This morning, we begin a story series on YNaija.com called ‘We Survived Boko Haram’. Over the past month, we have sent a reporter to the North-East of Nigeria to tell stories you don’t usually read, or hear – in between the din of breaking news, news as porn, and then as commodity.
This reporter went around the cities of Konduga, Bama, Mubi, Yola, Damboa and Biu, meeting the people who actually live the daily lives beyond the headlines, after the carnage of Boko Haram, and the continued incoherence of government intervention.
He has returned with stories that are important: individual narratives of Nigerian citizens – who experience the very many sides of being Nigerian, in Nigeria. The realities of a complex, complicated country with a huge capacity to give and bring out the best and the worst (sadly, mostly the latter) from its citizens.
YNaija.com has undergone several iterations over the last 5 years – and all of this mirrors the evolution of the online space, and that of pioneers in that space. And while sometimes we have strayed, at all times we have kept sight of the core of who we are (across our online and TV property including #RubbinMinds on Channels TV and #eXploring on ONTV): driving the conversation about the issues and ideas that actually matter for Nigerians and that should matter for young Nigerians.
And here is a fact you don’t hear often: Citizens matter.
Citizens matter. Their stories matter. Their every day lives matter. And not just as porn (“Man kills wife in Ikorodu!”) exaggerated to titillate, to spark urgent fast-food reaction, while the shades, and textures and angles of their humanity are subsumed until they disappear.
If a man killed his wife in Ikorodu – we want to know why. We need to know his story, and her story, and the story of the community and nation that maybe created the conditions for that death It’s not enough that people are facing a hunger crisis in the North-East. The context is important – where did the rain begin to beat them? How do they survive each day? How can we connect with that story?
There are too many untold stories across our country, too many incomplete stories.
To tell these important stories, tragedy porn is wholly inadequate, even irresponsible, even if it is, for those of us who experience daily the upheaval in media business models and low barriers for entry, understandable.
News should not just be about understanding why Muhammadu Buhari does what he does, why Dino Melaye is the way he is, why Kemi Adeosun speaks the way she does. News – especially in a time of global upheaval from #Brexit to #Bernie – should also focus on the very ones who society is really all about: every day people, communities, citizens.
That is why at YNaija.com, we have two crucial beats that are innovations on existing media models: a Conversations (to trail the issues and ideas that matter in a fast-paced, social-media driven news cycle) beat, and a Citizenship (to take a step back every day and distill how those issues and ideas affect everyday people) beat.
The Citizenship Section, and its editor, focus on community and social change. We have our thrice-weekly #Impact365 series that finds and profiles change makers and the work they are doing across the country, and our bi-monthly Special Reports that tackle phenomena that define everyday existence – witness for instance our piece on the rise of Yaba and that on Nigeria’s betting industry.
To that, we add our monthly Citizenship Series, launching today, that takes big stories from the nook and cranny of Nigeria, and delves deep into them through a succession of personal and communal narratives.
Fully funded by this Internet newspaper (in partnership with our sister organisation, The Future Project), they are a demonstration of our commitment to tell the stories that matter, and to ensure the conversations that matter. Indeed, as we are publishing this, our reporters are already back on the road – telling textured stories from another corner of Nigeria.
Investing in this crucial imperative is for us a mission, one that sees us ready to take a temporary hit in vanity metrics to instead build a dedicated, inquisitive audience that cares about the things that are truly important – which is, according to our data-driven insights, how the educated, digital-connected young reader of the immediate future, will mostly be.
We are here in front of that coming future, armed with the stories we need to tell, and that you need to read.
It is our commitment that this will be a continuing story that will never end.
And we thank you for joining us.