Growing up in Egypt, Dina Aboughazala was displeased with the way mainstream Western media outlets covered her country. The reporting often fixated on the negative, leaving her disheartened.
“Every time I turned on the news it was bad news. Economically things were bad, you know, and security-wise,” she said. “Things were not the best and it made me feel [like] the country is on the brink of collapsing at all levels.”
She decided she wanted to change this. Aboughazala, who used to work at the BBC and was a 2020-21 IJNet Arabic Mentoring Center mentee, launched a media initiative in 2020 called Egab — derived from the Arabic words “igabi” and “agaba,” which translate to “positivity” and “answer” respectively — to help student and local journalists craft stories that change the predominant narratives through solutions-based reporting, and pitch them to international publications such as The Guardian UK and Al Jazeera.
“My mindset has always been that we look at the problems as challenges and find solutions,” said Aboughazala. “That's when I came across solutions journalism and I immediately fell for it.”
As of 2021, Aboughazala has expanded Egab’s mission to educate journalists in the Middle East and Africa on the solutions reporting the outlet promotes. Last year, for instance, Egab trained student journalists in Nigeria to help improve the way they cover how people are responding to problems and challenges in their local communities. Through the training, young journalists are able to pitch their solutions-oriented stories which Egab helps get published in national and international outlets.
“We partnered with the Nigerian Union of Campus Journalists (NUCJ), trained their members and provided them with the steps on joining Egab,” she said. The partnership with NUCJ has enabled Egab to widen its network of journalists to sub-Saharan Africa. “We have these local talents, let's create a service for them where we empower them, help them, support them by giving them the feedback they don't get in their local newsrooms to produce high-quality journalism.”
How the pitching process works
Egab guides its trainees through the commissioning process. Following the training, journalists determine what solutions they want to report on and pitch their ideas to Egab. Once a pitch is submitted, Aboughazala and her team assess it and send feedback to help explain the reasons behind why it may have been accepted or rejected.
“What is really missing for local journalists is what happens after attending these workshops. They usually are either left on their own or not sure how to implement these newly acquired skills,” said Aboughazala.
When a pitch is accepted and published by an international publication, Egab receives 30% of the payment as a service fee. “Our job is to help local journalists get published, upgrade their skills, and land jobs with international media or stand out on their own through bylines,” she continued. “By helping young journalists publish stories that appeal to global audiences from their hometowns, we are helping them break this vicious cycle of not finding proper opportunities to develop their journalism and [to get] published in reputable media outlets.”
How students have benefited
Last year, Egab trained more than 50 journalism students in Nigeria. “This platform has provided an opportunity for campus journalists to venture into reporting about amazing students who are coming up with different innovative solutions to tackle community problems,” said Samuel Ajala, the president of the NUCJ.
Notably, the solutions reporting that Egab trains journalists on is becoming increasingly popular in newsrooms around the world. “The training was insightful because getting to know that there is a way we can actually report on how people are responding to societal problems was important and different from the conventional reporting that we have been used to,” said Abiodun Jamiu, one of the students trained by Egab in Nigeria. “I had the opportunity of learning some of these areas of reporting that we have not been covering.”
After the training, Jamiu produced two solutions stories that were published by The Guardian and the Nigerian publication, Humangle. The Solutions Journalism Network has included both of his stories in its Story Tracker.
“What truly enhanced my journalism skills was the daily practice and feedback I received from my editors and colleagues,” Aboughazala recalled. “This is essentially what we are emulating for local journalists.”
Egab’s plans for the future
Aboughazala is currently building an online platform which she hopes will start operating in August. This portal will host useful online training courses and provide other helpful resources for journalists.
“This will enable us to serve a much larger number of journalists and media outlets in a faster way,” she said. “We want Egab to be the launchpad for any local journalist in the Global South to kickstart their international journalism career.”