Monday 1 January 2024

Unveiling the Power of Solutions Journalism

Highlights from the Nigeria Health Watch Solution Journalism Africa Initiative Close-out Event

Are you ready for us to take you on a journey that culminates in the Nigeria Health Watch Solution Journalism Africa Initiative Close-out event? Buckle up and get ready for a  recap of this momentous occasion that celebrated the power of solutions-focused storytelling.

The Nigeria Health Watch Solution Journalism Africa Initiative Close-out event was important to  Shades of Us Storytelling Initiative for African People (Shades of Us) because it offered learning opportunities about solutions-focused journalism. 

The event kicked off with Vivianne Ihekweazu, the Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch,  who expressed her gratitude and emphasized the influential role of the media in shaping the way news is reported in Nigeria. Vivianne highlighted the profound impact that news can have on people's reactions to the world around them. 

Ruona Meyer, the Africa Initiative Manager of the Solutions Journalism Network, followed with a welcome remark, expressing appreciation for the journalists' dedication and the profound impact of their stories. She highlighted the far-reaching effects of their work, which not only trained journalists in Nigeria but also extended to Europe and online platforms.

To set the tone for the event, Mr. Buki Ponle, the Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria, delivered an opening reflection on balancing the narrative. He emphasized the importance of seeking out positive aspects even in a negative world. Mr. Ponle shared his personal interest in maternal health and advocated for collaboration between his agency and organizations addressing this issue. By reporting and creating awareness, he believed they could make a tangible difference. He also emphasized the key qualities journalists should possess, including ethical conduct, resourcefulness, and a genuine concern for the public's interest.

‘What is the Solutions Journalism Africa Initiative (SJAI) and What Did We Learn?’ was presented by Chibuike Alagboso, the Senior Program Manager of Nigeria Health Watch. He shared valuable insights into the SJAI, which trains and supports journalists, students, and educators across Nigeria on investigating and reporting social problems. The presentation highlighted the importance of creative freedom, empowering and supporting partners, and maintaining flexibility to ensure that journalists can work on what matters to them. Challenges were also acknowledged, such as the varying pace of progress and the need for newsroom leadership to champion the cause of sustainability.

During the event, attendees were treated to a video showcasing the work accomplished by a trainee. The video provided a firsthand account of the transformative power of solution journalism and its ability to bring about positive change.

A particularly engaging session, ‘The Future of Impactful Journalism: The Role of Solutions Journalism' featured a lively fireside chat moderated by Kemisola Agbaoye, the Director of Programs at Nigeria Health Watch. The panelists included Uju Ohaeri, Managing Director of Kiss FM, Abuja; Adedeji Adekule, Program Director of the Nigeria Media Innovation Program; and Folarin Jamie, Researcher and Lecturer at Crescent University, Ogun State.

Uju, sharing her experience as part of the second cohort of solution journalism, highlighted a unique session on their FM station that encouraged listeners to call in and share positive stories from their communities. She stressed the importance of collaborative storytelling, which allows communities to actively participate in sharing their stories.

Adedeji emphasized the value added by solution stories, as they increase audience engagement and loyalty. He discussed how people are becoming more intentional about the news they consume and the role journalists play in shaping agendas and setting the pace for citizens.

Folarin shared his efforts to change the narrative by introducing a module on solution journalism at Crescent University. He spoke passionately about catching young minds and transforming their fear of reporting negative news by instilling a mindset focused on providing solutions. Folarin also highlighted the need for solution journalism to be included in Nigeria's tertiary institutions' curricula and the development of a communication policy and philosophy to guide Nigerian journalism.

Another engaging session allowed participants to explore various solution journalism stories and share their perspectives. The discussions further highlighted the impact and potential of solutions-focused storytelling.

The event continued with a captivating fireside chat titled, ‘Putting Solutions Journalism to Work: Experience Sharing’, moderated by Beto Baiye, an Editor at Nigeria Health Watch. Speakers included Ismail Abdulaziz, Senior Editor at the News Agency of Nigeria; Obaziota Udeh, Head of News and Current Affairs Unit at Sparkling FM, Calabar; Seun Darojaiye, Founder and Editor of Social Voices; and Alex Ogbodo, Head of News at Dream FM, Enugu.

Seun shared her perspective on how solutions journalism provides help and hope for victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) by shedding light on their experiences and advocating for justice. She emphasized the importance of comprehensive storytelling, examining problems critically, and measuring the effectiveness of solutions. Seun highlighted that solutions journalism should not solely focus on feel-good stories but should provide a deeper understanding of the core problems and their outcomes.

Alex shared his experience with Solutions Journalism, which took him into the heart of communities, allowing him to intimately understand their challenges. He stressed the need for new stories that alleviate the constant pressure caused by negative narratives. Alex encouraged journalists to undergo Solutions Journalism training and engage their organizations in embracing this approach.

Udeh highlighted the importance of conducting thorough research to ensure stories do not incite unnecessary panic among the audience. He discussed how solutions journalism has influenced his professional approach and even improved his personal life, including his relationships. Udeh urged everyone to embrace the transformative power of solutions journalism and experience a shift in their editorial perspectives.

Ismail emphasized the significance of clarity in storytelling and avoiding offense. He shared how Solutions Journalism had provided him with the tools to guide his colleagues in telling impactful stories. Ismail's organization, the News Agency of Nigeria, was recognized for being the first to establish a Solutions Journalism desk. He encouraged others to join the community of solution-focused individuals striving to solve problems and provide meaningful solutions.

Throughout the event, impactful videos showcased the real-life impact of the Solutions Journalism training on the lives of journalists and the communities they serve, further emphasizing the value and power of solutions-focused storytelling.

The Nigeria Health Watch presented an award of recognition to the News Agency of Nigeria for their pioneering efforts in embracing solutions journalism.

In closing remarks, Misbahu El-Hamza, the Community Engagement Coordinator at Nigeria Health Watch, expressed gratitude to all attendees and emphasized the importance of not only stating problems but also actively seeking solutions to eradicate them.

The Nigeria Health Watch Solution Journalism Africa Initiative Close-out event was a resounding success, leaving participants inspired, empowered, and ready to continue their journey as advocates for solutions-focused storytelling. By shifting the narrative from problem-focused reporting to Solutions Journalism, these journalists are making a tangible difference in their communities, promoting positive change, and amplifying the voices of those creating innovative solutions. The event was a testament to the transformative power of solutions-focused storytelling and its potential to shape the future of journalism in Nigeria and beyond.

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