The Coronavirus crisis is arguably the biggest story of the new century. Like the Spanish Flu pandemic that ravaged the globe nearly a century before, this pandemic is forcing governments, organizations and individuals to re-examine what it considers standard practice for businesses, recreation, healthcare and governance, an extremely daunting challenge that has led to many lapses and thousands of avoidable deaths.
The media industry’s role as documentarian, civic watchdog and bridge between a distrustful citizenry and strained leadership has expanded as it navigates a transition of its own towards a digital-first information gathering and dissemination model.
As African media companies adapt to new realities, they are looking to premier journalists like Stephanie Busari for progressive, practical and repeatable models for covering the story of the century.
As the Editor of CNN Africa and lead at the CNN International’s West Africa bureau in Lagos, Stephanie Busari has a more comprehensive understanding of the power of the media in correcting misconceptions and shaping narratives.
Her portfolio is just as impressive, with work credits that encompass the spectrum of print, digital media, television and cable news. This wealth of experience and expertise is why the work she is doing as a leading journalist and producer in Nigeria is so timely and the opportunities she has created for local journalists to amplify the local stories that matter to them to global audiences.
The pandemic presents a unique challenge for journalists, many of whom rely on on-the-ground reporting and first-person interviews to provide a comprehensive understanding of press issues that capture the attention of news audiences. Travel restrictions and the increased risk of contracting the virus as a result of exposure to compromised individuals have slowed journalistic reporting.
Busari is compensating for this by taking the story to the platforms where her audiences consume information, social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Through the CNN COVID Heroes and Newsmakers initiative, Busari connects individuals and organizations who are providing front line services to groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic, leveraging their public brands and digital following to amplify communication from the WHO and other sanctioned health organizations and volunteering time and resources to ensure human rights are upheld and protected as the world realigns itself to new realities.
By embracing new technology, Busari has been able to provide valuable insights into how Lagos, the epicentre of the pandemic in Nigeria has managed to find, treat and discharge hundreds of patients, its partnerships with private organizations and how it is sharing knowledge to improve its capacity to contain the virus through an in-depth interview with Governor Babajide Sanwoolu, the executive governor of Lagos state.
She has also interviewed Grammy winner and human rights activist, Angelique Kidjo who is bridging education gaps through her non-profit organization, discussed the challenges and triumphs of building Beating Corona, a country-focused database of all Covid19 interventions in Nigeria with Adebola Williams, the CEO of RED for Africa.
At a time when it is missing from most major Western mainstream media platforms, celebrating African heroes is at the heart of the CNN Africa series and conversations with people like Nigerian doctor, Dr. Amarachukwu Karen Allison of LaFarge showed how vigilance at the individual level gave the country a much-needed head start in its efforts to control the spread of the Coronavirus. Individual brilliance in tandem will collective effort will help Africa turn the tide.
Stephanie Busari has also used her platform to highlight causes that might otherwise be subsumed by the urgency of the Covid19 pandemic, helping audiences understand how these issues are only exacerbated by the pandemic and must be treated with equal urgency.
She is notable for her focused coverage of the Chibok girls from their kidnapping to her work in helping secure their release by obtaining a proof of life video of them. This year, Busari highlighted the work of Yana Galang, a mother who is still waiting for her kidnapped daughter to return and who acts as a spokesperson for the families of the 111 Chibok girls still in Boko Haram captivity, offering a subtle but insistent reminder of the families whose lives have stalled as they await the return of their daughters.
There are significant knowledge gaps that need to be filled in our fight against the pandemic and whose stories get told with empathy and openness.
These gaps can only be filled when local journalists with the context to understand motivations and limitations have access to the right resources to tell nuanced and compelling stories. Stephanie Busari and her team are giving a masterclass in this area.