Saturday, 06 Oct 2012

Data journalists unearth stories from our backyard

By Dorothy Otieno, Internews in Kenya.

The Invisible Bridge, a three-part feature on men who have sex with men, HIV and discrimination, was the focus of discussion among Kenyans days after it was aired on K24 TV.

“Great courage for K24 to broadcast the story. It's one that must be told as we have been living

the saying 'heads buried in sand'. Beautifully told without prejudice.  ...” a viewer comments on YouTube.

Stella Kasina, the freelance journalist who did the story says the level of storytelling in the Invisible Bridge was a first for her.  “I never used to plan. I would go to events hoping to find someone to interview. This all changed after I was trained in data journalism training last October,” she says.

The training came with skills she is using to produce not only complex but also compelling stories. “I didn’t know how to simplify data and would just read them out until I ran out of breath,” she recalls. “Now I can analyse data and simplify numbers to enhance my story.”

Kasina reveals that before she embarked on gathering material for the story she had never met a gay person. However, this did not hinder her from producing a great piece.

Kasina was one of 10 journalists who took part in the first Internews data journalism workshop on the use of data in storytelling from October 3-5. In the training done with the support of PRB, nine of the trainees went through mentorship before they were awarded travel grants to do data driven stories. The stories were published on print, radio and TV. 

Bernard Mwinzi, the Editor of the Daily Nation, the largest newspaper in Kenya, admits that the sheer volume of data often scares 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 Internews second data course.  For more on the course that was offered from June 4-23 this year, read:

For stories produced by Internews data journalism trainees see storify piece:

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