C-Suite Conversations: An Interview with Jennifer Ehidiamen and Oluwabusayo Sotunde

Article ImageJennifer Ehidiamen and Oluwabusayo Sotunde co-founded Rural Reporters. Ehidiamen is the publisher, and Sotunde is managing editor. While working for a Nigerian newspaper in 2007, Ehidiamen noticed how most readers were consuming content from mobile devices. “I began cross-posting my column to a blog, and it expanded my interest in content management,” she says, launching her career in digital publishing.

Eventually, Ehidiamen landed at Celebrating Progress Africa, where she was Sotunde’s editor. The women knew each other from their school days. Sotunde studied at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism and also interned for a newspaper and radio station. “Jennifer was the one who engineered my going into the econtent industry,” says Sotunde. “I had set my sights on doing something in public relations, but when the opportunity came to write for an online news medium, I grabbed it and have worked in the industry ever since.”

In 2014, Ehidiamen and Sotunde founded Rural Reporters. While they continue to write, edit, and consult for other organizations, Sotunde says, “Rural Reporters is our baby.”

Rural Reporters is an online news platform with in-depth coverage of underreported issues in rural communities in Nigeria and across Africa. The organization reports on agriculture, health, women, and rural development. “We believe that by publishing grassroots stories, we are able to better articulate rural relevance,” says Sotunde. Ehidiamen says, “We want to give voice to these stories, so action will be taken for the things that matter.”

Trends They’re Watching

Ehidiamen tracks how social networks are evolving into new media companies. “The challenge is to leverage social media growth in a way that makes the econtent industry sustainable,” she says.

For Sotunde, big trends include multimedia storytelling and email marketing. “I see us doing more multimedia storytelling in the future, to enrich our storylines and help us grab audience attention.” As for email marketing, she says, “Rural Reporters has a quarterly enewsletter. Maintaining this engagement with readers is important in getting feedback and assures that you are not alone in whatever venture you are doing.”

Challenges They Face

“Getting people to care,” says Ehidiamen. “Rural development is not a sexy topic. Editors want clicks, so they focus on what’s trending. But there are important stories at the grassroots level that are underreported.” Sotunde says that plagiarism and other unprofessional journalistic behavior is a challenge. “Anyone can steal your idea and rebrand it and make it their own. So far, there are no effective legal measures to curb this trend.”

Dreaming Big

Ehidiamen says, “We’d like to engage more people at the grassroots level to tell their stories to make positive changes in their communities.” Echoes Sotunde, “It would be to do what we are doing on a much larger scale—covering more rural communities and getting more professional journalists to buy into the vision of what we are doing. We hope to be a one-stop shop for in-depth rural reporting and rural development resources in Africa.”

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