“There has been significant growth in the use of data by newsrooms and media publications in Kenya over the years, but data-driven journalism is in its infancy in this part of Africa, because media decision-makers have not grasped the value that comes with utilising data content but they are realising that it is increasingly important in the transformation and evolution of the consumption of media,” said, Martin K.N Siele, contributor for Quartz Kenya.
During a Jamfest Africa, 2022 session on how data-driven storytelling is transforming the newsroom, data journalists shared their experiences with using data to create stories. The session was moderated by Wairimu Macharia, a digital communications consultant and director of Fringe Graph, and was joined by Edith Magak, Journalist, NAM aidsmap.
“As journalists and newsrooms, our core goal is to find new and innovative ways to tell stories and data journalism does that,” said Magak adding that “a lot of the newsrooms are open to [data journalism] theoretically but in practice it is minimal.”
What are the challenges with data journalism? Siele said that “the biggest challenge is equipping journalists with the skills they need to utilise data well and the tools that come with it, and the value of data journalism.” Magak said there is a lack of “access to quality data and the lack of financial resources, data journalism costs. money.”
Despite the challenges that data journalists face, data journalism offers many opportunities and can be used for many different beats, said Magak. “Data can go a long way in helping the audience understand the magnitude of what you are saying and put things into perspective and actually ground them with facts away from rhetorics,” said Siele. In addition to that “data helps me put my biases to the side and tell the story as it is,” he said.
“Data journalism is accessible. Before I started I thought it was intense statistics but it can be a map or an interview, it can be simple,” said Magak. He added: “data helps to tell credible stories and amplifies issues, incorporating data into stories does more justice for a story.” The impact of data is in how it is used, and it makes the content richer, said Siele. Audiences want value and data adds value.
Data-driven stories “help to unearth information that is hidden because you can visualise an issue that really resonates with your audience as it is grounded in data,” said Macharia.
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