Because of Dev Com 122 . . .

I am now interested with science reporting.

Before I took DEVC122 or Science Reporting, all I want to write is about economics and politics. Now, I would also like to write about science. I just realized that stories about economics and politics are usually the same. In those stories, we always encounter corruption, capitalism, scarcity of resources, and so on. I think science stories are different. Every now and then, new inventions are made, and old conceptions are debunked by new discoveries. That is because science is always changing.

For me, science is interesting. But for many people, it is boring. That is probably the downside about writing science articles. It may be implanted to people’s minds that science articles are very technical. So if they do not have a technical background, they would not bother reading those articles. In other words, many of us might be thinking that science is only for the “educated,” when in fact, science is for everyone. Here comes the media’s role to communicate science to the general public. It is the media’s role to bridge the gap between the scientists, who creates the information, and the lay persons, who are the end users of the scientists’ works.

It is just a sad fact that science reporting is not the focus of our mainstream media. It is also, because of this fact that I was not able to notice earlier that science reporting is also important, and that science is also an interesting beat. DEVC122 made me realize that there are indeed a lot of science topics out there. The usual topics like pollution, overpopulation, natural calamities, communicable diseases, and so on are all scientific in nature. It’s just that when these topics are reported, more emphasis is given to their political or economic aspects rather than the science behind them.

It is really a challenge for science journalists to make a science article appealing and interesting for the readers, without distorting the facts and “overlaymanizing” technical terms. I really thought that communicating science is very easy. After doing my magazine feature, I realized that science writing is really challenging. It is hard to make an article that is both scientifically-correct and interesting. In addition to this, it is also hard to process so many technical researches about the topic. I have researched a lot about my topic, but in the end it seems that I wrote a boring, disorganized, and nonsense feature. That is probably why I got a low score.

DEVC122 is very stressful. It reminded me that writing is a process, and that writing is not really easy.

Research. Read. Analyze. Interview. Write. Edit. Revise.

I now know those steps by heart, because of DEVC122. This subject really made me feel that my major is Development Journalism. It made me realize that journalism is not really easy. In DEVC122, we always have to write, and write, and write, and write. I love writing, but there are these moments that I just can’t write (logically). It really frustrates me when I have spent several hours in front of this computer, yet I was not able to write at least a sensible sentence.  It makes me think: “Will I really be a journalist?”

Journalists should always meet their deadlines. I keep that in mind. I was just thinking if I should pass an article that is not yet finish so I can submit on time or if I should finish it and pass it even if it is already late.

DEVC122 may have caused me a lot of stress, but it also taught me a lot of lessons. It made me equipped for more challenges that I will face as I continue my JOURNey. Because of DEVC122, I realized that I have to be more prepared for many writing exercises and other challenges.

My experience in DEVC122 inspires me to continue learning and improving. I still want to be a development journalist.

Lessons about Scientists, Media, and Science Stories

People have been aware of the flaws in the media like corruption and sensationalized or exaggerated reporting. Thus, the media has always been blamed for misleading the public by providing them distorted or inaccurate science stories. After reading the European Molecular Biology Organization’s article “Bad Science in the Headline,” I just realized that scientists could also be blamed.

I just knew that like the media in general, some people from the science community also like their stories or studies to be controversial for them to gain popularity. They use the media to disseminate the information that they want and then they will get the attention that they desire.

Big controversies always make it to the front page of national dailies since it easily catches the attention of a curious reader. Again, when it comes to controversies, the government is never absent. Again, it is about politics. The common science stories that are controversial are those that are related with political figures and government decisions or programs.

Scientists conduct millions of researches, because those researches will be very beneficial to our community in general. Those researches will be used for planning programs that would protect the people from harm and would improve their way of living.

The political issues behind a science story have always been the focus of most media reports instead of the science or the information itself that would benefit the society.

The media and the scientists have a similar goal. That is to inform people and empower them with knowledge. Both should collaborate and stop deceiving the people by distorting facts because of personal motives. There should just be a mutual understanding between the makers of information and those who shares information to the general public.

 

No Regrets

I just can’t stop smiling and being inspired because I saw real journalists, and I was able to listen to their stories. I am so excited to be like them.

I took Development Journalism as my major, because of several reasons. First, I want to write, and improve my writing skill. Second, I like interviewing different kind of people and sharing their stories. Third, I do not believe those students who say that DevJourn is difficult, stressful, and boring. I think that it is really fun and exciting.

Fortunately, I was able to attend the Move Chat Series of Rappler, an emerging social media. I don’t have class that whole afternoon, but I have a scheduled interview at DTRI for the feature I am working on. So, I left the forum at about 2 pm and came back at 3 pm. I thought that I will not be able to learn a lot from the forum since it was already late, and I have missed several discussions. I was wrong. I got new ideas from the forum.

Looking for fresh ideas

In Dev Com, we are always tasked to look for interesting and development-oriented topics. Before doing anything, we always have to consider three things: topic, audience, and objectives.Chay Hofileña, Citizen Journalism Director of Rappler, discussed about the usual elements of a story, and gave us examples of unique stories that Rapplerhas featured.

We are very familiar with the 5 Ws and 1 H of a story. Hofileña said that what we forget sometimes is the “so what?”She said they feature stories that mainstream media would not care about. She mentioned their story about the Muslim mistahs in the PMA, and their article on inter-faith issues like the wearing of hijab or the Muslims’ headscarf.

Rappler had also featured unique personalities like Reina Reyes who is a young achiever in the field of science. At a young age, she already got a doctorate degree. “Her story should be something that will inspire the youth,” Hofileña said. Science stories in mainstream media are mainly about new diseases or drugs or about technologies. It is good that Rapplergives a face to science stories.

There are probably thousands of stories about poverty and most of them describe how hopeless, voiceless, and powerless the poor are. Hofileña said those are “tired topics.” She said they have a story about poverty but they focused on an angle that is different from the usual. She told the story of Gacer, a woman who lives in poverty but who was able to organize their community to fight the demolition in their area.

Another usual topic is corruption. Hofileña cited the PUP protest. She said, “We are used on administrators controlling students. But who’s checking on the administrator?” That story was about students checking on their administrators. Hofileña said students should report or voice out what they see as wrong.

Stories about education, corruption, poverty and other cliché topicscan be transformed to new ones by having fresh ideas and knowing what unique angle to focus on.

Hofileña also gave emphasis on stories about different personalities. She said, “The profiles are worth documenting.”

I learned that in making a story, I have to focus on person, know his/her problems or achievements, and then I look at the big picture and tell the story.

Zooming In                                      

Chay Hofileña said they are looking for stories having human faces and emotion. She said, “Don’t go theoretical immediately. “Without heart, without feeling, there is no story,” she added.

I just realized that it is important to zoom in first before looking at the bigger picture. What I always do is the opposite. I always identify stories by first looking at the broad concepts and then I identify a personality that will represent or give a picture to my story. I now think that it is easier to find an interesting topic if I start by identifying persons who have interesting stories.

“Look for that emotion and tell it,” said Hofileña. “Have a clear voice and direction. What exactly are you saying?” she added.  Here, I remember that our Dev Com teachers never fail to remind us of the importance of clear and effective writing.

Hofileña also emphasized the diversity of ideas. She said they are tired of politicians and that they want the ideas of students or those who have young and fresh minds. She stressed that we are tired of the usual stories about crime and politics, and we want something new. We could achieve that by having the passion and inspiration. “All you need is a foot in the door,” said Hofileña.

Changing the world through Social Media

Michael Josh Villanueva, Rappler Special Projects Director, talked about social media’s power to implement change. His talk was specifically about the “powerful” features of the social network giant Facebook.

He talked about four steps that can be done through social media. These are to mobilize, build, engage, and act. He mentioned about the relevance of FB groups, use of hash tags, like and share buttons, and timeline cover photos, to mobilize, affect or engage other social network users to do something. He said, “If you have an advocacy, the social media is a perfect place.” Also, he emphasized that the “content is king.” The content must be creative for it to achieve its purpose. He said, “The beauty of networking is the multiplier effect it has.”

Yes, social networking has a dark side or negative effects like cyber bullying, but it also has the good side or its advantages. And that is it gives people the power to implement change, buy making other users to be informed and act through social media.

Telling Stories

My stereotype of a journalist is that he/she somehow looks haggard and is very formal. I think Patricia Evangelista, Rappler Multimedia Reporter, is not the typical type of a journalist, but I like her and I agree with what she said during the forum.

She said, “You cannot move people if you cannot move yourself.” It’s like you have to be confident about yourself, your ideas, and your story. That is something that I still have to develop or improve.

Evangelista said that in every statistics, there is a face, there is a story. She said that when you encountered an interesting story or when you saw it in front of you, you can’t just keep it. It is like you have the obligation to share it to other people.

I like it when she said, “Not every story is just black and white.” Stories may just look plain, but if we go deeper, and if we are creative, we can add color to it.

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Rappler journalists and Dr. Serlie Jamias from the Colllege of Development Communication received several questions from the audience during the open forum. Here, Patricia Evangelista answers a question about the safety of journalists when covering controversial stories.                                                                                                        Photo by: Frances Gail Castillo

Inspiring

When the Rappler journalists were asked if they would like to quit journalism, they all said that they did think of quitting at some point of their lives. What would you expect of people whose lives are in danger when covering controversial stories? What would you expect of people who have very demanding schedules? What would you expect of people who allot minimal time for rest and sleep? Amidst the “difficulty” of being a journalist, they still can’t let it go. They are still in the field of Journalism, the field that they must have fallen deeply in in love with.

I am just so inspired by their stories. I want to experience the excitement and “tension” of being a journalist. I guess I made the right choice when I took DevJourn. As of the moment, and in the future, I don’t think I will regret loving Journalism.

I was touched and inspired by Rappler’s ripple.

Joke?

There was no typhoon, but the heavy rains (last two weeks ago) brought floods to Metro Manila and its nearby provinces, just like what the super typhoon Ondoy did last 2009. It is real. Climate change is not a joke.

In relation with climate change awareness, Dr. Esteban Godilano, Senior Technical Adviser on Climate Change and Geospatial Technology at the Department of Agriculture, delivered a talk at the College of Development Communication, UPLB last August 16.

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Dr. Godilano first gave the audience, who are mostly communication students, a background about climate change. He said the impact of global warming is climate change, which in turn would have an impact on health, tourism, economy, and other sectors. He also discussed the cost of mitigation, and adaptation to climate change.

Mitigation of climate change is more costly, so what Filipinos do is just adapt with the effects of climate change. Dr. Godilano said, “Climate change is the new normal.”

Dr. Godilano, who is an expert with the use of Geographical Information System (GIS), generated geohazard maps or maps that show disaster prone areas. He claimed that until now, his maps are still 100 percent accurate.

He shared that he had perceived that Cagayan de Oro would be the next Marikina. He said he warned government officials last year that Cagayan de Oro would experience what happened in Marikina last 2009 because of Ondoy. “When I presented this, they told me I am joking,” Dr. Godilano said. Months after he presented his prediction, typhoon Sendong did hit Cagayan de Oro, and left many casualties. Those who said he was joking had probably realized that it was not a joke.

According to Dr. Godilano, the Cagayan de Oro watershed has an area that is three times larger than that of Marikina River watershed. “If flooding would occur in your area (he told the people of Cagayan de Oro), it is because people in Bukidnon are still cutting tress,” Dr. Godilano mentioned. He explained that even if it is not raining in Cagayan de Oro, they would still be affected if it rains in Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte, since the watershed serves as a catchment area of the wastes of soil erosion in Bukidnon.

The Irony

Margareta Wahlström, a UN representative who visited the country last May said the country’s laws on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are the “best in the world.” “But why are we still suffering?” Dr. Godilano asked.

According to a study of a UN agency, the Philippines ranks third in terms of vulnerability to climate change. Dr. Godilano said, “We are a country of laws.” We are “All talk, no action,” he added. It would be added to the list of “Only in the Philippines.”

Dr. Godilano also expressed his disappointment that while climate change is caused by the richest countries, the impact is being felt by the poorest.

“We own nothing in this world. We are just stewards, but we were careless,” Dr. Godilano said.

The Challenge

“Let us walk the talk.” Dr. Godilano posed this challenge for us to take an action and to make an “inter-generational justice.”

He ended his talk by telling his audience, “You are included in this. If you do nothing, then we will have a very big problem.”

As youth, it is our responsibility to protect our environment for our sake and for that of the next generations. We have to make a move to make our fellow Filipinos more aware about the realities of climate change, and how they can contribute to lessen its undesirable impacts. It is our job as future leaders. This is not easy, and this is not a joke.

Another Master and Slave Story

A common saying states “We are what we eat.” Based on this saying, what we eat could actually affect us. The question is: who controls what we eat? In other words, who controls us?

The documentary “Food Inc.” directed by Robert Kenner and released by Magnolia Pictures tells us that the huge multinational corporations are the culprits. They are the ones who control the American food system. But these companies not only control the American food system. They also control that of other countries, because other countries’ food systems are somehow patterned to the American’s. The documentary is an eye-opener about the different realities in our food system. It explained every issue, bit by bit.

Before eating, did anyone of us bother to ask where our food came from? Or do we just think and accept that, of course, it came from a farm? Food Inc., brings us to where our food are most likely processed, not harvested. Instead of bringing us to the farms, the movie brings us to a factory, where “the animals and workers are abused” as the movie presented. Aside from changing the farms to factories, and changing the farmers to factory workers, the giants in the food industry also changed the products that are produced in real farms. Today, as the movie showed, chickens are raised faster, and now they are bigger. Instead of feeding grass to cattle, they feed cattle with corn, which is very economical to the side of the companies. Apparently, corn is the raw material for the production of our food. And corn, according to the movie, is very cheap. The consumption of corn also makes the cattle fatter in a short period of time.

Because of the marriage of science and technology, basic problems in production were addressed. As the movie showed, the factories can now produce a lot of food that are exactly the same in a small land, at the lowest cost. Apparently, there’s nothing wrong with that. But every success has a downside. Variety of diseases evolves, because of the unnatural way of raising livestock. There is now the E. Coli 0157:h7, which is victimizing innocent consumers. The movie showed some news clips about poisoning in America, where children are the usual victims.

Now that we are aware of the dark side of our food system, do we have the power to change or select what we eat? Consumers are like the slaves of the big food companies, when in fact, it should be the opposite. In economics, we learn that producers only produce what the consumers demand. Yes, the consumers want cheaper food. We eat what they offer us, because their products are a lot cheaper than the healthy products. We are not aware of it, but they are actually controlling us.

“We’ve skewed our food system to the bad calories and it’s not an accident. I mean, the reasons that those calories are cheaper is because those are the ones we’re heavily subsidizing, said Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and who also appears most of the time in the movie.

If we are to do a cost-benefit analysis between buying cheap unhealthy food and buying expensive healthy food, I think there would be more cost when we buy the cheap, but unhealthy food. There are the negative externalities attached to it. Those costs are only hidden from us.

With the presence of modern science and technology, we should not be worrying about food contamination or whatsoever. But because our politicians and business leaders have also evolved, we should be threatened.

Aristotle during his time said that slavery is beneficial to both master and slave, because they have the same interest. He also said that masters should not abuse their authority. That is very ideal, but that is not the reality. Now, the new masters are the huge multinational companies. They control our food, how it is made, how it is distributed, how the government would regulate its marketing, etc. These masters get all the profit. Now, the new slaves are the consumers. They are forced to purchase unhealthy food, because they have no choice but to buy the cheapest. These consumers may not even be aware that they are being controlled by their food system. What they only get are diseases or viruses slowly killing them.

“We put faith to our government to protect us. And we’re not being protected at a most basic level,” said Barbara Kowalcyk, mother of Kevin, who apparently died after eating a hamburger.

It’s all about politics and business. What could we do to change the system? Could we actually change the system? I commend the people behind the very courageous documentary, “Food Inc.” The cinematography is good. Also, the treatment used in discussing the issues is commendable. We only hope that people would open their eyes for these realities, and that the masters of the food industry would feel guilty (if they still have a heart).

Underwater Technology for Radiation Protection

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Students (mostly applied physics and MST) fill the AG samonte Hall during the lecture of Dr. Lutz Linhorst. Here the students watch a video presentation about decommissioning.

Nowadays, energy is the new gold and many believe that the most practical source of this gold is a nuclear power plant. Many developed and developing countries are trying really hard to put up nuclear power plants that would generate energy and supply electricity for their country.

However, the use of nuclear power as a source of energy is a controversial issue. It is not expensive (considering the return that the operators would get from it). Also, it does not contribute to air pollution. But the downside of nuclear power is observed during accidents at nuclear power plants. Released radioactive substances could cause deaths and environmental disaster. The major concern now is to ensure nuclear safety and radiation protection. Thus several researches were done or are being done to improve radiation protection and nuclear safety.

Dr. Lutz Linhorst, a senior coordinator in the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment of The Netherlands, delivered a special physics lecture about underwater technology in the repair and decommissioning of nuclear facilities at the Operations Room, AG Samonte Hall, UPLB, last July 6. UPLB students and teachers, mostly from the Physics Division, attended the lecture.

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Dr. Linhorst answers a question about the economic or financial concern that decommissioning or the use of underwater technology would pose to the operators.

The lecture’s topic is timely and interesting since it is related with the issues about nuclear power plants that is a worldwide interest.

Dr. Linhorst first discussed the basics of radiation protection. Then he explained how water is used in nuclear facilities for radiation protection purposes. He identified the main application of underwater technology like in-service inspection, minor repair works, and decommissioning. He said that it could be a good turn out to the operation if underwater technology is used for the Fukushima clean up.

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Students listen as Dr. Linhorst answers the question about how water would be treated after the decommissioning.

Major nuclear power accidents in the history like the 3 Mile Island 2 (TMI2) accident in USA and the very recent Fukushima disaster were discussed during the lecture. Dr. Linhorst explained how the accidents happened and gave possible solutions to the problems posed by the accidents. He also presented several video presentations to show how underwater technology is used for the repair and decommissioning of nuclear facilities.

Teachers and students threw many questions to Dr. Linhorst during the open forum. One teacher asked about the economic or financial concern that decommissioning or the use of underwater technology would pose to the operators. Another asked about the reliability of the machines since they are subjected to water and radiation. Dr. Linhorst said that radiation is not a major problem to the machines. He added that researches are now being done concerning the types and designs of nuclear reactors so that they will be easier to decommission. When an Applied Physics student asked about what they will do to the water after the decommissioning, Dr. Linhorst said that nuclear power plants do not need another facility to clean the water. Extra facilities for the water treatment, he said, will only be needed in case of emergency.

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A teacher from the Physics Division asks if the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant could be used or converted into an educational park.

Another Physics teacher asked about the state of the country’s very own Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, since the lecture’s topic is about radiation protection and decommissioning. Dr. Linhorst said, “The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in its current state is not dangerous. It cannot be dangerous because there is no nuclear fuel in there.”

Dr. Linhorst said that the society as a whole should be prepared about the operation of a nuclear power plant.The operation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is also a controversial issue here in the Philippines. Many oppose the power plant’s operation, because of the danger that it would pose to the public. On the other hand, other Filipinos want it to be operational so that it could solve power shortages in the country.

The use of underwater technology and other technology for the repair and decommissioning of nuclear facilities is not just a scientific or technological issue. It is also an economic, political and societal concern. The bad thing is that the leaders of various countries do not focus more on the science of things.

“The politicians did not understand the physics in here,” Dr. Linhorst said. “Not all politicians are physicists,” he added.

The special physics lecture would be an annual event. Moreover, the Physics Division of UPLB would continue inviting distinguished speakers for applied physics majors.

Green Politics for Greener Filipino Homes

Anyone can easily say that in order to have a “greener” home or an environment friendly homethe household should recycle, reduce consumption of energy, conserve water, plant trees around the house, and support pro-environment advocacies. This is of course applicable only when we are talking about families who have decent houses, or houses that have at least a bedroom, a kitchen, and a comfort room.Unfortunately, most Filipino families have homes that they cannot even call a house. What would they recycle if their homes are already made of recycled materials? What would they conserve if they do not even have water and electricity?

Marginalized Filipinos live with “gray” surroundings or environment of trash with foul fumes or an environment with smokes from different vehicles. For them to have green homes, the country needs “green politics” or politicians who care about both the environment and the marginalized Filipinos.