By Minerwa Tahir
KARACHI: Most people, especially journalists, are afraid of numbers. We struggle with percentages and find it difficult to understand and thereby analyze numbers, rates, ratios and different calculations. They seem big and incomprehensible. Not any more, thanks to Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD).
Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) held a short training course on data journalism from November 1 to November 3 at Center of Excellence for Journalism at IBA City Campus. Eight journalists of different affiliations completed the three-day training course.
On the first day of the training, Waqas Naeem, the course instructor, assured us that by the end of the training, our collective phobia of numbers will be gone. And he proved himself right.
During the course of the training, Naeem delivered interactive lectures on how to clean and filter data on Microsoft Excel and then analyze and present it using different tools such as Piktochart and Infogram.
Moreover, Naeem gave user-friendly presentations on how to calculate rates, ratios and percentages and implement their formulae in Excel for less time-consuming operations. He then taught us how to create user-friendly charts on Piktochart and Infogram to present the data analysis in a visually appealing manner.
He also taught us how to use the basic features of Google Fusion Tables to map your data. Naeem would frequently pause between his lecture to help out any participant who got stuck with Excel or any of the other tools.
The course instructor further briefed us about the Right To Information (RTI) law of all the provinces that can be used to obtain data from the government. According to him, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces have effective implementation of the RTI law as compared to Sindh and Balochistan. In Sindh, it is difficult to obtain data as a commission has yet to be formed to hear complaints in case a government department refuses to allow access to public records. In Balochistan, the situation is even worse for obvious reasons.
Participants were provided a comprehensive booklet published by MMfD on RTI law along with some other notes on how to put Excel to use for analysis of data.
According to Naeem, knowing the law and its provisions coupled with the skill required to work on Excel and other software would be of immense use for journalists in the upcoming general election next year.
At the end of the training, participants received certificates. “You all should try to obtain access to public records as it’s your legal right,” he said. “If you are refused access to public records, that in itself is a story!” Nevertheless, he said that MMfD could be approached for filing a request to any department for public records.