On July 19, Ghanaians woke up to learn that 46% of the country had paid bribes for government services. The story was on the front page of The Weekend Globe newspaper. It led the morning radio broadcasts. On Facebook, the story received 91 comments. Twitter filled with comments and discussion.
Integrated, cross-platform, data journalism had arrived in Ghana. The first major data journalism project in Ghana’s history was a partnership between JHR, Voto Mobile, CitiFM and The Weekend Globe. 500 people talked about their experiences of government corruption via a mobile phone poll in four languages: English, Ga, Hausa and Twi. Spearheaded by JHR Trainer, Iain Marlow, the project was ambitious. “Quite simply, nothing like it has ever been done before in Citi – and possibly Ghana – so no one was sure what to make of the project,” explained Iain.
Using charts or graphs to present data was new to the staff at The Weekend Globe. So was using information from a poll as the basis for a front page story. “I always thought this process was reserved only for established institutions,” said Martin Asiedu-Dartey. The Editor of The Weekend Globe was one of the co-authors of the 1800-word lead story. “I was unsure what the responses would be considering the fact that no media house in Ghana had conducted any such survey. [But] The data was very easy to analyse. That really helped me in writing the final piece with ease.”
Breaking a story in print, radio, online, and on social media needs a lot of planning, and by the end, the team was exhausted. But plans are already rolling for new projects.
Philip Kofi Ashon, Online Manager at Citifmonline.com has high hopes. “It was a truly exciting experience working on the project. It was refreshing to see journalists use data they had gathered themselves to source original stories.I think this represents the breaking of a new dawn for data driven journalism…It was a real pleasure monitoring the response of people from all over the world contributing to the discussion on Facebook and Twitter. It is something I would love to see happen more often.”