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Data reporting is key to perfect media articles

By Levi Obonyo
Friday, May 7th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Tanzania President Samia Suluhu inspects a guard of honour mounted by the Kenya Defence Forces at State House, Nairobi. Photo/PSCU

There is so much talk about data journalism among media professionals but there is so much little of it when it matters.

The two days visit by Tanzania  President Samia Suluhu was an opportunity for journalists to demonstrate their skills in data reporting.

But what the Kenyan audience got was a lot of colour stories and straight reporting of what the two presidents said in formal meetings.

Quality journalism takes place way ahead of the statements that are issued from the podium.

Indeed, the statements to be issued from the podium should only provide the introduction to the story and confirmation of what the journalist already knows.

Or if these statements differ from what the journalist already knows, then they are the basis of seeking clarification.

It would have been great to have an insightful profile of the Tanzanian president. After all she is our sister from across the border.

What has been her background, what thinking has shaped her approach to life, whether she is an economic liberal or conservative and drawing from her past, what is it that we can expect from her leadership once the dust settles? But we had no such detailed profile.

Do we know anything regarding her Cabinet and their influence? Advisors are a big deal because they influence decisions.

What are their persuasions and how is that likely to influence relations with Kenya and other neighbours?

Is it true that relationships between Tanzania and Kenya had frozen under the leadership of the late President John Pombe Magufuli? Where is the evidence?

It is not enough just to make the statements, but such must be demonstrated using data. There is plenty of data, only that it has not been used.

For example, what was the frequency of exchanges of visits and contacts at high government levels? Were they comparable with such exchanges at the best of times?

 Did the presidency of Magufuli mark the lowest moment in relations between the two countries?

What was the lowest ever time and what is the proof? Again, we fall back to data to demonstrate this.

Then there is the area of trade relations. What is the volume of trade between the two countries and how does it compare with other countries, in the region and beyond?

What are the commodities most traded in? What is the revenue that Kenya generates from trade in each of the areas of the commodities?

For example, in maize trade, in tomatoes imports from Tanzania, and we could go on to compare with other commodities.

Kenya and Tanzania signed a deal on trade in gas by which Kenya will be importing gas from Tanzania? Yes, but so what?

Would it mean that Kenyans will now be accessing gas at a cheaper price? Or will it lead to more job opportunities and by extension more tax revenue to the country?

What about the other areas of trade that were covered by the negotiations?

Is it true that frozen relationships between Kenya and Tanzania affect the economies between the two countries?

Again, the answer lies in data? Help us your readers to see. In fact, the audience may not need to be told.

Simply present the data and it will speak for itself. Simply put the economic story between the two countries has not been told.

But media should go further in servicing the information thirst of Kenyans. 

What are the trade opportunities of comparative advantage that exist for Kenyans in Tanzania?

Should Kenyans, rather than plan to build kiosks in Tanzania, be thinking of setting up universities instead?

Then there is the area of relations at the regional level. Is Madam Suluhu what the doctor ordered to reset the clock in East African relations?

How so?  Our media could do better in telling stories, and the secret lies in data and more data.

They should show not just tell. In so doing,  then journalism would be more interesting than social media. — The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University