender-fair and non-sexist communication.

In her lecture, Dr. Badayos-Jover pointed out that gender sensitivity is not a war of sexes nor is it an anti-male stance, and that the goal of gender sensitivity is not to discriminate against men but to empower women in the hope of achieving gender equality.

She underscored the fact that there are gender concerns in the media. She added that while the media did not invent gender bias, it has a key role in perpetuating it. She emphasized that fair gender portrayals in media should be a professional and ethical aspiration along with accuracy, fairness, and honesty.

“Stereotypes are prevalent in everyday media. Women are often portrayed as homemakers and homecarers of the family. And men are also subjected to gender stereotyping,” said Dr. Badayos-Jover.

She explained that there is a need to internalize the use of gender-fair language because women are often othered in the English language as neutralization and feminization are the principal strategies to make language gender-fair.

Lastly, Dr. Badayos-Jover said that the key principles for inclusive language is to recognize and challenge stereotypes, avoid omission and making others invisible and avoid trivialization, and subordination. And to start your gender-sensitive journey, she said that we should be aware and favor a gender-sensitive language.

“In order to be a gender-responsive communicator, we have to use our gender lens and write content that empowers your readers,” concluded Dr. Badayos-Jover. (By Allan Mauro V. Marfal and with reports from Carl Miguel Lusuergo, DOST-STII)