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Lidigu spices journalism by putting faces to stories

By Dex Mumo

Impactful storytelling can create lasting change, inspire action, and foster a more empathetic society if journalists learn the art of humanising the news. That’s why Leon Lidigu is soaring.

Making a story genuinely impactful is a skill that sets apart exceptional reporters. In today’s media landscape, where information overload and desensitisation are common, journalists must find ways to cut through the noise and make their stories resonate.

Putting faces to the stories accomplishes this by giving a human face to the issues, a reminder that there are real people whose lives are impacted by every statistic.

For journalist Leon Lidigu, putting faces to the stories he covers has become a powerful strategy—one he learned during his work with the International Centre for Journalists. Journalists can discover ways to create impactful stories in a feature story highlighted by ICFJ titled “ICFJ voices: Leon Lidigu, advancing health journalism in Kenya.”

Leon Lidigu’s journey into impactful storytelling began in Marsabit, Kenya, where he witnessed the struggles of women facing food scarcity due to the absence of rainfall. Through conversations with these women, he learned about the devastating consequences of hunger, such as the inability to produce breast milk for their children. This experience made him understand the profound effects of hunger on individuals, children’s development, education, and nutrition.

Motivated by his first-hand experiences, Lidigu focused on shedding light on the relationship between nutrition and girls’ school attendance.

He encountered girls fainting in one school due to low iron levels, which experts attributed to their lack of a balanced diet. Lidigu took it upon himself to educate communities about the importance of balanced nutrition.

In 2023, the Media Council of Kenya recognised him as the best health journalist in Kenya at the Annual Journalism Excellence Awards.

Reflecting on his experiences, Lidigu credits ICFJ’s guidance for his success in creating impactful stories. He learned the significance of putting faces to the stories he covers, a skill he had to develop.

By engaging directly with the women in Marsabit and understanding their challenges, Lidigu humanised his reporting, transforming their stories into powerful narratives that resonated with readers and viewers, going beyond mere statistics or abstract concepts.

Putting faces to the stories allows journalists to connect with their audience on a deeper emotional level. Reporters evoke empathy and understanding by including personal narratives, interviews, and photographs of individuals directly affected by the issues. This approach enables readers and viewers to grasp the real impact of a story on people’s lives, fostering awareness and inspiring action.

Putting faces to the stories is particularly effective when addressing complex or contentious issues. Journalists can dismantle stereotypes and biases by presenting the individuals involved as real people with their hopes, struggles, and aspirations while building bridges of empathy and compassion.

Moreover, putting faces to stories captures the audience’s attention and compels them to act. When readers and viewers can see the faces of those affected, they are more likely to empathise and feel a personal connection. This connection often leads to a desire to help and support through spreading awareness, advocating for change, or providing assistance.

Putting faces to the stories is a powerful tool that elevates journalism. Through personal narratives and first-hand experiences, journalists like Leon Lidigu can bring life to their reporting, enabling audiences to develop a genuine connection with the subjects.

Journalists should learn from Lidigu’s example to contribute to a more compassionate and informed world, where the voices of those affected by the issues are heard, and meaningful change can occur.

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