Earlier this month, 38 journalists and media practitioners were selected to be part of the first cohort of the Environmental Data Journalism Academy in the Philippines, organized by Thibi and Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN), through its Asia-Pacific project.
To join the six-week-long program, the fellows underwent a rigorous selection process, including proficiency assessments and virtual interviews.
The "Fundamentals of Data Journalism" course, which began on May 8, was designed to teach participants how to work with data, enabling them to uncover new insights into the disparate impact of climate change in the Philippines, shape those findings into compelling data-driven environmental stories, and produce visually appealing content that engages readers, over 16 lessons.
Through presentations, practical exercises and hands-on laboratory activities, the fellows learned about the essentials of data journalism, including how to find and vet data sources, draft quantitative questions that can be answered by data, scrape and clean data, analyze it using spreadsheets, and identify data-driven story angles. They were also taught the basics of using Flourish, a tool for data visualization and storytelling.
Trainers included award-winning Internews data journalism advisor Eva Constantaras; Filipino journalist Aika Rey; Thibi’s Thet Win Htut, Lu Min Lwin and Nida Soe, and Stanley Buenafe Gajete, project manager for the Philippine cohort. Thibi founder Yan Naung Oak served as the main adviser during sessions. “We are teaching data-driven environmental journalism that both exposes and transparently documents the hidden roots of the disparate impact of the consequences of climate change on vulnerable communities,” said Constantaras. “Alumni of the program are equipped to weave together careful explanations and clear visualizations in a product that is both ambitious and accessible to the general public,” she added.
“The sessions helped me build on my knowledge and skills in data journalism," said Bea Puente, a journalist from Philippine broadcast media TV 5.
"Before the Academy started, I was not quite confident with my ability to use Excel or Google sheets, but the lessons helped me refresh my knowledge and learn more about their proper use.”
Puente, who enjoyed the breakout sessions that allowed her to interact with her peers, said that she found the data-related assignments “challenging,” but learned a lot from them.
Another participant, Samuel Yap from the online news site Inquirer.net, said the training was “very helpful” in improving his data storytelling skills.
“The course helped develop my data journalism skills by teaching me new techniques and strategies to deal with huge datasets and make sense of them. From exploring spreadsheets to making efficient online searches and creating FOI (freedom of information) requests to choosing story angles, these competencies—among other important lessons—have indeed deepened my knowledge in data journalism,” Yap shared.
The program culminated in a graduation ceremony on June 27, in which 28 participants who successfully completed all the requirements and exercises were awarded certificates of completion and participation, acknowledging their dedication and commitment to learning data journalism.
Meanwhile, the journey continues for these journalists as they prepare for the Intermediate course, set to commence on July 3. Successful graduates of the Fundamentals and Intermediate courses will have the opportunity to receive a story grant and apply their newfound skills to their own investigation.
Click here to learn more about the Academy’s syllabus, which allowed working journalists and media practitioners to participate both synchronously and asynchronously.
Look out for the fellows’ stories on the EJN website in the coming months.
Banner image: A screenshot of an online session / Credit: Thibi.