7 steps to a data story


You and I have a right to protest. It is a right protected by the constitution, as well as by the Regulation of Gatherings Act (RGA). But new research shows that the RGA is being abused to suppress legitimate protests, because those being protested against are often assume that they have  the power to approve or reject such actions.

The effects are predictable: greater animosity, more violence, and more ‘clashes with police’.

Recent research about the Rustenburg municipality showed that more protests were being prohibited than previously, in 2011 29% of protests were prohibited, with that figure rising to 53% in 2012, and many of these prohibitions were on grounds that were not recognized by the Act. There also signs of other municipalities following suit. “This suggests that the municipalities have become much more categorical in their decisions about this type of gathering, and that they were much more prone to prohibiting protests than they were in 2011,” say researchers Jane Duncan and Andrea Royeppen .

There are many stories waiting to be told from the data gathered by Duncan, Royeppen and their team as part of a Freedom of Assembly documentation project, funded by the Open Society Foundation. The project has mounds of data (five years worth from nine municipalities) from municipalities on applications for gatherings and the reasons for protests.

Thanks to the Open Society Foundation (OSF) and the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ), this data set is now available to journalists, and training on how to sift through it to find the stories is being offered. 

These stories will go beyond the everyday coverage of protests. “We tend to hear about protests in communities, but the causes and complexities are seldom explained, and even more rarely are they covered before they end in violence. By largely focusing on seemingly random acts of violence, readers are left without context, explanation and understanding.” says media analyst and director of Media Monitoring Africa, William Bird.

With a data set to work on, Excel is a powerful tool to comb through it.  It is one of the top tools for great data journalists everywhere, according to the Data Journalism Handbook.

“This data set is a great example of a locally-researched and highly relevant source of information for South African journalists,” says Anina Mumm, science journalist and Excel guru. “I also think it provides the perfect starting point for journalists keen to find out what data journalism is all about and how it can help them tell better stories.” 

Mumm will be taking journalists through the process of turning the raw data into a story, through the process shown in the infographic to the right. 

So, where will this be happening?

In the top-end computer lab at the IAJ, in Richmond Johannesburg.


7 – 9 July 2014

Do you qualify?

This workshop is designed for mainstream and beat journalists and is a core (basic) level course. It will particularly benefit investigative reporters, and aspiring investigative reporters, who want to use raw data sets for investigations, story ideas, context and fact-checking. It is also for journalists who want to dig deeper than press releases and who want to find new, fresh angles and perspectives for their reports.

Why is Anina the gal to do this?

Anina Mumm is a science writer, data journalist and media trainer. She is an associate at the Oxpeckers Centre for Investigative Environmental Journalism, where she is involved with data sourcing, PAIA applications, data scraping, data visualisation, mapping etc. In addition, Anina is the co-founder of SciBraai.co.za, the producer of radio show The Science Inside and the owner of Transcript Science Communication. She holds an MSc in biochemistry and a BA Hons in journalism. But don’t be scared, she is able to clearly break down the process and make the numbers accessible to journalists who are often far more comfortable with words.

How much does it cost?

The 3 days cost R5400 (excl. VAT).

Special rates apply for freelancers

Need more info?

Read all about it on the IAJ website.

How do I book?

Contact Maki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 011 482 4990

Is there a little extra incentive? 

Indeed there is. Mzilikazi Wa Africa will be doing a extra day at a reduced rate on cyber security (R1000 rather than R2200 for the day). With spooks able to get their hands on journalists’ data so easily, it is now essential that journalists protect themselves and their sources when doing investigations.