Around 40 Pakistani journalists altogether participated in a series of data journalism trainings conducted by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) between 11 October and 3 November.
The training series titled “Fundamentals of Data Journalism” consisted of three-day workshops organised in Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi. In each city, a group of 10 to 12 journalists attended the training. The training series was part of MMfD’s Media for Transparency project, which aims to combine data journalism skills with the use of right to information (RTI) laws to produce data-driven investigative news stories.
The trainings focused on the basic elements of data journalism, including ways to find data online, data analysis skills, and data visualization techniques. One training session also highlighted the importance of RTI laws for journalism and the way Pakistani journalists can use the RTI laws to acquire public records for news reporting.
The training participants included journalists working for mainstream news organizations as well as freelancers. Most of the participants confessed they had little or no previous experience of basic spreadsheet softwares used for data analysis. The training sessions were structured to ease journalists into learning about the data journalism process. The participants learned about advanced searching techniques and went over simple mathematical concepts and calculations that can prove useful in the newsroom.
For the sessions on data analysis, the participants practiced with a data set on Microsoft Excel to get hands-on experience. The participants then mapped and visualized their findings using online tools. During all the sessions, the participants were repeatedly given tips on keeping in mind the news story for which they were performing the data analysis.
Lahore training participant Sana Asif Dar, a producer at Express News, said her key takeaway from the training was that data analysis of public records can lead to new and different story ideas. Dar said she liked the practical calculations and practice sessions on Microsoft Excel the best.
Peshawar participant Wisal Yousafzai, a reporter for The Frontier Post, said it was useful to learn how to clean poorly formatted data and investigate it for potential news story ideas.
“Thanks (to MMfD) for organizing such a fruitful activity for journalists,” Yousafzai said.
Another Lahore participant Rooba Arooj, who works for Naibaat and Neo TV, said she loved working with the online visualizaton tools.
“It was outstanding,” Arooj said, commenting on her overall experience at the training.