Nigerian health reporter receives Knight International Journalism Award

November 10, 2014

Stories by Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, the first female top editor in the 40-year history of a prominent Nigerian paper, have sparked important changes in her community.

On Monday, they earned her a Knight International Journalism Award from the International Center for Journalists. The award, which honors journalists around the world who improve the lives of their audiences, was presented to Ogunseye Monday night at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The other recipient was Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab, a freelance investigative journalist from Mexico.

Ogunseye is a health reporter and editor of Sunday Punch, an edition of the most widely read newspaper in Nigeria. Recently, she helped lead her paper’s coverage of the Ebola outbreak, but she said the award recognized a body of work put together throughout her career.

That work includes “The Rich Also Cry,” a three-part series that exposed poor environmental conditions in an affluent neighborhood in Lagos.

Ogunseye said when she got a call notifying her she was selected for the award, she was so elated she didn’t hear half of what she was told.

In addition to a cash prize and a trip to the United States, the award comes with an expectation that the recipient will live up to the honor, Ogunseye said.

“When you win an international award, part of it is the recognition of what you’ve done,” Ogunseye said. “But you want to do more.”

While the Ebola outbreak was still ongoing in Nigeria, Sunday Punch helped readers discern the truths and myths about the virus. Ogunseye said her paper’s coverage focused on quelling misinformation about the virus, which could be just as dangerous as the virus itself. For example, two people died from excessive salt consumption after a rumor began circulating that taking a bath and drinking salt solution could prevent the disease.

Punch journalists were well-equipped to debunk misunderstandings about Ebola because of a newsroom education campaign, Ogunseye said. To help their journalists report on the virus, newsroom leaders called doctors into the newsroom for training sessions and provided reporters with hand sanitizer.