MCMI — Newsroom Training Week: Part 1 Training Content
A common challenge with hosting a large workshop with various newsrooms is that journalists feel intimidated to ask questions in a larger audience and the content may be introduced at a very high level. The journalists also stated that whenever they go to a workshop, they are bombarded with so much information. It becomes overwhelming and once back at the office, they have already forgotten some important information.
Stakeholders of the Mpumalanga Civic Media Initiative (MCMI) project decided the best way to overcome this challenge is to visit each newsroom individually so that they are in a comfortable space and also so I could approach the content according to their level and pace. I also created guideline documents and quizzes, so they always have a reference if they forget how to use the tools or an element of the tools.
I started off the session introducing the journalists to the MCMI project goals and the various stakeholders associated with the project. I also explained these fundamental concepts: What is data? Types of data? What is open data? Where can you get open data?
And most importantly, the philosophies of data journalism. At first, the journalists didn’t seem to fully grasp the link between data and journalism until I explained these concepts to them. They were then able to identify stories based on data.
I reinforced the philosophies of data journalism by showing the journalists a few examples of data-driven stories. The Living Wage captured their attention and showed the impact that data stories can have on society.
The Living Wage is a project created by Code4SA which helps the user determine if they are paying their domestic worker sufficiently to support her own household. This project provides the user with a sense of responsibility as an employer and helps in the decision making of salaries.
I also showed the journalists a new tool called Ezolwaluko that was launched on the 20th of November 2016. This tool was developed by City Press, Code4Africa, Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) and Open Data Durban. It relates to circumcision deaths and malpractice around circumcisions.
This application allows the user to find an initiation school or surgeon nearby or check if a surgeon is registered. It also allows surgeons to register or report illegal surgeons.
Health Tools widgets such as Dodgy Doctors and Hospital Finder were also introduced to the journalists. As part of the MCMI project, ODD will develop a website that will embed each of these widgets. Readers can then visit the newsroom website and find out if their doctor is registered or not or find a health facility closest to them. An example of this is online publications such as The Star News in Kenya which was developed by Code4Africa and Code4Kenya.
The journalists were then taken through a brief explanation of #GreenAlert. #GreenAlert tracks developments requiring environmental authorisations. The journos can subscribe to alerts in their area. If new developments are taking place in their area, they will be informed and can start reporting on this development.
The platform will provide the journalist with all relevant information on the development. A KwaZulu-Natal pilot of #GreenAlert is currently being developed by Oxpeckers, Code4Africa and Open Data Durban.
An in-depth session of WAZImap was conducted. I also assisted the journalists through a quiz to test their knowledge. As part of the project, the participating journalists are required to use WAZImap in feature articles.
The beneficiary newsrooms of the MCMI pilot will each receive a fully developed Wordpress website for posting articles online. I did a brief introduction of Wordpress to the journalists. Once their websites are developed, weekly skype sessions will focus on detailed step by step use of Wordpress.
Social media is very important for journalists, as they can engage with their readers online and also increase engagement and traffic to their website and content. Most of the newsrooms had a very poor social media presence. I encouraged them to use social media to get feedback from their community, report on issues that their readers are interested in and keep updated on breaking news. Most of the newsrooms had not been using their social media account because the login details are with people who have left the company. The newsrooms then lost interest in social media. We are hoping that the newsrooms improve their social media presence as it will aid in sharing articles from their new online reporting system.
The session ended with a representative from The Write News Agency (TWNA) conducting a feature article brainstorm session with the journalists. TWNA assisted the journalists with identifying stories using data obtained from WAZImap. The journalists have some exciting ideas and I am personally looking forward to their feature articles.
Be sure to look out for part 2 of the MCMI Newsroom Training blog where I would be writing about my personal experiences with each newsroom.
Tricia is an OpenGov Fellow with Open Data Durban and she loves to bake.