Aisha Salaudeen is an award-winning multimedia journalist, feminist, producer and writer who has been a freelance journalist for four years. Salaudeen tells stories through podcasts, images, videos and words.
She is currently a producer for CNN, where she produces shows such as Inside Africa, African Voices Changemakers, and Marketplace Africa: Out of Africa. Salaudeen is the co-founder of Visual Audio Times, a podcast network that provides localised content for Africans in Africa and the diaspora. She also hosts and produces I Like Girls – a narrative storytelling podcast about African women and the unanticipated ways life impacts them.
Salaudeen has covered stories in more than 30 African countries including Namibia, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia.
1.) How did you get started as a journalist and what inspired you to become a journalist?
I started becoming interested in media when I was in university, my friend was part of the school radio station and I really liked what she did, and I gained an interest and became part of the school radio station. My journalism career officially began when I started writing social commentary on Nigeria. I had a lot to say about the state of Nigeria and I would send those articles to Nigerian newspapers. People responded well to the articles and through that, I discovered that I was good at writing. Being on radio and writing social commentary articles kickstarted my career in journalism.
2.) What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I started writing social commentary on the state of Nigeria people would pay attention or people would amplify it by re-sharing it. At first, I started writing it because I wanted to rant and then I realised that it resonated with many people. At that point, I became aware of the possibility that language can spark change and be influential.
3.) What is the one story that you worked on which had a lasting impact on you?
In 2018, I wrote this story about this community in Ogun state in Nigeria where the people living in this community were living in smoke for 25 years. I traveled there and did an investigation, spoke to community members and took photographs. It was the first major story that had a huge impact on me because I just couldn’t believe the state of living – it was an environmental disaster and it was impactful because many people were not aware of this community and moved me to pay more attention to the climate, even today it is something I think about very strongly.
4.) How has social media influenced your work or how you tell stories? What role does social media play in how you tell stories?
The world is changing and social media is such a huge part of it. For journalists such as myself who have to move with the trends or with how technology is improving, social media has been helpful because you can use social media to get information for stories and can use social media to gather data. For example, during the #EndSars protests in Nigeria, everyone was documenting in real-time what was happening in their areas, there were photos, videos, voice messages and Instagram Live videos so you could report in real-time or you could put together data based on social media. I can’t overemphasise the importance of social media, it is very helpful in collating data, and reaching out to sources. It has been incredibly helpful.
5.) Do you regularly engage with people online and do you think it is important for journalists to regularly engage with people online?
I think it is important especially as a digital journalist to post stories online. You are making people aware of the stories you have written or reported on and we know that social media has a way of amplifying content, you are distributing your content to a wider audience and you are building a community – in the sense that people can resonate with your stories. On a personal note, social media is what got me my current job. I was constantly posting everything that I wrote and I was engaging with people as a result I received a message about an interview for a job. It has been extremely helpful to engage on social media with other people and your work.
6.) As a digital storyteller, do you think in terms of where journalism is headed there is a need to have multiple forms of storytelling?
I think it depends on the story. The world is constantly changing and you have to find the best way to tell your story, sometimes you might find that text is perfectly fine but other times you might need to make it into a podcast or an audio version, it really depends on what the story needs, and I have also noticed that people are visual learners so we have to take that into consideration when doing stories – is it going to be better told as a documentary or a podcast? I don’t want to say that we all have to go digital, text is important but you need to find what works best for your story, especially in relation to your audience.
7.) You are the co-founder of a podcasting platform, how have you found that role and what type of stories do you tell?
Podcasting is still a concept that people are getting used to, especially in Africa. Podcasting is difficult because people still think it’s radio and you need an internet connection to listen to an episode. Many people do not have access to smartphones, so it is still very challenging – it’s new and very niche. However, I do enjoy it because it is another way to tell a story, it is enjoyable but it has its challenges. We tell a variety of stories, the podcast I host, which is titled I like Girls documents the experiences of African women and how life impacts them differently, there are many stories told about African women – who are often marginalised.
8.) What advice would you give to aspiring journalists/producers/multimedia storytellers?
Journalism is hard. There are so many challenges with journalism in Africa such as lack of press freedom, journalists are underpaid and I think that people should keep that in mind but it is rewarding if you like it. You need to be open-minded, when you start you will start off doing work that you don’t really enjoy because you need to grab as many skills as possible. I want people to use social media more, for example, freelancers will say that they don’t have a place to publish their work but you can use media, Twitter, or any other social media platform. It is important to build your profile.
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