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Analyzing Philippine energy reports: Insights from the youngest researcher

Conducting a media analysis in three months could be a daunting task for young journalists like me who have never taken on a study of this scale before. But I’m glad I took the leap and chose to leave my comfort zone.
Conducting a media analysis in three months could be a daunting task for young journalists like me who have never taken on a study of this scale before. But I’m glad I took the leap and chose to leave my comfort zone.

It’s been three months since I was accepted as one of the five Southeast Asian regional media researchers- each tasked with conducting a national analysis on energy reporting in our respective countries.

A 23-year old reporter primarily interested in science and environment issues, I didn’t have much experience covering the energy beat. 

When I started in July, I had limited knowledge about the beat, and how energy stories are supposed to be written.

In my perspective, a majority of power stories focused on electricity bills and outages. Most of the electricity on the grid is supplied from coal plants, as the fossil fuel made up a huge chunk of the Philippines’ energy mix- as per 2015 data from the Energy Department.

After reading through more than a thousand articles for the media analysis, I guess I can say that I am familiar with the beat and I certainly don’t mind writing about it when the newsroom calls for it.

In a span of three months, we conducted a content and discourse analyses, and endeavored to interview 15 media practitioners with working knowledge about the energy beat. Every two weeks, we would receive mentoring and feedback from Climate Tracker experts.

I first envisioned my media analysis to include two hundred stories at most. While scrolling through the online archives of different media outlets, I noticed that there was a high volume of electricity stories, compared to coal and renewables. I included all the stories in my Excel sheet, and I was surprised that the number went up to 1,329. From the number, I chose more than 80 stories for the discourse analysis, highlighting stories that talked about solar power.

During the past few months, I immersed myself completely in the energy landscape of my country as I read media reports from five different outlets. Some of them used technical language, which I’m now familiar with. Right now, I’m still quite surprised that I was able to handle a huge amount of stories, but I guess I can owe it to the free time I had that time.

During those months, I was taking a break from the daily grind and staying at home to rest. Because of my schedule, I was able to dedicate long hours to this project.

Getting in touch with the media practitioners was fairly easy, as I already had a few contacts in mind before starting the interview phase. It was a challenge to reach regional reporters who were based outside the city, but I was able to connect with them with the help of friends. Right now, I’m still in touch with them; one of them shared with me her latest energy article.

Personally, the most challenging part of the media analysis was writing the report. There was so much data and information to share, but there was a word and page limit. What I learned about the research writing process is that the first few drafts are always subject to revisions. In my case, I rewrote my first draft four times and edited it some more, based on suggestions from Climate Tracker.

It was challenging; there were times I wanted to quit. But I’m glad my mentors gave me that extra push to revise my copy until I was able to put forth strong arguments backed by data and interviews.

Looking back, the entire research process has been enlightening and enriching. I learned so much about the exciting world of media research, because of this huge opportunity from Climate Tracker and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

I started out as the youngest member of the regional research team. Months later, I now have a regionally-published media analysis report with my by-line, newfound friends from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia; and a vast network of energy reporters based in my country.

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Be sure to check out the launch of Angelica’s research report here!