2016 Scholarship Winner – Jennifer Ehidiamen

Jennifer_EhidiamenJoint 3rd Place Award $2,500

Jennifer Ehidiamen graduated with a degree in Mass Communication from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) in Lagos and is currently studying Business and Economics at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York.

Prior to attending J-school, Jennifer served in Nigeria as a freelance journalist for selected media organizations, covering health, development and business issues. One of her long-form reports on how girls are barred from school in Nigeria was featured on Voice of America and syndicated by local media in Nigeria. She also wrote a story on the cashless policy introduced to Nigeria’s banking sector, which was published by Global Press Journal, a news wire based in California.

In addition to reporting, Jennifer has also helped launch a couple of online media in Lagos. In 2012, during her final semester at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, she worked with the pioneer managing editor of Ventures-Africa.com, a news platform focused on Pan-African business stories, to successfully implement an editorial strategy and recruit the founding team. In 2014, she launched RuralReporters www.ruralreporters.com, a news portal focused on amplifying underreported issues in rural Africa.

Her choice of taking a business concentration at Columbia Journalism School is to deepen her knowledge and build expertise in business reporting beyond numbers and statistics. The goal is to break news stories, humanize business reports and simplify complicated topics in a way that will be more understandable to readers, irrespective of their background. The course concentration, led by Prof. Sylvia Nasar and Prof. James Stewart, includes classes in accounting, the stock market, and investigative journalism. She also took other exciting classes, including “Managing the 21st Century Newsroom” led by Prof. William Grueskin and Prof Ava Seave.

As part of her course requirement, Jennifer wrote a 10,000-word story on emerging markets, specifically focusing on the oil sector. She analyzed the full year earnings of one of the largest oil and gas companies in Nigeria. Andy Serwer, the editor in chief of Yahoo Finance, supervised the project. Studying at J-school has given her the opportunity to broaden her horizon. This grand pursuit would not have been possible without God’s grace in her life and the support of Prof. John Kline and Rosita Kline.

Jennifer looks forward to an exciting career in business journalism and innovating ideas that would contribute to the growth of the media profession in Nigeria and globally. She is inspired to break free from the circle of mediocrity and embrace a new level of excellence. She has been empowered to lead by serving.

Winning Op-Ed

It Is The US Presidential Election, Not Donald Trump’s Appointment

A week ago, I received an email from one of the press attachés at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja. It was about the provisions the office has made to facilitate the process for media organizations in Nigeria to cover the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. I imagined how relieved a number of colleagues who cover politics and international affairs, who were also listed on the Embassy’s list-serve, must have felt to receive the email.

No media organization can successfully provide in-depth and objective coverage of any international elections without access. What the Embassy sought to achieve was to ensure that Nigerian journalists who wish to attend media briefings organized by U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Press Centers or report on the upcoming Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention are able to do so. Details of fees and instructions for obtaining credentials were also included in the email.

Until now, I must admit that the coverage of the US elections in Nigeria has been underwhelming. Reports about international policies and manifestos that presidential candidates based their campaigns on are left for columnists to analyze. There is no in-depth coverage about trends, events or reactions in the mainstream news. For instance, If you type in “US presidential elections” or similar words into the search buttons of the websites of the top five media organizations in Nigeria, you will be stunned by the result. Although numerous articles will come up, the ones relating to the US elections are sparse.

Nigerians who are interested in the US elections turn to international media channels and websites to consume information. And trust me, Nigerian youths (age 35 and below), who make up about 70 percent of the Nigeria population, are following the elections closely. A quick search on social media profiles of some of the outspoken ones such as Chude Jidenwo, Omojuwa Jaspeth, Tolu Ogunlesi and Esther Agbarakwe might reveal the views and biases they share concerning the elections.

“Nigerians feel the US is crazy for allowing the Trump circus carry on for too long,” Douglas Imaralu said to me a few weeks ago. We were discussing the trend in the current presidential race and how that is affecting the way Nigerians view Americans.

Imaralu has just resigned his position as a communications manager in a non-profit organization to attempt launching a business. Like him, many young Nigerians believe whoever emerges as the next President of the US will implement policies that will affect or shape Nigeria-US relations. Unfortunately, because the poor coverage of the election campaigns has focused mostly on only one of the candidates, Donald Trump, most people have been left in the dark.

However, since Donald Trump emerged as the leading candidate for the Republican Party, memes and videos about some of the remarks he makes have been widely circulated on different social networks where young and upwardly mobile Nigerians converge. Topping the list is a three minute long YouTube video titled, “Donald Trump Warns Nigerians: “IF I WIN, YOU LEAVE””. This came on the heels of Trump’s derogatory remark about Kenya Athletes in Iowa during one of his campaigns.

“Donald Trump made a derogatory comment about the Kenyan winners of the IAAF Olympics in Beijing, China, calling them cheats and con-men,” wrote Omono Eremionkhale, on Ventures-Africa.com, a news media based in Lagos. She went on to embellish the article with quotes and screen-shots of tweets from social media users who reacted to the news when it first broke in September.

Most of the news coverage about Trump does not focus on his manifestoes or views on international policies and how it affects Nigeria or the Africa region. Instead, for the most part, the reports analyze his campaign speeches and reactions of his supporters on the campaign trail. Unfortunately some of these reports are often turned into skits and memes. Readers who do not fact-check them consume it all hook, line and sinker.

Little or nothing is written about Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz or John Kasich or the core principles that each candidate’s views on issues affecting the world is hinged upon.

It is imperative for media organizations in Nigeria to be more proactive in leading the coverage of the US elections locally to ensure that the public is well informed of the election process. Like other developing countries around the world, Nigeria, will be greatly impacted by the outcome of the 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential election.