Ruona Meyer, manager, Africa Initiative Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) has said that the Solutions Journalism Africa Initiative (SJAI) implemented across newsrooms in the country in the last three years has been very impactful in inspiring policies, and positive change, particularly in communities grappling with various social problems.
The SJAI project implemented with support from the SJN USA since 2021, has trained and supported newsroom and freelance journalists, student journalists and journalism educators across Nigeria to investigate and report on how people are responding to various social problems.
This is helping to address the predominant trend of problem-focused reporting that is contributing to news avoidance by audiences, according to a report by the Reuters Institute for Journalism.
Speaking at the SJAI close-out event organised by the Nigeria Healthwatch in Abuja on Thursday, Meyer said the project exceeded expectations.
“When we started, we did not expect that we would be affecting policymakers in villages, we did not envisage that there will be policymakers who would be collaborating closer with newsrooms and be more open to being interviewed. We did not anticipate the level of awards journalists will get,” she said.
She informed me that the project has seen a collaboration with 60 newsrooms across four countries in the last three years including Kenya Rwanda, Uganda and Nigeria.
In Nigeria, the network and it’s implementing partners Nigeria Healthwatch and Science Africa have collaborated with 30 media organisations, forming three cohorts of newsrooms, and engaging 90 journalists. The close-out event is to showcase what the newsrooms have done.
As the project ends, Meyer said the network will look for other ways to continue the collaboration and sustain the goal of pushing a narrative that is not focused on amplifying only problems about the West African continent but has inclusive reporting that does not only talk about what is wrong with society but talks about who should be held accountable and what can be done.
She urged journalists to continue to use their platforms to make a good impact in the country.
Also speaking, the Managing Director, Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, stressed that solution Journalism is a key instrument in changing the narrative of news reportage in the country.
She said instituting the practice of solutions journalism is giving people a sense of hope, as journalists have become empowered to produce impactful stories that inspire change.
“We feel that the practice of Solutions Journalism will spread organically through newsrooms we have trained and through higher institutions, with universities now including in their curriculum solutions-oriented reporting so that future journalists are able to now report themselves solutions to issues faced in Nigeria and not just leaving it to the usual way we see the news as negative.”
Speaking further on the impact she said, “We have had over 250 solutions stories published, with over 100 of them indexed. while this is commendable, we will continue to focus on the impact made.”
The event featured conversations with leaders and the journalists who participated in the project. It also provided an informal platform for participants to engage, network and share ideas around propagating solutions journalism across Nigeria.