| Tuesday, 17 Jul 2012
Journalism by numbers
By Dorothy Otieno
The days of journalists in Kenya being intimidated by mountains of data and complicated figures ..... are numbered. That was the unanimous verdict of a group of editors, journalists and graphic designers who recently attended a ground-breaking course on “data journalism” in Nairobi.
Bernard Mwinzi, the Editor of the Daily Nation, the largest newspaper in Kenya, admits that the sheer volume of data and numbers often scare off journalists.
“For some time we have been trying to tell the story of Kenya through numbers, but we are often just so overwhelmed by the large numbers that we give up. But after this training I can isolate just what I need, and then analyze it,” says Mwinzi.
He was one of 18 editors, journalists and graphic designers who attended the course, presented by Aimee Edmondson, a professor in Computer Assisted Research at Ohio University. Information on the health sector in Kenya was used to illustrate the link between data, people and editorial storytelling.
The course was presented as Kenya celebrated the one year anniversary of the Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI), a campaign aimed at making public data more accessible to ordinary Kenyans.
The concept of “data journalism” is taking the editorial world by storm as more and more newsrooms adapt the principle of extracting valuable information and good stories from massive archives of readily available data in the modern world of knowledge.
The Data Journalism course, organized by and held at Internews in Kenya, consisted of six teams consisting of a graphic designer, an editor and a reporter. The idea of bringing the three categories of storytellers together was informed by the realization that good data journalism products result from a combination of partnerships. These partnerships require writers and reporters to work closely with developers and graphic designers and their editors with the objective of producing powerful stories that make data accessible to the public.
The first part of the training honed the journalists’ spreadsheets and data analysis skills. The second part focused on transforming the data into compelling stories and visualizing them in a simple but attractive way.
“I learnt to mine data and present it in appealing ways. Watch this space I will be writing more data stories,” says The Standard reporter Ally Jamah
The goal of the training was to enable the journalists to mine and analyze data and package it in ways that would allow Kenyans to access important information. In a series of three-day training sessions, the teams from K24, Nation, Nairobi Law Monthly, People, The Standard and KTN were introduced to the art of finding data stories, interviewing and creating their own data.“
Internews in Kenya is also supporting the six teams to each produce up to two special reports. The aim of the special projects is to produce in-depth stories that will exemplify the best in data journalism through a shared interest in data storytelling.
“The best part of the training was learning not only to analyze large data sets but also to create data where it does not exist. The training answered questions I have heard for a long time about reporting on issues with limited compiled data.
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