by Simphiwe Kanityi
...In reality when it comes to digital skills you are talking a foreign language to (some) journalists today. Peter Verweij, a senior lecturer at the school of Journalism at Utrecht in the Netherlands, made it clear that you do not need to be on school premises in order to learn about using your cell phone as a tool to cover news live. Proactive (data collection) and reactive (voxpop) reporting are the two models that today’s' journalists never thought existed or at least could not distinguish how each is important than another. To put this in an understandable context, many journalists just opt for reactive reporting because it seems to be the easy model. Example, when the petrol price is going up they go around interviewing people on how they feel and how that will affect their day to day living. This is not wrong according to Verweij but there could be a better way that journalists can go for. Journalists can use their phones (internet) to collect data, meaning comparing petrol prices from various cities, previous years as to produce a strong story with relevant facts.
As the heading suggests, COVERITLIVE - means that you can directly cover any event only by using your phone. This gives you time now to collect enough data not just shallowly cover the story based on how people feels without covering the core issues. You see an accident, you do not just take pictures but seek more information about the city, the roads, past accidents and reasons and that will give you enough data for analysis so as to come up with well informed stories.
What was interesting about the workshop is that it was not just a one man talking session but have the practical sides as well. Participants had an opportunity to put into practice what they are learning and given the results they could find, it could be said the real time web reporting is working and necessary for today's journalism. One easy and trusted way that you can go about in finding information from around the world and specific countries, you can use Google public data, gap minder, wolfram alpha and you will find all the relevant information you need. Then for the immediate broadcast of this you can use tools such as coveritlive, Twitter, Audio Boo, Ustream, Qik and Vuvox. These are the tools where audio, video text and pictures can be uploaded. Amongst all these tools once again, blogging is still the way to go.
This therefore calls for all African journalists to report African news in a well informed position and not just goes with the stream of bad news. Verweij exclaimed that "there can be bad news about Africa, but can you not just give me what you see but give me data analysis, and bring together the figures". Therefore web reporting is important and todays' news rooms should be working towards this direction compared to television which is based on emotions. But the most important message from this first session is that journalist must not be so deadline minded to a point where they leave the facts behind. Figures, data, calculations and knowing the difference when the number are read as text or just as numbers and where they should be in Microsoft office excel matters most when it comes to getting the facts right. We will keep on updating you on the progress of the workshop since it will take the whole day of this last day of Highway Africa Conference.