journalism in the Philippines

[New School] Finding my place in journalism as a woman in STEM

Mariane Avendaño

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[New School] Finding my place in journalism as a woman in STEM
'Now, even outside of writing, I started being more conscious about my tone, word choices, and overall manner of explaining and presenting arguments, and noticed the big difference this makes'

Participating in the Rappler internship program was a nosedive into uncharted territory. I was beyond ecstatic to be one of the 36 interns for the program’s September-December cohort after not making the cut when I previously applied in February. Unlike most of my fellow interns, I did not join this program intending to fulfill an academic requirement or to kickstart my journalism career. In fact, I had never been part of a school publication nor have considered this type of profession before. I used to dread working on articles and essays for school and instead found comfort in the methodical subjects of mathematics and the sciences. Yet somehow, in my little experiment during my time with Rappler, I felt as if I could actually find my place in the once foreign and inaccessible world of journalism.

I witnessed the power of journalism firsthand amid the recent pandemic and national elections. Journalism facilitates information dissemination, effective communication, and, in dark times like these, restoration of hope. My exposure to these endeavors through my Rappler internship has enhanced my perspective and allowed me to enrich the perspectives of others.

A new perspective on journalism

Journalism and the sciences have a lot more similarities than I thought. One commonality was that both were very broad and comprehensive fields which can make it intimidating for a newbie to jump right into them. The first major challenge I had to overcome was ideating and pitching a story. What could I possibly write about that is unique and worthy of being published by Rappler? Ideas did not start flowing in until I was advised that journalism is not necessarily serious and intimidating but can also be fun and light-hearted. I replaced my extremely ambitious and virtually impossible pitches with two topics already close to my heart – basketball and music. With this new approach, journalism no longer felt like an uncomfortable endeavor. I conveniently found it at the intersection of my skills and passion.

Regardless of the topic being written about, a key aspect of journalism is effectively getting your point across. The foundations of a valid, relevant, and unique story rely on facts and physical evidence. Journalists are then challenged not just with gathering these individual pieces of information or completing various statistical analyses, but also with presenting their findings in a way that is accessible and digestible for everyday readers. I initially found the latter to be extremely challenging. I had been used to “letting the numbers do the talking” – relying on the data to give structure to my work and simply filling in the gaps with words. However, I immediately learned that, while this may be effective in academic writing, this was an inadequate approach to journalism and communication in general. What worth can your knowledge contribute if they are not properly and understandably communicated? Now, even outside of writing, I started being more conscious about my tone, word choices, and overall manner of explaining and presenting arguments, and noticed the big difference this makes. 

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What the future of journalism holds for me

I pursued growth and excellence during my time at Rappler. The concrete manifestation of this was having my works published. When my first story, an analysis of Stephen Curry’s three-point shooting legacy, was posted on Rappler’s pages, I was overwhelmed by its reception. My friends even joked about how I had made it since the article I had written sparked debates in comment sections. 

Seriously though, the story did make me feel like I had made it and that I had done something truly meaningful. It is surreal to recall that after mentioning my love for both programming and the NBA during my first Rappler interview in February, I was asked if I had ventured into basketball analytics before, and I said no. Completing a full circle moment, the first assignment I completed for Rappler in October was exactly about that. Since then, even when not working on a story, basketball analytics has become a dependable hobby and leisure activity for me.

Seeing my first bylines and reading my completed assignments from my internship has made me feel proud and sentimental. With each plot and paragraph, I become reminiscent of the successes and the challenges I had along the way. I recall the feedback my mentors have imparted to me not just in this story, my second story, or in tasks I had completed with Rappler, but in my other endeavors as well. In the past four months, I did not just survive a rigorous internship program. I had also unexpectedly found a new passion and a sense of belonging in a once unfamilar environment. I am beyond excited and cannot wait to see where my new arsenal of technical and soft skills from Rappler takes me in the future. –

Mariane Avendaño is a junior double majoring in Physics and Materials Science and Engineering at the Ateneo de Manila University. She was a data intern for Rappler from September to December 2022. 

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