Ten journalists from different Pakistani news organisations studied investigative reporting strategies, multimedia journalism skills, and advanced data analysis techniques during a five-day training boot camp organised by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD).
The Data and Investigative Reporting Boot Camp was conducted in Murree from 13 to 17 December as part of MMfD’s Media for Transparency project.
The boot camp participants were selected from among the 40 journalists who attended the Fundamentals of Data Journalism training series delivered in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Islamabad by the project team in October and November.
Set against a snowy landscape in Murree, the practice-oriented boot camp sessions built on the skills learnt by the participants during the basic data journalism trainings.
The first day of training dealt with advanced spreadsheet formulas and techniques to merge multiple data sets. The participants worked to create a database of members of national assembly’s attendance record.
Day two comprised of talks on data-driven journalistic investigations. Participants learnt about the investigative reporting process prescribed by the Investigative Reporter’s Handbook. Through an interactive discussion, participants shared their concerns and received answers about ethical dilemmas, source cultivation and trustiworthiness, and fact-checking before publication.
Multimedia reporting was discussed during the third day of the training. Participants were briefly informed about best practices in mobile journalism and tools they can use to record, edit, and publish news reports using their cell phones. The journalists also shared experiences from their newsrooms and their own digital reporting work.
The boot camp’s fourth day was devoted to brainstorming story ideas for news investigations. Participants discussed their ideas with each other and shared questions, concerns, potential sourcing suggestions, and tips to refine each idea’s focus.
The boot camp concluded on Sunday with a brief session on right to information, a quick discussion of next steps, and a certificate distribution ceremony.
On all days, participants also saw recorded video interviews with senior national and international journalists with experience in data journalism, multimedia news, and investigative reporting.
MMfD is grateful to award-winning US data journalists Thomas Hargrove (Murder Accountability Project) and Brad Racino (inewsource), Dawn.com’s features editor Atika Rehman, and Geo News national security reporter Azaz Syed who all took time out for the video interviews. British journalist and educator Paul Bradshaw also sent in a written message for the participants.
The 10 boot camp participants were freelance journalist Shehram Khan, Geo.tv producer Haseem uz Zaman, Samaa.tv web sub-editor Minerwa Tahir, Neo/Naibaat reporter Rooba Arooj, News One reporter Syed Abbas Haider, Royal News reporter Tariq Mehmood Khan, freelance reporter Sheraz Akbar, Akhbar-e Khyber Islamabad correspondent Shehzad Yousafzai, Geo News reporter Qaiser Khan and Daily Pakistan English journalist Urooj Fatima.
During the boot camp, all participating journalists finalised one idea each for a multimedia investigative story, which they will try to complete during the next six weeks at their respective news organisations. The Media for Transparency team will assist the journalists by providing logistical and editorial support on their news projects.
MMfD’s Media for Transparency project is an attempt to produce data-driven investigative news reports through a combination of data journalism skills and local right to information laws.