“I believe Solutions Journalism (SoJo) can save journalism in Nigeria (and elsewhere) because if journalists learn to report actual solutions and attempts at solutions, it might prove a welcome retracing of steps from the current focus on sensationalism, half truths and divisiveness that defines reportage today,” said Buchi Onyegbule. He is Narrative 4’s Head of Africa Operations and articulated his understanding of SoJo while sitting at the back of the room, during a Solutions Journalism Workshop, held on April 28, at Impact Cove, a co-working hub, located in the Wuse area of Abuja.
The event, set as a precursor for planned SoJo workshops in universities across Nigeria, was facilitated by Social Voices and supported by the African Women Journalism Project (AWJP) and Citizens’ Commons.
Over two dozen media professionals, bloggers as well as young-career and student journalists were present. The session began with a brief introduction of SoJo – delivered by Oluwaseun Durojaiye, convener of the event. Participants were trained on adopting and understanding the four pillars of SoJo.
Thereafter, the audience were taught the importance and framing of SoJo stories by Catherine Gicheru, the AWJP Project Director and Chibuilke Alagboso, a health journalist and LEDE fellow. Finally, a case for SoJo was embedded in a lesson on how the media can be used as a tool for development, delivered by Hamzat Lawal, the CEO of Connected Development, and Jake Effoduh, Human Rights Lawyer and Multi-award winning broadcast journalist.
During the interactive and engaging workshop, attendees showed keen interest in the concept of SoJo. Jerrywright Ukwu, a senior reporter with one of Nigeria’s leading news platforms, who was in attendance, asked the difference between ‘agenda setting’ and SoJo, setting the tone for the attendees to draw a distinction between framing news for public consumption and evidence-based, in depth reporting on responses to social problems; the latter of which is the objective definition of SoJo.
Another attendee, Samuel Ajala, the president of the National Union of Campus Journalists (NUCJ) asked the difference between ‘impact-driven report’ and SoJo, an interesting response came from Alagboso, who clarified that impact-driven reporting as in the scenario presented by Ajala can be viewed with a solutions lens.
At the end of the event which lasted for two hours, participants relayed a clear understanding of SoJo and three attendees committed to submitting pitches to do SoJo stories.
As a final thought, the words of William Bernbach, “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarise that society. We can brutalise it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.” resonate deeply.