Academy to support newsrooms in 12 African cities

The training, in partnership with Google News Lab, will combine face-to-face mentorship and online instruction.

Justin Arenstein
Jun 8, 2017 · 6 min read
The new StoryLab Academy will train newsrooms to leverage both software and hardware tools, such as camera drones, by partnering newsrooms with local experts. pilot Christian Oriso demonstrates a drone for Kenyan journalists in this photo.

Rewiring newsrooms for the digital age isn’t easy.

Newsrooms are complex, fragile machines that struggle daily with the balance between churning out large quantities of content while striving to create journalistic perfection. You can seldom just flick a switch, or plug in new people and new systems. Real digital transformation is much messier, and involves reskilling people rather than wholesale replacement.

That’s why Code for Africa (CfA) is partnering with Google News Lab and the World Bank’s Global Media Development Programme, to launch an intensive digital skills programme in 12 hub cities across Africa (see the full list of cities below).

The initiative, run as an Academy out of CfA’s award-winning StoryLab journalism laboratory, will use a combination of online webinars and face-to-face learning to help entire newsrooms adopt new digital ways to find and tell the news.

The StoryLab already has physical hubs in four African countries and a global network of roving data journalists and digital creatives who help newsrooms on projects ranging from investigative data analysis, to drone journalism and 360° video. The new Academy will build on this network, boosting the number of digital advisors and mentors to work with media partners so that they can train entire teams in their workplace over extended periods. The Academy will also offer online courses with Africa-specific projects and assignments, and will work with journalism schools to help give new entrants the skills they need to cement newsrooms’ own efforts to rewire their systems.

Here’s how we’re kickstarting the process, and how you can get involved:

The Academy is partnering with 36 newsrooms in 12 African cities for bi-weekly onsite workshops teaching the most important digital tools and techniques for strengthening African journalists’ voices online.

The workshops will be hands-on practical sessions, with one-on-one tuition, designed to help participants master a new tool or technique each session, via a range of specialist courses over nine months.

Academy trainers — with support from the StoryLab’s in-house technologists and editors — will also help newsrooms use their new skills on new flagship projects.

Do you want your newsroom to partner with the Academy? Send us a query here.

Africa is a big place, and the 12 focal cities are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The Academy will therefore launch an online course in August for journalists anywhere in Africa.

Participation will be free-of-charge, with course modules beginning with Web Fundamentals to give basic digital skills for newsrooms, alongside more advanced specialist tracks for data journalists, investigative reporters, geo-journalists and multimedia storytelling.

There will also be standalone modules on news verification / digital fact-checking to help journalists combat fake news, as well as digital security modules to help keep journalists and their sources safe.

Lessons will include video explainers, concise tip-sheets and exercises to immediately try out new skills. Participants will be able to tailor courses to their most pressing needs, by mixing and matching modules. Journalists who need help fast, while on deadline, will be able to learn the exact tool they need in minutes.

Interested in signing-up for a course? Register here for a launch invite.

While online courses are great, face-to-face tuition is still better. The Academy will therefore co-host monthly workshops and masterclasses, in partnership with local Hacks/Hackers chapters in the 12 target cities.

The workshops are free-of-charge and will include a combination of evening-classes and weekend bootcamps or crash-courses, each focused on a specific skill or tool. All lessons will be experiential, and will be designed to give participants hard skills they can immediately use in their work the next day.

Hacks/Hackers members who want to use their new skills for real-world projects will be eligible for seed grants from the Academy, as well as technical and editorial support from the StoryLab itself.

Want to attend a workshop? Join your local Hacks/Hackers chapter to get invites and alerts.

Africa’s journalism schools are nurturing a new generation of media pioneers, but struggle to find locally relevant courseware.

The Academy will work with universities in our target countries to help customise and localise the best available international curricula for digital journalism.

The new courseware will be supported with micro-grants so guest lecturers from global newsrooms can share insights, or to help universities purchase new tools such as 360° cameras for students to hone their skills.

Do you want your university to partner with the Academy? Send us a query here.

The Academy will also be open to additional synergies or partnerships with media organisations or digital journalism pioneers in the 12 target cities.

This could include seconding our trainers or digital strategists to help support your existing training programme, or it could entail customising materials or courseware for a specific audience. The Academy would also be open to helping newsrooms build their own internal skills development or cadet programmes.

Do you have ideas? Give us a shout here.

The 12 cities that will be targeted in the launch phase of the Academy are: Abuja (Nigeria), Cape Town (South Africa), Casablanca (Morocco), Dakar (Senegal), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Durban (South Africa), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Johannesburg (South Africa), Kampala (Uganda), Lagos (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya) and Yaoundé (Cameroon).

The first public workshops at Hacks/Hackers meetups will start on June 15.


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/year and $500,000/year, 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 Lab empowers the creation of media that improves people’s lives. It’s mission is to collaborate with journalists and entrepreneurs everywhere to build the future of media with Google. It does this through product partnerships, media trainings, and programs that foster the development of the news industry as a whole. Google began its support for digital and data journalism in Africa in 2010 through intensive workshops and continues to offer newsroom-targeted trainings. It also supported innovateAFRICA’s predecessor, the African News Innovation Challenge, in 2012.

The World Bank Global Media Development Programme helps the media leverage digital technologies to strengthen its role as a driver of good governance. In Africa, this has included support for data-driven journalism training starting in 2011, as part of efforts to improve the media’s analytical capacity. The World Bank also works with African governments to help make data for decisionmaking on development and economic issues more easily available to citizens and the media. The World Bank’s support has included co-funding for the to build statistical capacity and data literacy amongst journalists, as well as support for the HURUmap initiative to make census and demographic data more easily available to African newsrooms.

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