Sunday, October 23, 2011

Some more pictures from the training

This is a group photo from the class. From the right Mussa Juma, myself, Amina Mollel, Felix Mwagara, Edward Kinabo, Noor Shija, Bilham Kimati and Celina Matuja.

Amina Mollel, TV reporter and presenter from Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation TBC, working on her assignment earlier this week.

This is Felix Mwagara from Mwananchi newspaper writing his story about different kinds of blogs in Kenya and Tanzania.

There was so much discussion in the class during the week. Here Noor Shija from Uhuru newspaper (in the back) is making his point about the challenges of investigative journalism in Tanzania. In the front, from right, Edward Kinabo, Felix Mwagara and Amina Mollel. Many thanks to Gasirigwa Sengiyumva for sharing the pictures.

More advanced investigations and final feedback

The training ended well on Friday with a group photo session and exchange of contacts for those not knowing each other from before.

On the last day of the training, the participants were working on some more advanced journalistic research assignments, searching for background information from resources in the internet, and producing stories.

Here are the topics they could choose from:
Kenyan blogs
Visit some Kenyan blogs, such as Afrigadget, Gathara’s World, Mentalacrobatics, Kenyan Pundit, Thinker’s Room, or A Kenyan Urban Narrative.
Describe some of the blogs and their content and compare them with popular Tanzanian blogs.

Lord’s Resistance Army
It was announced last weekend that the United States is about to send troops to Uganda and neighbouring countries to help fight the LRA rebels.
Tell more about LRA.
You can also quote John Ochola’s testimony for BBC in 2006.

New Libya
Amnesty International last week published a report about thousands of people that have been detained and tortured by the new authorities in Libya.
Explain the background of the situation in Libya, give a short timeline of developments this year, and tell about the basic findings of the Amnesty report.
This time we first went through together how to find good websites to provide information to the stories. We discussed what search words to use, how to open new pages in new tabs while continuing to read the original page, and I also reminded the participants that they could print some of their source pages and underline and make notes instead of copying anything directly to their draft stories.

The Ugandan rebel army LRA was the most popular topic. Here’s the story by Edward Kinabo who describes the LRA as “a very confusing rebel group with a very confusing ideological mission”. Here’s another LRA story by Amina Mollel, and here’s a piece written by Celina Matuja from Radio Tumaini.

Comparing some of the more narrative Kenyan blogs with popular Tanzanian photo blogs was the topic chosen by Bilham Kimati and Felix Mwagara.

And here’s Noor Shija’s article about the reported human rights abuses in post-Gaddafi Libya. Gaddafi’s brutal death and torture was the biggest news here too since Thursday, and the Tanzanian government was one of the first countries which outrightly condemned the extrajudicial killing.

At the end of the training the participants filled in an assessment questionnaire and also published their final feedback from the training days.

Most of them say the training was very useful for themselves and also for all other participants.

“Now I know how much easier investigative journalism can be if the internet search tools are employed effectively”, says Amina Mollel from TBC. “It is my real hope that this training will be of much help to me, particularly for doing more research for my programmes.”

Others however suggest that the training should be longer. Noor Shija recommends that this training should last for one month or two. “We miss a lot of knowledge. We need to know much about journalism, so that we can manage to change our journalistic style in the country”, he concludes.

Personally, I would also want to thank all participants for good motivation and very active debates through the training days. Many thanks also to the whole MISA staff, especially information officer Gasirigwa Sengiyumwa who took care of all arrangements at the venue and acting director Andrew Marawiti for the pre-training coordination. Thanks to TGDLC too for the stylish venue and effective IT support. Thanks also to the girls at the catering for the morning teas and lunch.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How to avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism and the need for ethical reporting and true professionalism have been continuously on the agenda during the training days.

The website lists the following examples as plagiarism:
Turning in someone else’s work as your own

Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit

Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks

Changing words but copying the sentence structure without giving credit

Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not
The journalists in class agreed that the previous examples feel too familiar.

Then how can you avoid plagiarizing? In most cases by citing sources. By simply explaining that a part of the material has been borrowed, and providing your audience the information necessary to find the original source. That’s usually enough to prevent plagiarism.

Plagiarism has never been as easy as it is today. Before the internet, potential plagiarists would have had to go to the library and copy texts from books by hand. But the internet now makes it easy to find thousands of relevant sources in seconds, and in a few minutes one could find, copy and paste together an entire seminar paper, or a feature story.

But there’s no point in copy-pasting. You just make a much better story by writing in your own style and words. An editor or a teacher should also easily recognize passages that are directly copied, from the vocabulary used.

Journalists in any country caught plagiarizing can get sacked. If you are copying someone else’s story for an article published in your own name, you might also get sued for copyright infringement and be forced to pay heavy compensation. The same goes for publishing a photo without the permission of the copyright owner. In most of the world, the length of the copyright is usually 50 or 70 years after the death of the author. In Tanzania, 50 years.

The recommendation was that all participants would take their time and read the Tanzanian Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act from 1999, found here as a PDF file on a UNESCO web portal where they have collected the copyright laws from most countries.

Here’s another link to a good BBC story about plagiarism, how easy it is, and how easily it can be detected.

Some pictures from class

Here’s some pictures from the training. On the right Noor Shija, foreign news editor at Uhuru newspaper, and behind is Bilham Kimati, senior reporter at Daily News.

Here are Mussa Juma, correspondent of Mwananchi newspaper in Arusha, and Celina Matuja, radio producer at Radio Tumaini here in Dar es Salaam.

Here’s a photo of the whole class concentrating on their investigations from resources found in the internet. All photos by Gasirigwa Sengiyumwa.

What participants write about Day 2

Participants have made their postings about yesterday’s programme.

Amina Mollel is listing many of the more simple assignments we had for warming up. She also mentions that the top scorer in the English Premier League is of course Wayne Rooney, who happens to come from her favourite team, Manchester United.

Edward Kinabo and Noor Shija both point out the different Google search options that we went through yesterday.

Says Kinabo: “The major lesson from this topic was that first give yourself time to think on how you are going to search before rushing to the website. Failure to do so will end up finding yourself consuming more time than you had to.”

Noor Shija went a step ahead: “Before you search from the internet, you have to know what you need and for what purpose. And after getting all the facts, you should plan how to combine them in order to come up with a good story.”

Felix Mwagara also reminds us that when we are searching for news we are not supposed to plagiarize.

Points well noted.

Think first and other tips for fact-finding

Here’s some useful tips when searching for information from the web.
Think first, before going to the web.

What do you search for and where might you find it? Are you searching for simple facts, backgrounds or any other information that can develop your story? Should you google, or can you find the information on a specific website you already know? Do you find it from the internet, or better somewhere else?

Always monitor other news sites, both local and international, and also other web resources.

Choose right search words.

Try different Google search options - sometimes web, sometimes news, sometimes “all web”, sometimes only Tanzanian pages, or only Swahili language pages.

Open pages in new tab. While the new pages are opening, you can continue reading the original page.

Add to favourites. Also open new files for your favourites. Then you will easier find the stories when you want to come back to them.

Follow the links in the stories you read.

Go to original sources.

Don’t always read everything, but scan for what is of interest.

Don’t ever copy-paste! That’s plagiarism.

Print if necessary. Read as homework, underline.

Also make notes to notebook and save drafts to a USB flash.
Here’s some more tips before you start writing the story.
Structure your story in your mind and on paper.

Decide what is relevant for your narrative.

Write simple with own words.

Quote when necessary (but not too long).

Understand what you write (you are there to make things understandable for your audience).

Add details for human interest.
When you’re about to publish:
Provide links to original sources (if you publish online).

Always also think about headline, visual outlook, quotes, images, graphics etc.
Some general good advice for producing good investigative stories:
Spend much more time on the investigation than on the actual writing.

Plan your story into narrative chunks.

Also plan how you use your time
- for research
- for writing
- for editing your text
- for checking facts
- and for delivering the final story.

The president of Sweden and three African ladies

We have moved on to real fact-finding and producing stories based on the investigations. First we had a warm-up of some more simple research in order to activate our brains and minds to the more challenging research.

To find out the population of Iringa town, the height of Mount Kilimanjaro and the street address of the Embassy of Finland in Dar es Salaam were yet easy tasks. Populations, geographical and political details and such can usually be found in a Wikipedia article that you would reach just by searching for the name of the place or country. Links to contact information are usually found on the top of the website in the right end of the page, or in a column on the left side of the page, or at the bottom of the page.

So far easy was also to find out who is the current president of Botswana. The task to find out who is the president of Sweden was however a bit more difficult as the country is a monarchy and has a king - with no political power though. The prime minister is the head of the government.

As Tanzanians usually love English football, one search was to find out who is the top goal scorer of the English Premier League at the moment.

Some other assignments, like the current inflation rate in Tanzania (16,8 percent!) and what president Jakaya Kikwete actually said during his speech at a conference in Mpanda in Rukwa region last weekend, seemed to be too challenging for a warm-up. The difficulty was to narrow the search by using alternative Google options, such as Google news, or just to choose search result only from Tanzanian websites.

The rest of the day was spent on finding information about three famous African ladies: Kenyan Nobel peace prize winner and founder of the Green Belt Movement, the late Wangari Maathai; the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo who in her bestselling book Dead Aid suggests that Africa should stop receiving so called development aid as it is in her opinion bad for the economy and causes corruption and dependency; and finally Leila Lopes, the Angolan fresh Miss Universe crowned last month.

Amina Mollel from TBC and Edward Kinabo, subeditor of the newspaper Tanzania Daima, chose to write about the new Miss Universe. Bilham Kimati from Daily News went on to explain the main points of the economist Dambisa Moyo. Wangari Maathai was the most popular topic, chosen by all others. Here’s the story by Felix Mwagara, reporter from Mwananchi newspaper, and here’s another story by Noor Shija, Uhuru newspaper, who is surprisingly focusing on Wangari Maathai’s separation from her husband in the 1970’s.

Reflections from the first day

Participants of the investigative internet training have made postings on what we did on Wednesday.

Here’s a summary by Amina Mollel, TV news reporter and presenter at Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation TBC, and here’s another reflection by Bilham Kimati, senior reporter at the government newspaper Daily News.

Interestingly, they both take up the lively discussion that we had in the class about whether you can give a small bribe to someone who will bring you a very necessary part of information for your investigative story.

In Tanzania, circumstances may be such that for many it can be understandable to support the poor messenger of information with a little kitu kidogo. One male observer of social life who took part in the debate actually called it facilitation, comparing it to buying drinks or food to a woman you want to have sex with.

Here’s again a link to the first day posting by Noor Shija, foreign news editor of Uhuru, the newspaper of the ruling CCM party. Noor Shija gives two great examples of how a reporter can make use of the internet in his or her reporting.

First, one can send a short message to a discussion forum, such as the popular Tanzanian Jamii Forums, to ask for other people to share their experiences of corruption in the health sector.
Some people will tell you how difficult it can be to get treatment in the hospital without corruption, and how corruption made someone else to receive VIP treatment, even though they didn’t deserve that status.
Another good example of making use of the internet would be to visit the government website, where you will find a lot of government promises of construction of roads, bridges, classrooms, hospitals and other projects.
So, a journalist would have to check the allocation of funds in the budget speech of each ministry, time of implementing the project, and if there was supposed to be any participation of the local people in the area of the project. Then he can go to the field and investigate whether the funds allocated to the projects were all used to that purpose, or if there were any signs of embezzlement or corruption. A journalist can also make a follow-up if the implementation is going well and in time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some resources on investigative online reporting

Here’s a few articles and websites that I showed on Day 1 about investigative reporting going online:

Online investigative journalism is an article written by Australian journalism professor Alan Knight already in 2001 about how investigative journalism can develop by making use of more advanced online research methods and searching for information from the internet.

How investigative reporting makes use of the internet is an article in the British Guardian by Mercedes Bunz listing some examples how reporters have started to use the internet to get hints from the public or to ask their audience for help with checking facts.

Paul Bradshaw is an online journalist and blogger who is writing a book about investigative journalism in the age of internet. Here’s a part from one of his book chapters about how investigative journalism found its feet online.

How investigative journalism is prospering in the age of social media by Vadim Lavrusik is an interesting article with lots of embedded images about the latest trends of distributed reporting, community-sourced mapping, investigative networks, and other ways how reporters in the US and UK have been making use of the social media for their news stories.

Angolan deportee See how the investigative reporters at the Guardian were using Twitter to get help from their readers in reporting about the death of Jimmy Mubenga who was to be deported from the UK to Angola but died after very brutal treatment by his guards on a British Airways plane.

BAE Files The same Guardian did a very good job in investigating the corrupted arms trade deals with the British arms company BAE Systems and Tanzania and Saudi-Arabia. Everything has been published online with links, photos of original documents, videos, and explanations how the investigations were done.

Wikileaks is of course a huge online source for information on political stories in almost every country that has a US Embassy. From this page you can find all 663 diplomatic cable reports sent from the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam between January 2005 to February 2010 about often secret discussions held between Tanzanian officials or individuals and US diplomatic staff. The revelations that the government anti-corruption chief was afraid for his life can be found here.

Failed Futures by Daily Dispatch, a South African newspaper published in East London, is a beautifully produced investigative story about the conditions of public schools in the rural Eastern Cape province. The Book of Dreams is a flipbook album with portrait photos and handwritten stories by young pupils about their future dreams. It’s like a virtual photo album where you can use your mouse to drag and flip the pages.

Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) This South Africa-based organization provides lots of resources about investigative reporting: practical manuals, tip sheets, trauma support and info about upcoming investigative journalism conferences. On the front page, you can find some examples of the best investigative stories from several African countries.

Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) is an American investigative news organization that publishes investigative stories online, both stories by their own staff and stories produced by other journalists and news organizations. The website also has a Reporter Tools section, a free and comprehensive how-to-get-started package for wannabe investigative reporters. It’s basically meant for American reporters, but can include useful tips for anyone interested in more in-depth reporting. One of the first links, for example, takes you to a short guide on how to make reluctant people loosen their lips.

What is investigative internet journalism?

Now what do we mean with investigative internet journalism? To break down that concept maybe it’s first best to define what we mean with investigative journalism. There are also several different definitions for that.

According to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a topic of interest. Often it focuses on topics such as crime, political corruption, corporate wrongdoings, or any other topic that some other people in the society would rather want to hide from the public. Investigative journalism might include undercover reporting, analysis of documents or databases of public records, or numerous interviews, also with anonymous sources. An investigative journalist may spend months or even years researching and preparing a report.

The News Manual is an online resource published for journalists with the support from UNESCO. According to the manual, the job of journalists is to let people know what is going on in the society and the world around them. Journalists do this by finding facts and telling them to their readers or listeners. Throughout the world, however, governments, companies, organizations and individuals try to hide decisions or events which affect other people. So when a journalist tries to report on matters which somebody wants to keep secret, this is investigative journalism.

According to the Investigative Journalism Manual by the South Africa-based Forum for African Investigative Reporters, investigative journalism digs deeply into an issue of public interest, producing new information or putting known information together to produce new findings. It means searching for information from many sources, using more resources than in usual daily reporting, and often it demands teamwork and time. Investigative reporting is often revealing secrets or uncovering issues surrounded by silence. But it’s not always about bad news, and doesn’t necessarily require undercover techniques. Usually this kind of reporting also aims to provide context and explain not only what has happened, but also why.

The word investigate, again, according to The New Oxford Dictionary of English, is to carry out research or study into a subject in order to discover facts or information; to make inquiries about the character, activities or background of someone; or to make a check to find out something.

So broadly defined, investigative reporting sounds like a very essential part of every journalist’s work: finding information and making inquiries about facts, backgrounds, context, and simply investigating the story we are working on.

Definitions found through the internet about what would be investigative internet journalism, or investigative journalism online, differ even more. These are new concepts and different people understand them differently.

For some it would mean doing investigative inquiries by making use of the social media to provide answers to the journalist’s questions. For others it means publishing the investigative reports online with all the possibilities provided by multimedia and interactivity.

In this training, however, we will define investigative internet as making use of the tremendous amount of information in the internet for finding facts, backgrounds, context, and simply investigating the stories we are working on. In today’s Tanzania, this is surely one of the most important areas to focus on in journalist training, both for students and professionals.

First day at an investigative internet training

Good morning to all and warm greetings from Dar es Salaam. This is my first posting from a training course on investigative internet journalism arranged here at the Tanzania Global Development Learning Centre (TGDLC) at the Institute of Finance Management in Kivukoni in the more green side of the city centre.

The training course is part of an internet training programme for Tanzanian journalists co-arranged by MISA Tanzania and VIKES Foundation, a solidarity organization of the Union of Journalists in Finland, with support from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

This training is already the 13th internet training course arranged within the programme which has been running since 2008. Previous, more general internet courses have focused on editors from national mainstream media, radio producers, and local reporters and journalism lecturers in Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Zanzibar and Arusha. Earlier this year, the first Swahili-language training courses were held in Morogoro, Iringa and Dodoma.

This week we have a very active and talkative group in class with so far seven participants from some of the major national newspapers, a radio channel and TBC, the government broadcasting company.

So there’s been lots of debates about many topics: Can you pay for receiving some crucial information for your investigative story? What to do when your editor doesn’t want to publish your investigative story because the media company might then step on the feet of some of the powerful in politics or big business? Can your trust what is said in the social media, meaning discussion forums, blogs or Facebook?

Yesterday was the first day of the training, and after introduction and listing of expectations we spent a big part of the day going through definitions of what is investigative journalism and what is investigative internet journalism.

The latter can be understood in at least two different ways:

The first definition would be that it is a new stage of investigative reporting where you make use of the possibilities of interactivity provided by social media resources, or use the online media for the publication and follow-up of your investigative reporting.

The other definition would be that it is just high-quality journalism that goes a bit deeper than ordinary reporting by making use of the tremendous amount of information in the internet for finding facts, backgrounds and context, and simply investigating the story you are working on.

We will concentrate more on the second option, but we will also publish drafts and stories online. Links to the blogs of the participants are in the column on the right.