Below is the author’s note, by Johanna Son*, from the book ‘Gender on Our News Radar: A View from Southeast Asia’.
A hint of (and hopes for) a more inclusive future, a news-based perspective and a Southeast Asian feel – these are the three elements that this book seeks to bring together.
While working on ‘Gender on Our News Radar: A View from Southeast Asia’, I found myself rifling through the mental files I had accumulated from more than three decades in journalism, be it from reporting, editing and commissioning stories or carrying out training work. These files included which approaches worked, traps to avoid, workshop methods to steer clear of.
What has stayed with me is the point that a tool for news work needs to be crafted from the lived experience of journalism, using a real-world mindset and newspeak, if it is to have a chance at being useful and relevant. Many a how-to resource for gender in news has gotten waylaid by sounding more like an advocacy manual, or being steeped too heavily in theory and too lightly in the practice of journalism.
A gender-informed way of doing journalism, whether in reporting, editing or mentoring others, is not just ‘nice’. It is necessary, an essential skillset if media professionals are to keep up with the world’s changing conversations around gender.
This book (64 pages) also uses the language and lens of news because gender is part of the social fabric that journalists cover, day in and day out.
Central to ‘Gender on Our News Radar’ is the view that a gender-informed way of doing journalism, whether in reporting, editing or mentoring others, is not just ‘nice’. It is necessary, an essential skillset if media professionals are to keep up with the world’s changing conversations around gender.
But how does one make this tool feel more Southeast Asian? To try to convey more of the local touch, I have brought in examples and experiences from Southeast Asia that its news communities may be more able to relate to.
These examples and experiences require a look at the words around gender in our languages, which Section 2 (‘Some Words on Words’) goes into. For the insights they shared with me in engaging chats about gender in various Southeast Asian languages, I am grateful to Anisa Widyasari, Kittipong Thavevong, Mak Chanden, Nyunt Win, Uyen Diep and Vannaphone Sitthirath. I thank them too, along with Nai Nai, for contributing to the translation of the words and phrases that appear on the book cover.
The regional feel of ‘Gender on Our News Radar’ is enriched as well by the thoughts of reporters, editors and media trainers from Myanmar and Cambodia, who shared their views of gender, as well as the training needs they see, in surveys that were done before work on this book began. (Highlights of these surveys’ results can be found in the annex.)
There is another back story to this book. The media landscape in Myanmar changed drastically after the military coup of February 2021, a development that led to some changes in the plans for this project. More importantly, questions simmer about the long-term survival of the news profession in that country.
Finally, I hesitate to call this a manual, not least because news work is creative work. It is, however, a tool that shares real-world tips drawn from doing journalism in the developing-country settings of Southeast Asia – and beyond. Consider this a software update of sorts that can be used as a refresher or self-learning activity, as well as in training events – and one that invites us to reflect on our craft.
(*Johanna Son, founder/editor of the Reporting ASEAN series who has been covering Southeast Asia and international/development issues for over three decades, is the author of ‘Gender on Our News Radar: A View from Southeast Asia’. It was published by the Fojo Media Institute in February 2022.)