Event wrap-up: Data Journalism

Using data journalism to bridge the gap from media to overall development

One of CIMA’s first blog posts highlighted the importance of raising the visibility of media development across sectors. Since then, we have taken an active role in working toward building ties with other sectors and researching how we can increase funding for media in an effort for greater development. This idea was at the heart of our most recent event: How Data Journalism Drives Results in Developing Counties,” as panelists discussed the power of the media as a method of engaging all sectors of development.

Mark Nelson introduces the panel.

Mark Nelson introduces the panel at the event.

As government and private data continues to grow, media has a real opportunity to create an environment for change by highlighting the work of data journalism as media can provide things that other stakeholders often cannot. From the groundbreaking work that Internews in Kenya is doing to ICFJ’s InfoAmazonia project , it is clear that data has the potential to drive change.

However, in today’s world where anyone can be a journalist, it is essential for professional journalists to attain the skills to produce valuable information. “Journalism without data ends up being largely anecdote,” said Ben Colmery. Things become a bit more problematic when journalists are not trained in how to work with large data sets. Besides lacking the skills for analyzing, Ida Joose, the country director for Internews Kenya, said that journalists didn’t think they even had the right to have access to data. No matter the circumstance, the most important thing is that the availability continues to grow. As Craig Hammer mentioned, “The data isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. The point is that it’s out there.”

“The data isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. The point is that it’s out there.” -Craig Hammer

New projects to educate journalists, growing availability of government data, and an effort by the development community as a whole seem to be making an impact on the daily lives of people around the world, and the media development community should seize the opportunity to showcase the importance of a free and independent media. As Tara Susman-Pena wrote in CIMA’s paper about data journalism, “Without media that can make sense of this growing mountain of data, the promise of the transparency revolution is likely to be lost.”

Click here to watch a video of the discussion. 


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Posted in Africa, General, global

Political support key for media in Myanmar

Information Minister U Ye Htut speaks during the opening session of the third annual conference on media development in Myanmar on September 18. The two-day event is being held at the Chatrium Hotel, Yangon. Photo: Bo Bo/Mizzima

Information Minister U Ye Htut speaks during the opening session of the third annual conference on media development in Myanmar on September 18. The two-day event is being held at the Chatrium Hotel, Yangon. Photo: Bo Bo/Mizzima

Over the past two years, the euphoria surrounding the rebirth of independent media in Myanmar has given way to increasing concern in light of high profile setbacks, including the arrest and harsh sentencing of prominent journalists and the passage of controversial new media laws. It is unclear if this is merely a temporary setback or long-term trend, but it was in this context that the 3rd Conference on Media Development in Myanmar took place on September 18th and 19th in Yangon.

The conference brought together media actors in Myanmar and around the world, as well as civil society leaders and public officials. The two day event focused on “moving towards a sustainable media environment” and included sessions on reforming the broadcast sector, community radio, the press council, sustainable business models and media law reform (See entire conference agenda here). Among the takeaways from the conference was the need for greater professionalism among journalists, and the critical role they will play in the run-up to the 2015 elections. And while developing more capable journalists is crucial for creating a strong and viable media sector in Myanmar, a fundamental weakness for the sector continues to be the legal environment.

Although some of Myanmar’s most draconian media laws and institutions were discarded by current President Thein Sein, significant new legislation has underwhelmed observers. Two of the most notable pieces of legislation that passed parliament, the Printers and Publishers Enterprise Law and the 2014 News Media Law of Myanmar, were both met with concern.

Of the News Media Law, the NGO Article 19 warns that the law’s language is “so heavily qualified or contradicted…” that “…they will have little practical impact on media freedoms in the country.”  The Printers and Publishers Enterprise Law, meanwhile, has been criticized for vague language that could easily be used to reintroduce government censorship.

Reporters hold banners and shout slogans as they attend a demonstration march for press freedom in Yangon.

Reporters hold banners and shout slogans as they attend a demonstration march for press freedom in Yangon.

How could a more open political system in Myanmar, with a pro-reform government and a substantial bloc of pro-democracy parliamentarians, fail to deliver stronger reforms? Part of the answer lies in the parliament’s failure to provide adequate checks on the laws developed by the Ministry of Information. Although some amendments were made, these two bills survived largely intact. In fact, Professor Christina Fink of the George Washington University noted at an Internews event earlier this year that many members of the opposition voted for the Printers and Publishers Enterprise Law without even reading it.

In order to develop an enabling legal environment for media, sufficient political support must exist within political institutions, and especially in the Parliament. Without a constituency for media, deeply flawed legislation will pass and undermine the development of the media sector to grow independently and sustainably. Even a small contingent of parliamentarians devoted to media reform could make an impact.

While Myanmar’s minister of information, U Ye Htut, notes that media reform “is the most important process in President U Thein Sen’s reform” agenda, progressive reform requires tangible engagement and support from members of parliament. Through greater engagement with members of parliament and coalition-building among civil society groups, donors could have a greater impact on the development of a sustainable media environment. Enhancing the professionalism of journalists is important work, but without engagement of the public sector, the space for journalists to operate will continue to be limited by weak legal protections.

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Posted in Asia, Sustainability

MDIF’s Impact Dashboard: A Case Study in Measuring MediaDev

When it comes to measuring success or failure, media developers face many of the same challenges as the rest of the international development community.

Do you measure inputs, such as the amount of money that is invested in media development initiatives? Or do you track outcomes from projects—the number of people trained or the knowledge that they gained from training? Should we be looking at organizational performance of media enterprises, such as the increase in audience or reach, or their profit and loss accounts? Or should we be looking at broader impacts on society in terms of poverty reduction, improved governance or overall peace and economic growth that an independent media can help to achieve?

One creative attempt at answering these questions is the just-released Impact Dashboard 2014 from the Media Development Investment Fund. This document is a must-read for media developers because of the clear and graphic way that MDIF has tracked the results of its work.

MDIF is one of the most interesting and creative creatures of the media development field—an organization that makes loans and equity investments in, and offers technical support to promising media enterprises in developing countries.  As such, it is already addressing one of the higher-level possible outcomes of media development, sustainable media enterprises. Compared with some of the early attempts at addressing problems in the media sector by simply training journalists, it is already yards ahead.

MDIF is also ahead in the results game.  It looks at change at several levels, and it attempts to address the fundamental question of why high quality, independent media matters to developing societies. MDIF’s results framework measures its outputs, in terms of loans, equity investments and technical assistance; it looks at client outputs in terms of quality reporting and content production; and it suggests results at the societal level in terms of impact on reducing corruption and improving accountability.

MDIF’s solution to the results question mirrors closely the similar work carried out under the auspices of the Learning Network on Capacity Development , which is a network of development practitioners that has contributed to the last three global accords on aid effectiveness.  LenCD has worked to build a stronger understanding  of capacity development  as more than just outputs—not just  training and technical assistance—but a broader set of activities and focus on higher level results. These results can be tracked and measured at multiple levels. I have summarized one way of looking at these levels of capacity development outcomes in the diagram below.

measuring impact of media development v2

MDIF’s Impact Dashboard is an important reminder about the importance of articulating the results of media development work. As the international community gears up for a new set of international development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals that expire next year, initiatives such as this one can help us make the case that media development can be measured, that money spent on media development is well used, and that high quality independent media really matters for developing societies.

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Posted in global, Impact and Evaluation, Sustainability

ONA 2014: The Legal Panel

The Online News Association’s annual conference has grown in substance and topic each year, but one steadfast subject remains on the agenda: media law. While several aspects of this discussion did highlight issues specific to the United States, the overarching theme was that the rapid growth of digital journalism and technology leaves many questions regarding protection of confidential sources, what information is off limits to authorities, and when you are truly protected. True, many of these laws are specific to the United States, but today we can apply many of these concepts globally.

Michael Kovaka introduces panelists at ONA 14.

Michael Kovaka introduces panelists at ONA 14.

At a conference with cutting edge products lining the halls, the legal panel offered a glimpse into the work that must be done in legal systems not only in the United States, but around the world to catch up with the realities of digital newsrooms. Even in a country like the United States where First Amendment rights are enshrined, it is difficult to know when you are protected and when you aren’t.

Reminiscent of Watergate, Barbara Wall of Gannett Co. said that if you want to keep your sources confidential, “find a Rosslyn garage. That which does not exist can not be subpoenaed.”

After urging caution to all of the attendees when protecting sources, panelists discussed issues like prior restraint, cell phone warrants, the Privacy Protection Act, and newsroom social media policies,  the overarching theme prevailed: governments and law enforcement agencies have the power to obtain your information.

“Wherever fear goes, bad law follows.” -Gregg Leslie

If the government wants to know who your sources are, they will. “The more important your story is, the less you are going to be able to do to stop them,” said Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

While the legal panel did not delve into similar issues throughout the world, we know that government surveillance runs rampant in countries like Russia, where independent media outlets and journalists struggle to simply do their jobs on a daily basis.

For more information about this event and to hear more details about this conversation, please click here. 

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Posted in General

ONA 2014: The blended worlds of digital journalism

The Online News Association’s annual conference on emerging trends in digital journalism kicks off in Chicago today, with nearly 100 sessions varying from lightning talks to hands-on workshops for the next three days.

chicago ona 14

In its 15 years, the ONA conference has seen dramatic technological shifts that have completely altered the scope of journalism. A far cry from its first years of small gatherings at universities around the country, today nearly 2000 participants, 700 of which are first-time attendees, will discuss the varied roles for technology in journalism. A major point of interaction for attendees thus far has been the conclusion that all journalists must now be digital journalists, as the line between print and online media is blurred.

The keynotediscussion today began with a divided conversation on the role of media in the recent protests in Ferguson, MO, following the shooting death of an unarmed teenager by a police officer. The viral nature of the protests, which were brought to life through images and videos shared on social media, made the conversation all the more relevant to ONA’s purpose.

For a full list of conference materials, schedules, and attendees, see their website: http://ona14.journalists.org/. Many sessions will be livestreamed. CIMA will be writing our impressions from several of the sessions, so follow our blog and #ONA14 for updates!

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Posted in global, Innovation