On Database Journalism, Training and Other Topics at Kochi Workshop

Poynter’s session on the morning  of the third day in Kochi prompted several strong comments about investigative reporting, database journalism and newsroom training. Tom Huang recorded these thoughts:

  • The journalists got into a heated discussion about watchdog journalism. Some journalists said it has become too negative and sensational in India. “The investigative reporting must have a constructive motive,” one said. Jeffry Couch responded that watchdog isn’t just doing investigations and the big project. “Watchdog is a state of mind, a process, a way to think, a way to approach the work you do every day,” Jeff said.
  • India instituted two public records acts in 2005 and 2007. These laws make it obligatory to share government records with the public. Journalists and social activists are benefiting from the two acts.
  • Database journalism is relatively new in India. Lots of questions about how to cross-check and make sure that the data is clean – journalists need to make sure the data is accurate. Jeff says: You have to understand and ask about what the numbers mean. Casey Frechette says it’s important to know how we want to communicate this to our audience – what we’ve done to vet the quality of the information. One journalist says that in India, journalists tend to have undue respect for government data and we don’t always question it.
  • One journalist asked about “sting” journalism – setting up public officials in offering bribes. In the U.S., in general, we’ve decided that journalists must be honest and upfront about who they are and what they are doing, so we don’t do stings.
  • One theme has come up over the past three days – there doesn’t seem to be an emphasis on training – especially training on digital tools – in newsrooms here. Journalists here talk about being interested, but feeling isolated and not knowing how to get training. We are letting journalists know that they can take ownership of their own development and find training online. (Howard Finberg: Especially at Poynter News University.}

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