By Ayswarya Murthy
4 sessions, held on November 6, 7, 21 and 28th.
Rukmini S – Data Journalist
Rakesh Dubbudu – Founder, CEO, Factly
The data journalism workshop, the seventh in the NWMI’s series of Let Down in Lock Down online events, focussed on the importance of data journalism in India and introduced participants to data sources and tools. Unlike previous webinars, which were free, participants in this workshop were charged a nominal fee to cover costs. The workshop was limited to less than 30 people to allow for personalised attention from the resource persons. Priority was given to NWMI members but other participants were also included. Some free slots were reserved for journalists working in difficult circumstances who would otherwise have been unable to avail the opportunity.
During the three-hour introductory session, participants were introduced to the basic concepts of data journalism, its increasing significance in the newsroom and how it can be leveraged to tell better stories. Rukmini illustrated this with the help of several news pieces, both her own and from various global publications that specialise in data stories. In later sessions, she broke down some of her stories – from ideation and pegging pitches to the news cycle to finding and making sense of data – to give participants a better sense of the whole process.
In the first and second sessions, the Factly team took participants through a list of data sources which can be tapped for statistics on a variety of topics. They also briefed participants on what kind of data to look for where and about some of the common pitfalls to avoid when handling data. Participants were taught how to extract data from webpages and PDF documents, how to clean them, maintain a database, etc. They were also given insights into how data can be visualised.
The sessions were thoroughly interactive, with the instructors addressing all the questions posed by the participants and taking trainees step-by-step through the various processes.
The resource persons also encouraged participants to simultaneously practise what was being taught on their own computers.
At the end of the second session, all participants were given an assignment which included several datasets from National Crime Records Bureau data, COVID-19 in India, insights into the NSSO Time Use Survey and elections that were recently concluded in Bihar.
The third session was dedicated to helping participants work through their assignments, with an open discussion that facilitated the sharing of observations and doubts.
During the final session, participants were invited to present their own articles using elements of data journalism and take the rest of the class through the thought processes that resulted in the final stories. Some presented their original data and research. One participant showcased data from a study she was conducting to analyse bylines of women journalists in major English newspapers. Others expanded on the assignments given as part of the programme and came up with their own stories derived from these datasets. For example, one participant analysed the statistics from the NCRB to suss out trends in crimes against women in large states.
At the conclusion of the workshop, Rakesh pointed out that data journalism is such a vast and expansive field that even a person like himself, who has been doing it for so many years, kept learning something new every day. He advised participants to start following more data stories, keeping an eye on information sources and continually pitch ideas to editors.
The feedback on the workshop provided by participants was largely positive. They were appreciative of the depth and scale of the topics covered, especially given the limitations of online instruction.
To know more about the other webinars in our “Letdown in Lockdown” series visit https://nwmindia.org/initiatives/jobs-initiative/letdown-in-lockdown-jobs-initiative/