Ripples Nigeria and the power of geojournalism

In 2015, Samuel Ibemere and his colleagues founded Ripples Nigeria, an online newspaper that aims to bring data journalism into the mainstream. And they’re particularly focused on geojournalism: the harnessing of earth data to accurately report on big stories and important changes in the environment. “The media sector cannot stand by idly while other industries in Africa are contributing to help protect the environment,” Samuel tells us. As well as bringing geojournalism into the mainstream in Nigeria, the hope is that it will also help track climate change.

In 2021, Ripples Nigeria received funding from the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge for its latest project, Eco-Nai+, Nigeria’s first digital geojournalism platform. The Keyword sat down over Google Meet with Chinedu Obe Chidi, Assistant Editor of Ripples Nigeria, Programme Director of Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism (RCDIJ) and Team Lead of Eco-Nai+ to find out more about the work being done. 

How would you define geojournalism and its importance today?

Geojournalism uses scientific data on the earth to report the environment. It’s a fusion of journalism and earth sciences to create a brand of journalism that allows us to have objective, visual, measurable, interactive yet broadly accessible coverage of issues surrounding the environment. Without it, people could still write about the environment. But by relying on technical tools — like image geotagging and authoritative open data sources like Google Earth —  we can better communicate from a scientific perspective how best to interpret changes to the environment. It’s about getting more informed, more reliable coverage of issues like rising sea levels, droughts, rainfall, erosion — the many issues tied to the question of climate change, where technical reporting is vital. 

What’s the origin story behind Ripples Nigeria? 

In 2014, two slightly unrelated developments acted as a pull on a group of young Nigerian professionals in the media space. After years of struggle, Nigeria finally entered the internet age – and the media industry rushed to take advantage of new digital opportunities. With that, investigative and data journalism became even more important, helping resolve local and global concerns around corruption, illiteracy, diseases and the environment.

Ripples Nigeria was a product of these fundamental shifts. Realizing the gaps and opportunities at the time, the plan was to build a fiercely independent multimedia platform that would rise to speak truth to power, stay committed to the ideals of solution journalism and become Nigeria’s most influential news source.