By Ekpali Saint
One afternoon in August 2022, Abdullahi Jimoh was reading trending posts on Twitter when he saw a post by The SolutionsPaper, a solutions-focused media outlet in Nigeria, calling for student journalists to register for free training in solutions journalism. This was new to Jimoh so he quickly registered for the training.
“I was curious to learn because solutions journalism sounds new to me,” Jimoh, a final-year English Language student at the University of Ilorin, said. During that period, he learned from professional journalists – who are vast in solutions journalism – ways to tell stories from a solutions angle. “Today, I can claim to be a solutions journalist and that’s the result of the training,” 26-year-old Jimoh said.
According to the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), a US-based media organisation whose mission is to spread the practice of solutions journalism around the world, solutions journalism is rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
Over the years, mainstream media presented imbalanced reporting about social problems without investigating solutions to those problems. But The SolutionsPaper is changing that narrative by spreading the practice of solutions journalism in Africa which involves producing solutions stories about development issues on the continent.
And to increase the network of solutions journalists, the media outlet trains student journalists in Africa and guides them on how to identify and tell compelling solutions stories.
‘Deep passion’ for solutions journalism
Chinonso Kenneth, the publisher of The SolutionsPaper, said his interest in solutions journalism started in 2019 when he first learned about solutions journalism and subsequently published his first solutions story. His interest in solutions journalism and people’s positive feedback inspired him to launch The SolutionsPaper in June 2022. The aim was to spread the practice of solutions journalism.
“I had this deep passion to get more people to do solutions journalism,” he said.
One month after its launch, The SolutionsPaper started training student journalists in solutions journalism. Kenneth said the lack of training and opportunities for student journalists makes it difficult for them to practice journalism and be published in media outlets. He believes training student journalists in solutions journalism and providing them with a platform where they can publish their stories will encourage them to keep telling solutions stories.
“We identified that lack of opportunities for student journalists and graduates of mass communication and journalism make it difficult for them to get entry-level jobs and even opportunity to get their stories published,” Kenneth said. “So we hold consistent training to enable student journalists to get these opportunities and not just training but publishing them on our platforms.”
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More solutions stories
Each training session is facilitated by editors and professional journalists. After the training, Kenneth and his team follow up with participants to guide them on how to pitch and get published in The SolutionsPaper and elsewhere. So far, The SolutionsPaper has organised six sessions of training and has trained over 100 journalists across Africa, including Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and Zimbabwe.
Jimoh has continued to produce solutions stories, and two stories were recently added to the SJN’s solutions story tracker, a database of reporting on responses to social problems. One of his stories examined how a nonprofit is using documentary films to bring healing to people struggling with drug addiction.
Jimoh argues that people are tired of reading problem-focused stories, and that “solutions journalism [inspires] the readers to solve their problem themselves without necessarily waiting for irresponsible government.”
Kenneth is encouraged by the level of success. He said the majority of those who received training have not heard of solutions journalism. But now, all the stories published on the outlet’s website were written by journalists they have trained.
“These stories are the outcome of the series of training that we have had. More than half of these stories have also been indexed in the solutions story tracker,” he said.
But getting facilitators to train student journalists for free is a major challenge, Kenneth said.
Kenneth adds that The SolutionsPaper can’t pay facilitators now due to lean financial resources. These days, it leverages its in-house editors and network of editors and professional journalists who don’t request to be paid before facilitating training sessions.
Meanwhile, Jimoh has continued to work on more solutions stories since the training. He’s passionate about telling stories of how Africans are addressing their problems.
“Africa has great people solving the problem of their land whose stories are underreported,” he said, adding that “Africa needs to present itself before the international audience that it can solve its own problems.” He believes the media play a critical role here and to achieve this, “solutions journalism is what media platforms should embrace,” Jimoh adds.
Reporting supported by a micro-grant from Jamlab