2014

Journalists for Human Rights Spearheads Data Journalism in Ghana

Canada's leading media development charity kick-starts multi-platform data journalism project

TORONTO, Aug. 27, 2013 /CNW/ - On Friday, July 19th, Ghanaians woke up to learn what many suspected but had never been proven: that nearly half - 46% - of the country had paid bribes for government services.

On Saturday, August 24th, news broke that 43% of Ghanaians had been forced to pay cash for health treatments covered by the national health insurance card.

The statistics - gathered from exclusive telephone polls - broke in The Weekend Globe newspaper, on the airwaves at Citi FM, and online through Facebook and Twitter. Robust data journalism, a growing field in Canadian media, had arrived in Ghana.

The project, an innovative partnership between Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), mobile polling and engagement start-up Voto Mobile, and Accra-based Citi FM, will continue for two months. The first of its kind in Ghana, the project brings print, radio and online media partners together to cover important national issues based on strong data evidence.

Coupling charts and graphs with in-depth analysis and reporting, the project creates compelling and informative journalism on a range of local issues from corruption to women's rights to access to national health insurance to the responsibilities of local government.

Spearheaded by JHR trainer Iain Marlow, the project's first investigation was ambitious: the cost of corruption for the average citizen. "Quite simply, nothing like it has ever been done before in Citi - and possibly Ghana - so no one was sure what to make of the project," he explained.
The response was very positive. Conversations about the scope and causes of corruption lit up the Citi FM airwaves as callers weighed in. Reactions and comments on social media spanned the globe as people shared, tweeted, and commented throughout the day.

Starting public conversations about common social issues is challenging. But by highlighting local voices and statistics in media coverage, people take notice. Citi FM's Facebook posts on the corruption story averaged 20% more comments than regular news posts.

"Data journalism is a complex and constantly evolving field," explained JHR's Executive Director Rachel Pulfer. "Using information from reliable, locally designed and executed polls as a basis for hard-hitting, issue-focused journalism is a crucial step in strengthening media, which is an essential institution in democracies. JHR is thrilled to be at the forefront of data journalism in Ghana with such dedicated partners."

"I always thought this process was reserved only for established institutions," said Martin Asiedu-Dartey. The Editor of The Weekend Globe was one of the co-authors of the 1800-word lead story on corruption and wrote the feature on the national health insurance failure. "I was unsure what the responses would be…[But] The data was very easy to analyze. That really helped me in writing the final piece with ease."

"It was a truly exciting experience working on the project. It was refreshing to see journalists use data they had gathered themselves to source original stories," said Philip Kofi Ashon, Online Manager at Citifmonline.com. "I think this represents the breaking of a new dawn for data driven journalism...It was a real pleasure monitoring the response of people from all over the world contributing to the discussion on Facebook and Twitter. It is something I would love to see happen more often."

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Notes for Editors:

Journalists for Human Rights (www.jhr.ca ) is Canada's leading media development organization. JHR helps journalists build their capacity to report ethically and effectively on human rights and governance issues in their communities. Since 2002, JHR has trained over 12,000 journalists whose stories have reached over 50 million people.

JHR has worked in Ghana since 2003. JHR's work in Ghana is made possible through the generous support of the Canadian International Development Agency.

VOTO Mobile (votomobile.org) is a unique company that makes it easy for organizations, local governments, and journalists to share information and gather real-time feedback from citizens, made possible through voice and SMS delivered to mobile phones in local languages. VOTO's works with organizations throughout the social sector to help them engage, educate, and learn from citizens whose voices are most rarely heard.

Citi FM (www.citifmonline.com ) is an English-speaking radio station that operates in Accra, Ghana. Citi FM publishes online, and in The Weekend Globe newspaper. The radio brand combines a comprehensive and credible news function, backed by innovative listener-driven on air programs. Citi 97.3 FM covers the vibrant Ghanaian political scene with objective and balanced live reports, news features and documentaries as well as regular round-table discussions on pertinent issues. Citi FM has partnered with Journalists for Human Rights since 2010.


SOURCE jhr (Journalists for Human Rights)



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