Google launches Dig­i­tal Jour­nal­ism

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Daniel Sieberg Daniel Sieberg is head of Train­ing & De­vel­op­ment, Google News Lab.

FOR ME­DIA, the world has changed rapidly and dra­mat­i­cally. Daily, we hear about jour­nal­ists’ frus­tra­tions with shrink­ing news­rooms, in­creased ju­nior­i­sa­tion as the on­slaught of on­line hits print news­rooms even harder, and the lack of time or skills to trans­form those news­rooms into dig­i­tal jour­nal­ism hubs so that the press can sur­vive and thrive in the dig­i­tal era.

Thanks to tech­nol­ogy, the 24-hour news cy­cle has be­come an in­stant news cy­cle. Tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers are of­ten strug­gling to com­pete with their dig­i­tal coun­ter­parts, and both face the chal­lenge of so­cial plat­forms that en­able ev­ery­one with an in­ter­net con­nec­tion to serve as a kind of re­porter on scene to post live news, as it breaks, any­where in the world, us­ing noth­ing more com­pli­cated than a mo­bile phone.

Pre­serv­ing an in­de­pen­dent press is, how­ever, crit­i­cal for our so­ci­eties, and it does not serve any­one for that press to be drowned out un­der a del­uge of so­cial me­dia con­tent and fake news.

Re­mained un­in­formed

If not for the in­de­pen­dent press, the big­gest sto­ries of the last 100 years – from Water­gate to #Gup­taleaks – would have re­mained un­told. With­out an in­de­pen­dent press we would be un­in­formed over what is hap­pen­ing in war zones, board­rooms, farms and towns, from our big­gest cities to sparsely pop­u­lated is­lands.

In­deed, ad­vances in dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy have pre­sented jour­nal­ists with com­pelling op­por­tu­ni­ties to tell sto­ries in new, in­ter­ac­tive and en­gag­ing ways.

But learn­ing how to use these dig­i­tal tools can be daunt­ing – es­pe­cially for jour­nal­ists in Africa, where ro­bust dig­i­tal in­te­gra­tion in news and sto­ry­telling re­mains a chal­lenge.

Across the con­ti­nent, few jour­nal­ism in­sti­tu­tions of­fer train­ing pro­grammes in dig­i­tal tools and news or­gan­i­sa­tions lack the ca­pa­bil­ity to lev­er­age new dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies in their re­port­ing.

To that end, the Google News Lab is an­nounc­ing its sup­port for an Africa-wide Dig­i­tal Jour­nal­ism ini­tia­tive that aims to help jour­nal­ists, news­rooms and ed­i­tors bet­ter un­der­stand and utilise Google’s tools and the web to be able to tell bet­ter sto­ries.

Work­ing in part­ner­ship with the World Bank and Code for Africa, Google aims to train 6 000 jour­nal­ists in 12 ma­jor African cities – Abuja, La­gos, Nairobi, Cape Town, Jo­han­nes­burg, Dur­ban, Casablanca, Dakar, Free­town, Dar es Salaam, Kam­pala, and Yaounde – be­tween now and Fe­bru­ary 2018.

The train­ing ses­sions will fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing skills such as mo­bile re­port­ing, map­ping, data vi­su­al­i­sa­tion, data ver­i­fi­ca­tion, new forms of sto­ry­telling, and on­line fact check­ing.

Train­ing will take place face-to-face in three news­rooms in each city, start­ing now. Train­ing ses­sions will be held twice a month for the du­ra­tion of the ini­tia­tive.

This will be sup­ported by a mas­sive open on-line course, which will be made freely avail­able on-line from the be­gin­ning of Au­gust. The on-line course will cover a range of web con­cepts and prac­tices for dig­i­tal jour­nal­ists.

Study group meet-ups

We are also hold­ing monthly study group meet-ups in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Hacks/ Hack­ers Africa to pro­vide more fo­cused in-per­son in­struc­tion. Monthly meet­ings will take place in Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, Nige­ria, Sene­gal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tan­za­nia and Uganda.

In April 2016, Google an­nounced its com­mit­ment to train 1 mil­lion young Africans in dig­i­tal skills within 12 months to help them cre­ate and find jobs via the web. This goal was achieved a month early, in March 2017, and Google has ex­tended the pro­gramme this year.

With the Dig­i­tal Jour­nal­ism ini­tia­tive, we want to con­trib­ute to the growth of Africa’s news and me­dia ecosys­tem – train­ing present and fu­ture prac­ti­tion­ers on how to em­ploy ex­ist­ing tools to tell sto­ries, and sup­port­ing them to cre­ate lo­cally-rel­e­vant tools that will re­shape how Africans con­sume news.

Google be­lieves that pre­serv­ing a ro­bust and in­de­pen­dent press is im­por­tant for our so­ci­ety and when ex­cel­lent jour­nal­ism suc­ceeds, we all do bet­ter.

This is why we help jour­nal­ists to use tech­nol­ogy for re­port­ing and act as a col­lab­o­ra­tor and con­vener to lis­ten and learn from those in the in­dus­try.

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