Irene David-Arinze is a multimedia journalist, communications consultant and founder of LIDA Network, an initiative that leverages the power of journalistic storytelling, financial media literacy and fact-checking as tools to promote accountability and provide quality information that will help citizens make informed decisions. Her impact-driven projects in business, climate finance and investigative reporting have earned her nominations for journalist of the year from PwC, Gatefield and fellowships with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. David-Arinze is an alumnus of Harvard Business School Online and Covenant University.

1. You founded LIDA Network, which focuses on financial media literacy and fact-checking. Why choose to focus on these themes?

In LIDA Network, we uphold the stance that there is a need to infuse fact-checking into every beat we cover as journalists. While we have our core strength in business and finance reporting we take our content a step further by ensuring that we humanise subjects on the economy as there is a large knowledge gap in the understanding of what happens in the economy partly because of its complexity. What we do is leverage fact-checking tools to validate and debunk these claims which ultimately leave our audience better informed.

2. At LIDA Network, your aim is to empower journalism across Africa. How are you achieving this?

One of our core pillars is capacity building and we began the quarterly training for journalists in January 2023 and have trained 200 journalists from 15 countries so far. We have received feedback from participants who started fact-checking desks in their organisations in languages such as Yoruba, and French.

We have also had participants who produced some groundbreaking stories after their training while others now volunteer with us to produce investigative reports. We believe that Africans are in the best position to tell our stories through our lived experiences. But we recognise that to tell these stories that would bring about action by stakeholders, early and mid-stage journalists need to learn the fundamentals of storytelling. We are ensuring we contribute our quota in facilitating capacity-building training, which it’s monetary value runs into thousands of dollars, but we do this for free in order to contribute to the body of journalistic work in Africa.

3. You regularly host Twitter Spaces, what is the importance of social media for media businesses?

Being one of the handful of business journalists in Nigeria, I have seen a gap in the knowledge and understanding of economic issues in the country. What we have found is that citizens are more interested in political issues, but you cannot isolate matters of the economy from politics. So we help simplify select topics about the economy through these Twitter Spaces and this has gained popularity over time which is proof of its impact in helping our audience get comfortable and knowledgeable when matters about the economy are discussed.

It’s imperative that for media platforms to remain relevant and sustainable, they need to adapt to advancements in technological trends and leverage it [social media] as a tool to expand their earning potential. There is also the audience reach advantage that social media gives. Currently, we have reach in almost all African countries and this wouldn’t have been possible without leveraging social media.

4. How can a media entrepreneur successfully build and expand a business?

I would say there is noa one-size-fits-all model for the subject of media entrepreneurship. Each media organisation needs to identify what business model works best for them. I remain an advocate for media houses exploring alternative business models that may differ from what has been obtainable in the past. Prior to now, advertising brought a major bulk of the revenue used to sustain media enterprises but we saw a significant squeeze in advertising revenues, particularly during the pandemic. Now we are seeing models such as subscriptions, grants, goodwill donations, partnerships and a lot more unique revenue-generating streams. This is on one hand. Another point would be the quality of content you produce which can increase your visibility and audience engagement. I would also like to say that growth for each media organisations needs to be well-defined. Some brands may see an increase in the number of views, engagement, or followers as growth. Others may be on the lookout for premium clients who would pay for the kind of content they produce.

5. What are some of your career highlights?

I graduated top 1% of my class while schooling at Covenant University where I studied Information and Communication Engineering. I worked at the head office of one of the leading financial institutions but my passion to transform lives and be a significant contributor in people’s lives led me to the journalism profession. I knew that I wanted to cover business and was actually given the responsibility of leading the business desk at Plus TV Africa while I doubling as a contributor for the BBC Biz 100 programme which aired in Nairobi.

I founded LIDA Network two years ago and I would say it has been a fulfilling and rewarding journey. Over the years I have built relationships with strong business brands which have in recent times led to empowering smaller businesses.

6. What are some of the challenges you face as a media entrepreneur? And how have you overcome these challenges?

The most common challenge is funding but from the onset, we refused to follow the common trend of chasing after all kinds of stories or setting daily targets for the number of stories we produce. What we do is tell impact-driven stories for which we receive grants to produce and periodically deploy funds for projects that we know would bring about social change and are timebound. One such would be the loan app story I produced which led to the closure of an account that housed over $7million and our work was recognised to have contributed to the eventual policy creation for online lending platforms in Nigeria. We also avoid the temptation of employing staff on a permanent basis to reduce overhead costs. So we engage journalists on a project basis.

7. The media landscape in Nigeria is exciting and competitive. How can an entrepreneur create a business that can successfully compete in the industry?

The secret is finding that problem you want to contribute to its solution. The larger the number of people this problem affects the better. Then you need to identify what makes you stand out. Give yourself the opportunity to iterate with your ideas until you find your product market fit and don’t be too hard on yourself. You also need to invest in good research for good content.

8. Where do you see your business in the next couple of years?

I want to see more people interested in conversations relating to business and the economy through the work we do. I want to see businesses making better-informed decisions through the content we deliver to our audiences. We also want to expand our capacity-building training and give grants to journalists especially female journalists to tell impactful stories.

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