At the mention of data journalism, what comes to mind is numbers, something that many would view as a complex field to navigate.
This is because compared to the normal way of reporting day to day issues, data-driven stories require more time to hunt down data, not to mention the technological skills to visualize that data into a graphic that will be meaningful for readers. While the field is growing, news organizations in some parts of the world have struggled to tap into the potential data journalism has to improve news and storytelling.
WanaData-Ke, a first of its kind, is a network of female journalists working on changing the digital media landscape by producing and promoting data-driven news and applying digital technologies in their storytelling.
WanaData-Ke provides members with free training, mentorship, support on all things data journalism to enable them produce impactful stories that help push for policy changes in government.
The network started with eight members and the number has increased to 53, with a presence in South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and now forming up the Rwanda chapter.
“It only started out with eight female journalists, including myself, who were regular attendants of the monthly Hacks Hackers meetings organized by Code for Kenya where techies and journalists meet to share ideas on how to incorporate technology and good journalism,” says Stella Murumba, WanaData Lead and Code for Kenya Programme Manager.
.“They were interested in learning the skills required to tell stories using data. An initial meeting resulted in what has now become a monthly gathering of a growing network with 53 active members. The network acts as a co-operative with each member obliged to produce regular content to the best of their ability.”
From brainstorming story ideas, suggesting datasets, sharing reports, story tips to sharing contacts of sources, the members also share skills such as data visualization or audio plus video editing for a podcast/social video. The members also enjoy editorial mentorship and guidance as well as tech support from the CfKenya team, something that doesn’t come easily in local newsroom settings.
Through the WanaData network, members are provided with free and regular training in digital storytelling skills, editorial mentorship and technical support such as data scraping, analysis and visualization.
“These are skills and support that they may not be able to access in their newsrooms and are particularly difficult for freelance women journalists to receive. The network members receive editorial support from ideation, finding and analyzing data to presentation,” explains Murumba.
“They also receive help in pitching their stories to news managers and editors. Newsrooms are able to benefit in that the network members are able to introduce new angles to stories which are presented in an innovative manner. The content has regularly become lead section stories, unique in-depth features in weekly pull-outs or sections in print, broadcast and online publications.”
The plan for WanaData network is to make it a spread it beyond Africa.
“We are currently engaging the female journalists in Pan-African collaborations. An example of this is sex trafficking as a story project between network members in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania,” says Murumba.
“I am proud to say that since inception, our membership has grown and this is an indication that more female journalists are embracing and inclining to evidence-based data journalism to come out with what we call solution journalism-journalism with impact,” she says.