I have an idea that I can’t get out of my head. I want to start a project that gives the public a chance to set the news agenda and offers unheard voices the opportunity to have their stories told to a large, influential and active audience.
But first a bit of context is probably due as it’s been over a month since my last post. I’m proud to report that I’ve joined Hub Culture (which is great), been a bridesmaid, traveled to Mexico and back and was most recently confirmed as the director of a charitable start-up which has secured a comfortable amount of funding.
So you’d think that the “direction undetermined” feeling would have subsided. Yet it hasn’t. I’m still gagging to work on something that I’m passionate about and which offers a tangible chance of making a real difference to peoples’ lives.
Journalism is not the answer. I’ve played with the big boys in newspapers and broadcasting and have had the unique opportunity because of my job to be part of the daily meetings in which a handful of people decide how millions of people will be informed about the news. As a result I can fully understand why the public is disaffected with the content we’re offering and fails to engage.
Instead I suggest a project that blends the best of traditional media with the potential of social media. Here’s are my first thoughts on how the project might work:
1. Unheard voices are given the opportunity to have their story told by a pro journalist/blogger. The slightly impractical aim is for a ‘winning story’ to be selected in every country around the world.
2. People around the world send in the stories that they feel should be reported on. It’ll be open to community groups, NGOs, charities, schools, those in the arts etc. So that people without an Internet connection aren’t disadvantaged the project will be promoted on local radio/newspapers and submissions can be made by post/text message.
3. All submissions, categorized by country and theme, are published online (limit of 200 words per article or 2 minutes per video likely to be set).
4. Users can not only comment on the stories they’re interested in but will be given the tools to also offer advice, organize events, donate etc.
5. Users will vote as to which stories that should be told.
6. The most popular story in each country is reported on. Pro journalist/blogger travels to the country and publishes the story as text, video, photography, audio or as a data mash-up.
I’m also interested in adding an extra level of providing the winning cases and possibly those in second and third place with the tools to tell their story. Maybe that’s leaving behind a laptop, Flip video camera, smartphone, or digital camera for community use.
It’s an attempt to address the digital divide, to use social technology for social benefit. From speaking to acquaintances working in NGOs and having a working knowledge of how news agendas are formed it is evident that there is a lack of merit and transparency in the process of defining what information the public will consume.
Yet the idea that democracy is innate to the digital platform is mistaken. Those with the largest followings online are often as privileged as the traditional elites they like to knock. There’s nothing wrong with this, indeed this whole project is based upon tapping into the power and skills of the online and media elites to empower those who are more disadvantaged.
I understand that there are probably some contradictions in my idea and that it requires much more thought. Look forward to receiving your questions and criticisms to help me refine this loose concept into a killer project.