Journalism not meant for haters of maths, stats

A section of the delegates

A section of the delegates

DELEGATES to the recent Highway Africa Conference held in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) in South Africa have been told that the journalism career is not meant for haters of mathematics and statistics.

With growing emphasis on data journalism in contemporary times, the two subject areas have become inevitable tools for modern news reporting, said Professor Peter Verweij, an international media trainer and consultant.

Data journalism involves the downloading of information from a database, or to scrape the figures from a web-page or PDF document, before analysing it by calculating key figures and visualising trends in various graphs or maps for the story in hard copy, television or online.

Professor Verweij who led a training session in data journalism at the conference made it clear that in the wake of limited time and space in the newspapers and also on the airwaves, corporate communities, for example, would rather read the news in a quick glance in the forms of graphs and maps rather than a whole page loaded with words.

He, therefore, urged editors to embrace data journalism and commit resources towards training their reporters in the area.

“Data journalism is proposing another route:  a transition from the ‘he said, she said’ journalism to ‘fact-based’ or ‘evidence-based’ reporting,” the former lecturer of the School of Journalism in Utrecht, Netherlands added.

During the three-day training, the participants were assisted to map out different routes in the data journalism landscape, using examples as sovereign debt crisis, financial inclusion, and GDP growth to social development.

About 120 journalists from West, East and Southern African countries including Ghana attended the conference which was under the theme: ‘The changing relationship of media and society’.

The event was supported by Absa, MTN, Actionaid, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other corporate bodies and various NGOs and hosted by the Rhodes University, Makhanda.

The main focus was the impact of digital technologies (internet and mobile) on journalism and the media, and by extension, society.



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