Academy boosts support for African news pioneers

Google News Initiative recommits to pan-African training initiative

The Academy will train journalists across eight African countries. (Photo credit: Johnny Miller / africanDRONE)

Training one person at a time in a newsroom seldom sparks meaningful organisational change: but hard-pressed newsrooms simply don’t have the time or resources to send large numbers of journalists away for intensive training.

That’s why Code for Africa (CfA) and the Google News Initiative will be offering workplace mentors and on-site workshops to help newsrooms use digital tools and techniques on real-world projects. The new training initiative will empower 3,350 journalists across eight African countries over the next six months.

The initiative builds on CfA and Google’s successful Academy partnership in 2018, that used a combination of online courses and in-person workshops to train over 6,000 journalists in digital skills. These ranged from multimedia production and data journalism to digital security. The training, which focused on formal partnerships with 32 major newsrooms and five universities across the continent, as well as a network of Hacks/Hackers chapters, resulted in a series of award-winning stories in six countries that include the continent’s first mainstream awards for drone journalism.

CfA and Google will continue working with the 32 original newsrooms in 2019, but will expand the network to include additional media partners and Hacks/Hackers chapters, along with growing the university partners to a total of 22 journalism schools in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

“With the resource challenges that African newsrooms face, it is difficult for journalists to take any significant time off to learn new skills. The Academy therefore brings training right into the newsroom, with in-house workshops every two weeks, so that journalists can learn incrementally while on the job,” says Matt Cooke, Head of Partnerships & Training at Google News Lab. “But, perhaps most significantly, the Academy offers ongoing one-on-one mentorship for participants between workshops.”

The mentorships include a renewed commitment to CfA’s women data journalism network, WanaData, which has spearheaded the creation of new data-driven gender news desks at major media across the continent. The Academy will also for the first time offer micro-grants to newsrooms, valued between $500 to $5,000 per project, to help journalists use their new skills or tools in the field.

“The grants will avoid gimmickry and will instead support concrete new ways to boost the reach or impact of traditional journalism, using everything from satellite imagery and camera drones, to compelling visual storytelling using data,” says CfA director, Justin Arenstein.

The Academy’s curriculum is structured around modular lessons that start with basic numeracy and digital research skills, and progress to advanced subjects such as data journalism, mapmaking and video production. The lessons are designed to help to speed up news gathering processes, improve journalists’ ability to check facts quickly, and provide the background necessary to produce charts, graphics and content for social sharing. Workshops are tailored for each specific newsroom, and mentors help journalists apply new techniques on real-world reporting assignments.

CfA’s training initiative is designed to address the challenges highlighted in the State of Technology in Global Newsrooms survey by the International Center for Journalists, which confirms that only half of new hires in newsrooms in sub-Saharan Africa have any experience with digital news tools.

Lessons therefore include concise tip sheets and practical exercises using Africa-specific data or scenarios for journalists to immediately try out new skills. Participants can tailor online versions of the courses to their most pressing needs by mixing and matching modules. Journalists who need help fast, while on deadline, are able to learn the exact tool they need in minutes.

Explore the courses and lessons here.

Do you want your newsroom to participate? Register here.


Code for Africa (CfA) is the continent’s largest federation of data journalism and civic technology laboratories, with labs in four countries and affiliates in a further six countries. CfA manages the $1m and $500,000, as well as key digital democracy resources such as the data portal and the election toolkit. CfA’s labs also incubate a series of trendsetting initiatives, including the PesaCheck fact-checking initiative in East Africa, the continental africanDRONE network, and the African Network of Centres for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) that spearheaded Panama Papers probes across the continent. CfA is an initiative of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

Google News Initiative (GNI) is building a stronger future for journalism. GNI works with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Google began its support for digital and data journalism in Africa in 2010 through intensive workshops and continues to offer newsroom-targeted trainings. In addition to CfA’s Academy, it supported the African News Innovation Challenge in 2012 and the innovateAFRICA.Fund in 2017.