Chineme Okafor

"I believe infographics should help journalists achieve the transparency they seek in going after and writing stories"

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Chineme, is a business journalist and has worked for 10 years covering the Nigerian and global energy market – electricity, oil and gas, for THISDAY Newspapers from its Abuja Bureau. He also writes on infrastructure and urban poverty for the newspaper, and occasionally steps in as an in-house business and economy analyst for the paper’s broadcast arm, Arise News Network which broadcasts from Abuja, London, and New York. He has degrees in business, education, and international diplomacy. In 2019, he was awarded a journalist fellowship at the prestigious Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) in the University of Oxford, where he researched on the growing use of infographics and new media tools in Nigeria’s journalism.

Your definition for “infographics”
Usually, everyone that’s familiar with infographics define it as visual representation of information and which could be in any form – numbers or text, but I always try to emphasis on as the BBC does and from which I’d quote that, “they should educate and inform people in a quick, clear and engaging way.”

From my journalistic point of view, if the audience or readers fail to understand clearly infographics messages embedded in news articles or as standalone, then the job of communicating isn’t complete at all. 

I believe infographics should help journalists achieve the transparency they seek in going after and writing stories. We’re expectedly in the business of journalism to truthfully guide our audiences, infographics is one good tool to do this. 

Which are your obligatory references?
If by this you mean the resources that have helped me most in my embrace of infographics, then I’d say that I got interested in infographics through Budgit, which is “a civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement, to facilitate societal change.” Budgit pioneered social advocacy melded with technology in Nigeria. It used infographics to communicate complex government budgetary information and other statistical reports which I think journalists in my country including myself wrote about but hardly communicated clearly to ordinary people.

When I got involved with Budgit in 2017, I kind of imagined how vague and complex my business reports were to readers – I am a business journalist – and figured that infographics could add some life…some clarity to these reports. I think I have not looked back on my thoughts about infographics since then.

Technologically, Nigeria’s media space like the rest of sub-Saharan Africa is still behind that of Europe, North America and some established jurisdictions; investments in new digital technologies aren’t there yet but I’ve found the BBC’s Global Experience Language (GEL) guide very useful. I have also found the Financial Times (FT) visual vocabulary extremely useful especially because I am a business journalist and they appeal more.

I also like how Randy Krum’s Cool Infographics; Alberto Cairo’s The Functional Art and Cole Nussbaumer’s Storytelling with Data are helping to understand this very important field. I am still learning.

Is there any special project that you would like to highlight/stand out?
Done by me at the moment, no.

How is your work process?
At the moment, I still rely on simple processes: using Microsoft and Adobe Creative Cloud applications. I am yet to get into the complex forms or work processes of creating infographics. The Nigerian journalists don’t have that leverage yet, and the job of convincing media owners to switch or adapt this model is still ongoing. We’ll get there, I believe.

How was your first “immersion” in this fascinating world of visualization?
I think I am still floating on this plane; I am like: ‘what have I been doing; this is an effortless extension and expression of transparency.’

Do you have any particular goal to face in 2020 interns of visualization?
I want to learn so much, work with the best hands and brains to get good at this and convince my employer on remodelling our news presentation on paper, digital and television with infographics.

What kind of data or information do you dream about visualising in a graphic? 
We live in an open data world; there’s a lot of data to work with. But I dream of replicating a project – Tribes of Europe – done by the Chatham house, in Nigeria. I’d be delighted to use this to try and help Nigeria become efficient at building a united country based off the ethnic tribes we have now, and which have not helped our development. 

I also want to do a project on mobile phone communication in Nigeria, something that will randomly analyse people’s phone conversations through the backend of the service providers to primarily show people what their phone companies know about them through their conversations. 

Graphics departments at newspapers are evolving. Now they work on more complicated, polyhedric assignments, including different tools and narratives. More than a traditional piece of graphics… from this trend? Where our craft is focusing at?
It is in my mind going to be limitless; few people perhaps thought about AI in newsrooms, but it is almost palpable. So, I keep an open mind on this…art which infographics is about is liberal.

Would you dare to say this is not a graphic or this is a graphic? Could you define a clear line?
Why? I’d much rather try and make a judgement call on whether something is useful to a user, viewer or reader. Whether someone takes value in the form of delight or information is much more relevant to me than the categorization of the thing they’re experiencing.

If you weren’t a graphics girl, you’d be a…
First, I am a journalist now trying to combine this with graphics. But in any case, if I wasn’t doing this, I’d be flying airplanes or serving in the navy.

What are we going to find in your speech in Malofiej?
I’ll show to you how Africa, though late to the infographics party is making efforts to be there and use this beautiful tool to help its people come boldly to the table of democracy.

What do you think?