January 25, 2020 Marianne Bouchart Manager The Sigma Awards Team Dear Ms Bouchart, I’m excited about this unique opportunity to present myself for the Young Journalist category of the 2020 Sigma Data Journalism Awards. I’ve often found the interrelation between data and journalism delightful and it all started in 2017. Between July and August, I attended two workshops of data journalism and fact-checking, in Ibadan and Abuja, organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Reporting. This experience ignited my interest and empowered me with the basic skills needed to delve into the space myself. It was the first time I learned about the analytical features of Microsoft Excel, the beauty of visualising with Infogram, and the possibility of finding information more accurately through the Google search engine. The following March, I joined the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), a nonprofit media organisation, as an investigative reporter and that was when I could really apply the skills I had picked up and ultimately grow. I have since benefited from various other learning opportunities such as the Workshop on Strengthening the Capacity of the Media to Investigate and Report Procurement Processes held by the ICIR in July 2018, Advanced Training on Investigative and Data Journalism by the ICIR in January 2019, and a two-week Fact-checking Fellowship by Africa Check in August 2019. I now have a deeper grasp of the potentials of spreadsheets in mining and analysing data. I make use of various other online visualisation tools, such as Venngage, Visme, Piktochart, and Canva, having become familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. Even though the ICIR has a data desk, I often do not need to consult them before I can do a good job with my cleaning and illustrations. As you will notice in some of my entries, if I am not working on essentially data-driven stories, I endeavour to incorporate data elements into regular or investigative reports that I write. I have read fantastic works from ProPublica, Bloomberg, and The Guardian. Last year, I also came across stories written by NewYork Times’ David Barstow, Sussane Craig, and Russ Buettner about the Trump family’s history of tax evasion. And I understand that I still have a long way to go as a data journalist. This is especially because, here in Nigeria, the field is still growing and newsrooms are hardly investing in the kind of skill acquisition and software development necessary to produce great data reports. Also, as I noted last October (in this report: https://www.icirnigeria.org/analysis-nigerias-massive-data-poverty-and-why-we-should-be-concerned/), Nigeria suffers from massive data poverty, which limits how much can be achieved by any ambitious journalist in many areas. Drawing inspiration from the 2018 report, Hurricane Maria’s Dead, done by Quartz, AP, and the Centre for Investigative Journalism, I will be telling the story of Shiite casualties of genocide and extrajudicial killing in Nigeria in 2020. From 2015, hundreds of them have been unlawfully killed in various circumstances, and I am confident data journalism that puts a face to the number of deceased will go a long way in renewing and enriching the conversation. Going forward, my intention is to strengthen my capacity in using Power BI, Adobe Illustrator, as well as other tools. I also look forward to getting the Pulitzer Africa Data Journalism Scholarship grant for a masters programme in Data Journalism at Columbia University. Not only will winning this award mean a lot to me, it will also encourage other journalists in Africa to embrace this growing genre of journalism despite the institutional challenges and resource inadequacy we often have to contend with. Sincerely, ‘Kunle Adebajo Investigative Reporter ICIR,
Description of portfolio:
As someone who is both enthusiastic about fact-checking and data journalism, I have able to bring both together successfully in individual reports. In Has Electricity Generation Worsened or Improved Since 2015? We Verified, I fact-checked a couple of claims from Nigeria’s two major political parties bordering on how well the country has fared over the years when it comes electricity generation.
It was based on a large set of data mined from daily operational reports made available by the Nigeria Electricity System Operator (NESO), a subsidiary of the Transmission Company of Nigeria. NESO itself did not make the data available in an easily accessible and analysable format, and I had to mine the reports for 60 days by downloading one file at a time, mostly for the first day of each month from April 2014 to January 2019.
From there, I could observe a trend. I made use of Infogram to show the electricity generation trend in an interactive infographic, and Venngage to summarise the key discoveries in a comparative form. I also tabulated my mined data and shared using Scribd. The report was shared on Facebook alone nearly 300 times and was widely read.
In Has Nigeria’s Agricultural Output Really Reduced or Increased since PDP Left Power?, I used a similar approach in verifying a similar claim about Nigeria’s agricultural output. Here, I had to mine data from 35 quarterly reports released by the National Bureau of Statistics, providing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates four times every year. I also visualised using Infogram and Venngage.
In a third fact-check, No, It is Not True Nigeria has Recorded Only 18 Convictions in Rape Cases, there was no readily available data to confirm or debunk the claim, so I had to mine both law and news reports focusing on court cases where there were rape charges. Eventually, I traced and gathered 65 rape convictions between 1973 and 2019, and shared this data in a tabular form in the report.
Another form of data collection I have used in my reports is surveys. In ‘One Chance’ Robbery Attacks Rise in Abuja, and ‘Police are not Helpful’, a poll I conducted on the prevalence of transit robberies established that nine in 10 residents of the city have either had an encounter with the robbers or know someone who has. It also showed, among other things, that seven in 10 (66.7 per cent) of the respondents do not “feel safer living in Abuja today, compared to previous years”. Having observed that conducting a poll on Twitter for a geographically restricted audience would compromise the result, I had to stick to using a Google Form. The poll results were visualised and embedded in the report.
Similarly, in Nigeria Police, Army, NAFDAC have Worst Govt Spokespersons, Media Poll Shows, I conducted a survey among journalists, who disclosed the government Public Relations Officers with whom they have had their best and worst experiences.
My final two entries demonstrate how data elements and visualisations can add great value to investigative reports. In Injustice in Ivory Tower, I used an infographic (tagged ‘Academic Massacre’) to capture the faces of lecturers of the Tai Solarin College of Education who have passed away due to the non-payment of their salaries and pension by the government.
And in Pushed Beyond Borders, I used infographic designs to illustrate rising currency exchange rates between Nigeria and Benin Republic, and also the hardship that children in the latter have to go through as a result of an unfavourable socio-economic environment.