Sunday, December 21, 2014

How journalists used social media to cover the biggest news events of 2014

With more than 2 billion people actively using social media each month, its stake in journalism is a no-brainer.

Though Facebook makes up more than half of these users, every instant messaging, micro-video or networking app that pops up represents a new platform for telling a story, and newsrooms are taking advantage of that. 

Here are some of the most interesting ways social media was used (and misused) to cover a few of the biggest news events of 2014.

The World Cup

Journalists covering the biggest social media event ever were active on Twitter, using it to report on both the sports and stats as well as the surrounding social commentary and goings-on in Brazil.

As part of their coverage, AP photojournalists throughout Brazil used Instagram to highlight "offbeat, behind the scenes views of soccer's premier event."

Fusion, a news and entertainment cable network focused on millennials, used live-blogging as well as the "honeycomb," a social aggregator built on Fusion's soccer site that allowed them to surface social media content based on location and influence. For this coverage, two to three Fusion editors at a time mined and tracked all 12 stadiums where the tournament took place based on certain key elements like hashtags and the influence of people in the stadium, IJNet reported back in October.

Some journalists also used social media data to inspire and inform stories. For instance, during the United States-Germany game, journalist Reuben Fischer-Baum wrote about how "Nazi" was used over 30,000 times on Twitter, especially in the minutes surrounding a goal from Germany. This proved that "stereotypes are common crutches when it comes to trash talk," CJR wrote, adding: "It will be interesting to see how social media data develops as a real-time source to explain people's behavior with regard to sports and beyond."


In July, journalists around the world began scrambling to cover the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. This has been a challenge not just for the deluge of misinformation that has circulated on social media, but also because of a slow and minimal social media presence in locations where the outbreak is strongest.

In addition to public health sites like WHO, BBC Africa was a strong Twitter influencer on Ebola, according to data from health care social media analyzer Symplur. The BBC also launched an Ebola public health information service on WhatsApp, aimed at users of the service in West Africa. The service provided "audio, text message alerts and images to help people get the latest public health information to combat the spread of Ebola in the region," according to the BBC.

From Sierra Leone, The Guardian's Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson made news after his Vines showed snapshots of the situation, which packed an emotional punch despite their short length. 

"Just as the tweet is the boiled-down version of the blog post, which is the boiled-down version of the essay, a Vine is the boiled-down version of a TV package, which is a boiled-down version of a documentary," Marc Blank-Settle, a mobile journalism and social media trainer at the BBC College of Journalism, told The Guardian. "The tool itself is brilliantly easy to use. It's really leveraging the power of Twitter to share news and information very quickly."

Ferguson Protests

Fusion's Director of Media Innovation Tim Pool is the epitome of social storyteller. Pool, a college dropout, first became known in journalism for using drones and wearables to live-stream breaking news events, from the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011 to demonstrations in the Middle East. His unique style exists at the intersection of social and mainstream media.

After protests erupted following a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in the U.S., Pool was on the scene for Fusion, as well as publishing content on every major social channel, including Twitter, Instagram, LiveStream, Vine and YouTube. He used these channels to bring stories on the ground to his tens of thousands of followers.

While he was covering the protests, Pool even managed to conduct a Reddit AMA ("Ask me Anything") which garnered almost 600 comments.

Pool is open about his dislike of the way the mainstream media, or "MSM," often covers stories, saying "It's the small stories within the larger story that MSM misses … They offer this blanket coverage and you miss the most important moments."

"I think the future is for the individual," Pool wrote. "Newsrooms will have to adapt to having their channels be a collective and not a single channel."

Conflict in Gaza

Opinions and information flooded social media platforms as Israel's offensive in Gaza began in July. But social media was also full of an unprecedented amount of misinformation and bias, creating an "information war," and a challenging environment for journalists covering the story.

Analysis by Abdirahim Saeed of BBC Arabic found that some of the pictures circulated on the popular #gazaunderattack hashtag were recycled images from as long ago as 2007. Some were not even from Gaza. So media organizations had to use reverse image search tools — that show if a photo has previously been published online  — to determine the source of pictures, according to Chris Hamilton, social media editor at the BBC. "Social media is kind of a misinformation accelerant, and at the same time, it is potentially the best rumor-smashing tool," Craig Silverman, one of the authors of the Verification Handbook, told the Global Editors Network in an interview.

In a conflict in which it is especially difficult for journalists to be unbiased, a few journalists stood out (and were congratulated) for their fair coverage via social media. Ayman Mohyeldin, a foreign correspondent for NBC News, was pulled out of Gaza and then sent back a few days later after a social media backlash. His coverage of the conflict earned him the respect of fellow journalists. And the New York Times' Jerusalem correspondent Jodi Rudoren used her Facebook page to spur discussion and debate throughout the conflict.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

In the immediate aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17 by a Buk missile system, journalists and social media experts took to the Internet to "sleuth" the event themselves in the absence of official information. 

Using images and videos, Storyful's Open Newsroom project confirmed members of the Donetsk People's Republic separatist militia "at the very least" appeared to have access to an anti-aircraft missile system capable of an attack like the one carried out on the plane. 

And Eliot Higgins, the British founder of online journalism site Bellingcat, with the help of some of his Twitter followers and open source tools, used a YouTube video to pinpoint the location of a Buk launcher while it was being transported through a pro-Russian rebel-held town in Ukraine near the Russian border. In November, less than four months after the crash, Bellingcat published a 35-page report outlining "solid information" that the Buk missile system that downed Malaysian Airlines flight 17 came from Russia and was sent back there after the disaster. As Mashable wrote, Bellingcat was able to unearth "MH17 intel quicker than U.S. spies."
International Institute for ICT Journalism

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Penplusbytes, on Wednesday, December 17, 2014, paid a visit to the Teshie Orphanage in Accra where they donated assorted items including food and drinks, bags of rice, toiletries and more.

The gesture which forms part of the Institute's corporate social responsibilities comes in response to the need to contribute to making the life of the less privileged children, numbering about 35, living under the care of the home a bit more comfortable.

Speaking at the short presentation ceremony, Jerry Sam, Director of Projects at Penplusbytes, reiterated the importance of the donation saying; “the purpose of our visit sits perfectly in our overall aim of making a change in society through various initiatives and projects, and what better way to usher the Christmas festivities than sharing with these little ones” 

A visibly elated, Mrs Janet Parker, could not hide her joy at the gesture. She expressed her profound gratitude to Penplusbytes for what she termed as the orgainization’s ability to identify the unique challenges of catering for these children whose dreams should still be kept alive by those who have the means. She asked for continuous support from both individuals and corporate entities to also look their way.


Penplusbytes established in 2001 is a leader in the use of new digital technologies to enable good governance and transparency, supporting good governance of oil, gas and mining in the extractives sector resources, and revenues and driving innovations in quality journalism through the use of new media.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Penplusbytes seasons greetings

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Penplusbytes Elects a New Board Chair

At its recently held meeting, Penplusbytes Board of Directors, has elected Mr.Bryan Pearson, an international publisher to steer the affairs of the organisation as board chair for a period of 4 years, he will be ably assisted by Mrs. Charity Binka as vice board chair.

Elated by his election, Mr. Pearson thanked Dr. Kwabena Riverson, his predecessor, the  inaugural chair of the board for 4 years, for the leadership and strategic direction he provided for the organisation during its fledging growth. Mr. Pearson said “Penplusbytes is at a critical stage in its organisational life. My vision is to drive its Pan-Africa growth by establishing offices and partnerships in key African countries to ensure Penplusbytes can provide more services to its growing international network of members”

Penplusbytes’ new chair, Mr. Bryan Pearson is also the MD of FSG Communications Ltd, publisher of Africa Health Journal ( since 1978; and MD of Asempa Limited, publisher of the 55 year-old Africa Confidential Newsletter ( He is also the MD of the Afrocet group of companies in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, which has become a leading deliverer of conferences, exhibitions and management training within the region. He is a leading observer on Nigeria, where he has spent a considerable part of his life.

Charity Binka the newly elected Vice Chair of Penplusbytes,  is a top journalist and a gender studies lecturer at Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA),  where she doubled as the Manager of the GIMPA Gender Development and Resource Centre between 2009 to 2012. She is the Executive Director of Women, Media and Change (WOMEC) and African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) where she serves as the Executive Secretary.

Charity rose to the rank of Editor-in-Chief at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation in Accra where she worked for 18 years. Charity has done several presentations on gender and media issues and has covered several international conferences.

All the other Board Members reiterated their commitment to support the new board leadership to ensure Penplusbytes mission and vision is achieved. They are Ethan Zuckerman (Director - MIT Center for Civic Media);  Kwami Ahiabenu (President of Penplusbytes); Dan Gillmor (Director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University); Kofi Mangesi (Director and Co-Founder Penplusbytes); Nnenna Nwakanma, (Africa Regional Coordinator for Alliance for Affordable Internet project), Dr. Joseph Siegle, (Director of Research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies) and Andrew Kwesi Kafe, (Board Secretary)

Established on 18th July 2001, Penplusbytes is a leader in driving the use of new digital technologies to enable good governance and transparency, supporting good governance of oil, gas and mining (extractives sector) resources and revenues and driving innovations in quality journalism through the use of new media. Over its thirteen years of existence, Penplusbytes has grown into a large network of over 1,000 members in 40 countries across the globe. The African Elections Project (covered 13 elections in Africa), the Oil and Gas project ran in Ghana, Uganda, Liberia and Tanzania. The Citizens’ Budget for Ghana, which connects citizens to Parliament and supporting the Civil Society Platform on IMF bailout are some of the key initiatives the organisation is providing leadership in.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Data Journalism Awards 2015

Submissions are now open for the Data Journalism Awards 2015! We received 520 submissions in 2014 and we hope to beat our record this year.

What's new this season?

  • We have introduced new categories to recognise the development and innovation in data journalism. A Public's Choice prize will also be awarded. 
  • Submissions will be reviewed monthly by a pre-jury. Five to ten projects per month will be shortlisted and submitted to the jury in April 2015.
  • The fourth annual Data Journalism Awards will culminate with the DJA Ceremony to showcase the best of data journalism worldwide. Don't miss this event to be held on 18 June 2015 during the GEN Summit in Barcelona. 

The deadline for submissions is Friday 10 April 2015, but don't wait until the last minute: the best projects will be shortlisted each month, giving you a better chance to be selected!

Submission Instructions

You will submit your project on our new platform, the GEN Community. This recently launched community already has over 1,000 media innovators and over 350 projects to discover. To submit your project you will need 10-15 minutes.

If you have not yet signed up for the GEN Community, please create a profile, go to 'Submit a Project', select the 'DJA 2015' category and fill in the project form. The GEN community is free to join.

If you already have a profile, please log in, go to 'Submit a Project', select the 'DJA 2015' category and fill in the project form.

Please provide as much information as you can about your project. Include anything that you feel is relevant and can help our jury with their decision.

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Monday, December 08, 2014

Citizens must monitor budget implementation

The Executive Director of the  Financial Accountability and Transparency-Africa (FAT-Africa), Mr Albert Kan Dapaah, has stated that it is important for Ghanaians to monitor the implementation of national budgets.

That, he said, will allow people at the grassroot to fully participate in the budget’s implementation and not make them  mere listeners during budget readings on the floor of Parliament.

He was speaking at a public budget reading forum in Kumasi as part of activities of a project embarked upon by FAT-Africa in partnership with the International Institute of Information Communication Technology (ICT) Journalism, also known as Penplusbytes.

The “Budget Tracking Project” seeks to produce a simplified, easily comprehensible and reader-friendly citizens’ copy of the budget statement.

Mr Dapaah, who is a former Member of Parliament for Afigya Kwabre North and former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said it was important for Ghanaians to pursue their own welfare by making information on the national budget readily available through the publication of what he calls “Citizens’ Budget”.

The budget, in his view, must be presented in a language that avoids jargons and has a format that the ordinary Ghanaian can understand.

He also advised citizens to be involved in monitoring the implementation of the budget after it had been read by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.

FAT-Africa is a civil society organisation and think tank that advocates and promotes good financial governance with the aim of creating an enabling climate to nurture a culture of efficient public sector and financial management principles in Africa.

Penplusbytes is a non-profit organisation that seeks to empower the media in the coverage of governance, innovations and mining, oil and gas, through the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). 

The joint project, with funding and technical support from STAR-Ghana, taps into the widely acclaimed core competence of Penplusbytes in applying and delivering cutting-edge news to enhance civil and government interaction. It also utilises FAT-Africa’s extensive expertise in promoting financial transparency and budget monitoring to implement the project successfully, and also ensure that the project’s outcomes are fully achieved.

The Project Director, Jerry Sam, said the programme was in recognition of the need to track government expenditure, how well policies are being implemented, and to what extent governments were fulfilling their commitment to citizens.

He also said it aimed at courting the participation of citizens in the governance process by producing and disseminating a simplified version of the budget information to help demystify government budgeting and financial governance so that the public can demand accountability from the government.

Source: Graphic -

Sunday, December 07, 2014

World Press Institute Fellowship open for Journalists

The World Press Institute (WPI) is offering three-month fellowships for experienced journalists hoping to improve their understanding of American journalism.

The program aims to expose fellows to working conditions in the U.S. media. They are required to report on a variety of social issues to see how U.S. institutions respond to different social concerns.

The 2015 fellowship will begin in mid-August 2015 and end in mid-October. The fellows will spend three weeks in Minnesota, and then travel to several U.S. cities, including New York and Washington, for briefings, interviews and visits. They will return to Minnesota for the final week of the program.

Applicants must have demonstrated leadership potential, five years of full-time news experience and fluency in English. Freelancers are eligible. Fluency in English is required.

The deadline is Feb. 15, 2015.

For more information, click here.

International Institute for ICT Journalism