EJN Workshop Puts Data Journalism in the Congo Basin on the Map

Fifteen journalists working in print, broadcast, and online media primarily from the DRC’s Haut Katanga Province attended the three-day session in the mining city of Lubumbashi. Held from May 22-24, reporters learned how to produce more compelling stories by integrating data and maps into their reports.

The workshop is part of InfoCongo’s ongoing capacity building initiative to improve the quality and quantity of reporting on the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest rainforest, and strengthen networks of environmental journalists in the region. During the training, journalists learned the fundamentals of how to access and analyze data and use it to create visual representations of key environmental indicators on the ground.

In Lumbumbashi—the DRC’s second largest city—mining is the principal economic activity and its impact on livelihoods, the environment and politics dominates local news coverage. Reporters at the workshop sought to understand how mining-related data could not only help improve the quality and credibility of their work, but also shield them from instances of harassment and political interference.

Through a program that addressed the local realities of reporting in Lubumbashi and the broader Southeast region of the DRC, InfoCongo highlighted the critical importance of using rigorous methodologies to research, fact check, verify and balance stories. Potential sources of data were identified and tips provided on how to locate and retrieve credible data on mining and other pressing environmental topics.

“You build respect and credibility only with balanced stories. Well planned and investigated reporting projects have a greater potential for larger impact in communities you seek to engage and inform. With GeoJournalism and data, you have tools that enable you to achieve credible stories that should also shield you when politicians and others contest your work,” said David Akana, Managing Editor of InfoCongo, who led the training in Lubumbashi.

The first ever GeoJournalism training in the Congo Basin took place in August 2015 and involved about 40 Kinshasa-based reporters. Two years later, this InfoCongo effort aimed to gain insight into the further development of environmental reporting in the region and identify gaps that could potentially serve as the basis for future workshops. One key takeaway is that communication infrastructure in Central Africa is experiencing rapid changes, which will likely require further training sessions for reporters using this valuable tool.