For years, the steel plant in Lagos, Nigeria, emitted noxious fumes, annoying local residents. So journalist Oluwatoyosi (Toyosi) Ogunseye decided to investigate.
Ogunseye convinced her employer, Punch Nigeria Limited, to pay to test the health of a group of residents. The results of the residents’ blood, urine and drinking water tests revealed poisonous metals in their bodies that were developing into cancers, asthma and other ailments.
Punch Nigeria publishes Punch, Nigeria’s most widely read newspaper, and Ogunseye’s investigation became a three-part series linking the plant’s fumes to the residents’ ailments.
Soon after Ogunseye’s series appeared in Punch, the government ordered the plant closed and allowed it to reopen only under strict new regulations. The plant’s owner agreed to compensate residents.
This wasn’t the first time one of Ogunseye’s investigations sparked positive change. When another story revealed a children’s ward in a government-owned hospital was under-equipped, the government bought more incubators for high-risk infants and increased its support of other facilities that serve children.“I like to reveal the story behind the story,” she said.
Her experience shows that accurate and fair journalism can make a difference in peoples’ lives.
“I went into journalism because of my passion to make positive changes in the society,” said the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow and YALI Network member.
Building a Career in Journalism
In her second year as a university biochemistry student, then-20-year-old Ogunseye landed her first reporting job with the Sun newspapers. One of her first investigative stories was about four students who suddenly died after attending a disco.
Since her first days with Sun, Ogunseye has earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Lagos, a bachelor’s in media and communications from Pan-Atlantic University, and a Ph.D. in politics and international relations from the University of Leicester.
Now Punch’s first female editor and its youngest, the 31-year-old has 11 years of experience as an investigative journalist writing about topics such as politics, crime, business, health and the environment. Ogunseye, who lives in Lagos, also teaches media ethics at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism.
An inspiration to the next generation of journalists, Ogunseye advises reporters to observe what their peers are doing well and not so well. “Ensure that your content is better than the competitor’s while ensuring that their weakness is your strength.”
She advises people who read newspapers, listen to radio or learn about current events online to “consume media responsibly. … It will give you a balanced perspective of issues.”
Ogunseye has received numerous professional awards, including the Knight International Journalism Award for outstanding news coverage that makes a difference in the lives of people around the world and the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Award.
She hopes one day to be president of Nigeria. “I believe I understand the challenges of my country,” she says.