The year 2021 was an eventful and impactful one for us at the PUNCH Media Foundation (PMF). This is due, in part, to the introduction and commissioning of new projects and the modification of others towards driving sustainable social change, which forms an integral part of the foundation’s goal.
The year opened, in January, with the execution of the PUNCH HealthWise Story Project, a story support programme for reporters who have in-depth and compelling health and development stories to tell, with measurable outcomes which otherwise may not be possible without the support. A call for applications (internal) for in-depth and investigative health and development stories was published to which ten reporters responded with their pitches. A story conference tagged “PUNCH HealthWise Story Pitch Meeting” was held on 17th March 2021 to review the pitches under the supervision of two in-house resource persons, leading to the eventual commissioning of four of the pitches with adequate technical and funding support.
The foundation commissioned a new programme, PUNCH Academy, in March 2021. PUNCH Academy was designed in partnership with PUNCH Newspapers to cater to all training programmes and needs of the PUNCH editorial team in particular, and journalists in general. The academy, through capacity building and scaling, seeks to build a generation of result-driven and narrative-changing journalists through regular exposure to best practices and tools in the media and development space.
To kick off the PUNCH Academy, PMF prepared training modules for the various capacity-building programmes – PUNCH Immersion Training and PUNCH Refresher Training – organised in the year. These modules became viable tools for the successes recorded in the academy based on feedback garnered from engaged resource persons and media professionals.
In April, PMF, through its training arm – PUNCH Academy, organised the first PUNCH Immersion Training, an orientation cum skill-honing programme organised for new reporters in the employ of PUNCH. The three-week training, which marked the official engagement of 21 new reporters into the editorial team of the PUNCH and onward deployment to the Lagos and Abuja offices, engaged 55 resource persons across the media and development space in Nigeria.
On 14th June 2021, the PUNCH Media Foundation joined the global community to commemorate World Blood Donor Day with a webinar themed, “Why Nigeria Needs More Free Blood Donors”. The virtual event which was streamed live on Facebook reached 19K+ people and was viewed by 11K+ people. Four speakers – Dr Joseph Amedu, the National Coordinator of National Blood Transfusion Service; Mrs Moji Makanjuola (MFR), CEO and Founder, International Society of Media in Public Health; Mr OlakunleLasisi, the Branch Secretary of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Lagos State; and Mrs Abiola Okubanjo, CEO and Founder of Action on Blood – were featured in the event, moderated by Isabella Adediji, a renowned media personality and Managing Director of the Yellow Tamarind Productions.
Also in June, PMF, under the PUNCH Academy organised the first PUNCH Refresher Training, a week-long engagement designed to upskill and scale the skill-set of the editorial team of the PUNCH Newspapers in Lagos and Abuja. The Training itself started on Monday, 21st June and ran through Friday, 25th June in Lagos, then Monday, 28th June through Thursday, 1st July 2021 in Abuja.
In the spirit of solidarity and as a proactive move to combat future pandemics based on lessons learnt from the COVID-19 experience, Conversation Africa in partnership with PUNCH Media Foundation and other media partners organised a webinar in July with the theme, “Nigeria and the next pandemic: Preparedness, response and vaccine”.The keynote speaker at the event was Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora. Professor of virology, OyewaleTomori; Professor of molecular biology and genomics from Redeemers University, Christian Happi; Executive Secretary, Nigerian Academy of Science, Doyin Odubanjo; Specialist in medical microbiology, Professor Sade Ogunsola; and President of the South African Medical Research Council, Glenda Gray, featured in the panel discussion. To ensure the optimum success of the event, PUNCH Media Foundation facilitated a live stream of the event on PUNCH’s Facebook account.
PUNCH Media Foundation in partnership with Code for Africa trained 13 editorial and non-editorial staff of PUNCH in data journalism. The bi-weekly training, which ran from Wednesday, 18th August through Wednesday, 10th November 2021 was tagged, “Data Journalism Webinar Series”. The training sought to equip participants with data skills to help them illuminate societal realities, hold government and other stakeholders accountable and drive desired social changes with lasting effects through the instrument of data.
Another in-house call for applications for health and development stories was announced in September 2021. The application, which was open for two weeks, was meant essentially for reporters of PUNCH Newspapers who had an interest in reporting compelling health and development issues within the PUNCH HealthWise focus areas, and whose knowledge and skill-set would be better furnished through proper mentoring. A workshop has been scheduled for January 2022 to review the submitted pitches for onward commissioning.
On 11th October 2021, PUNCH Media Foundation marked the International Day of the Girl Child with a webinar tagged, “Girl Child Education, Technology, and National Development”. Speakers at the virtual event – the Country Director, Amnesty International, MsOsaiOjigho; Founder and Executive Consultant of Lonadek Global Services, Dr IbilolaAmao; and the Online Editor of PUNCH, Mr Joel Nwokeoma, charged parents, schools, media houses, and other stakeholders to support the girl child education and her involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), noting that it is a major pathway to national development. The Founder and Managing Director of Yellow Tamarind Productions, Mrs Isabella Adediji, moderated the event.
On 13th and 14th November, key players on the PUNCH HealthWise project gathered at Sheraton Lagos Hotel for a retreat. The retreat tagged, “PUNCH HealthWise Retreat” was a two-day strategy meeting put together by the PUNCH Media Foundation to review the PUNCH HealthWise project and activities while examining the roles of key implementers of the project and where these roles handshake the overall objective of the project. The Executive Director, PUNCH Media Foundation, Mr Adeyeye Joseph; the acting Editor of PUNCHHealthWise, Mr Yusuff Moshood; Principal Programme Officer, PUNCH Media Foundation, Ms Rebecca Erureh, and Senior Media Officer, Centre for Communication and Social Impact, Mr Seun Akioye among others were present at the retreat.
A total of 3,924 stories were published in 2021 on the PUNCH HealthWise vertical generating over 1.5M page views and 800K+ unique users. Of these stories, over 200 were call-to-action stories from which reactions and responses were generated from the government and other stakeholders as necessary changes were effected following the stories. Part of the impact stories and the responses they provoked include “We can’t breathe! Ogun community chokes under Chinese recycling plant’s fume” This was a special feature by the PUNCH HealthWise, published on 18th April 2021. The investigative story revealed the deadly impact of a recycling plant in Ogun State on the lives of the community dwellers. Following the story, the Ogun State Government issued an order for the closure of the recycling plant and its relocation with an ultimatum of four months for the order to be fully executed. When the HealthWise team visited the community in July, the plant was found to have been shut and a fresh report was released with the title, “We can now breathe! Ogun community jubilates as Chinese recycling company relocates after PUNCH HealthWise report”
Also, the stories, “Open defecation: Public health crisis looms in Lagos, Ogun communities”, published 22nd August 2021, and “Suspected cholera outbreak ravages Hausa communities in Ogun, Lagos”, published 10th September 2021, triggered reactions from the governments of Ogun and Lagos states as they could not deny the outbreak of cholera in their states with confirmation by the National Centre for Disease Control. “Moderna vaccine scarcity: Lagos residents lament inability to get second dose” was a special feature published 19th December 2021 to draw the Lagos State government’s attention to the dearth of the essential commodity. Barely four days after the report, the Lagos State government through the Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, confirmed the scarcity, appealed for understanding and assured the people of Lagos state that the government is working to address the challenge as soon as possible. This was contained in the follow-up story published 23 December 2021, “Lagos govt confirms scarcity of Moderna vaccine after PUNCH HealthWise report”.
The year, for PMF, closed on a celebratory note as PUNCH HealthWise, the flagship project of the PUNCH Media Foundation won the Impact Africa Summit 2021 Award For Excellence In Health Promotion Journalism. PUNCH HealthWise, according to the organizers, bagged the award for its contribution to noteworthy and credible journalism on healthcare as well as its provision of information to stakeholders in healthcare and relevant audience in pharmaceutical development and research.
The PUNCH Media Foundation, having had an impactful 2021 with the support of its partners and resource persons, is confident that2022 will open up new opportunities that will be maximally explored to drive sustainable change for the actualization of a more just, inclusive, and prosperous Nigeria.