In Times of Crisis, Health Journalists Must be More than Reporters

In a recent interview on the Global Risk Journalism Podcast, health editor of Nigeria’s Vanguard Newspaper Charles ‘Sola’ Ogundipe highlights the heightened responsibilities and additional skillsets required of health journalists during a pandemic. ‘Reporting health is a bit different than reporting business or politics, you have to understand the virus… you need to be like a scientist.’

Joined by host Thomas Johnstone, Sola offers a sneak peek into the journalism industry in Nigeria; focusing particularly on health communications and the role of journalists in informing the public in times of crisis. Drawing upon his own experiences, Sola talks extensively about current challenges and lessons learnt from covering Ebola when it first appeared in Nigeria in 2014. ‘In a country like Nigeria, there is this attitude that anything people don’t understand they often demonise it… even within the media themselves… Most of the health journalists had no idea what [ebola] was.’ However, he stresses the importance of continuing to represent other issues in an otherwise saturated news cycle: ‘every disease, every challenge, deserves to be heard. Deserves to be addressed.’

In response to these challenges, Sola stresses the importance of arming health journalists with the scientific knowledge and professional practices necessary to provide audiences with accurate and objective information. ‘Education has to start with the media; we have to educate the media that is going to educate the public.’ According to Sola, in Nigeria crisis preparedness also requires more communication between journalists and politicians, the willingness of journalists to seek out news related to health crises, and the identification and counteraction of the spread of disinformation.

To hear the full interview with health editor of Nigeria’s Vanguard Newspaper Charles ‘Sola’ Ogundipe, as well as other explorations into the roles and experiences of journalists in times of crisis, search for the Global Risk Journalism Podcast on Spotify, or visit the Global Risk Journalism Hub website.

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