Saturday, 6 October 2012

Transformational Media – Can the media be a force for good?

As I write about human rights, social justice and development, my stories are often about hardship, injustice and abuse.  These stories are depressing. They are hard on my readers and on myself.  I believe these stories need to be told,  but there might be another way to tell them. Increasingly, I’ve tried to look for the positive, even in the most depressing stories, to seek solutions instead of just outlining problems. We all need hope.

So, I was intrigued when I found in my mailbox an invitation to attend a Transformational Media conference at Sadler's Wells in London on 27-28 Sept.  The conference’s website describes Transformational Media this way: “Transformation Media may be focused on inner qualities, inspiring stories or on practical solutions. It is transformational in the sense that its goal is to transform conflict into peace, to unite rather than divide, and transform environmental destruction into living in harmony with the natural world.”

Just what I was looking for!  

It could have been a lot of hot air – and there was some of that, but on the whole, the summit was inspiring and exciting. Over two days, journalists, film-makers, musicians, publishers, web designers and other creative people focused on how the media could bring solutions to cultural, social, environmental and economic problems.

My favourites included a wonderful story-telling workshop with Dara Marks, a leading Hollywood script consultant, exploring the power of myths, and a talk by former BBC and ITV national news anchor Martyn Lewis, in which he argued for the media to achieve a fairer balance between the positive and the negative, and analyse success and achievement as well as failure and disaster.

Gilles Vanderpooten told us why he created Reporters d’Espoir (Reporters of Hope) to encourage the media reframe problems in term of solutions and help mediatise positive innovative initiatives.

Actor Felicity Finch, who plays Ruth in the Archers and worked on radio dramas in Rwanda and Afghanistan, explained how radio soaps can be used to convey important messages , such as HIV and domestic violence. Journalist Catherine Gyldensted has developed a “positive news” module to teach in journalism schools. She said journalists needed new heroes - not just muckrakers and war reporters, but reporters of positive changes. Musician and TV & radio presenter Clemency Burton-Hill talked about what happens when people listen to music together and how music can change lives.

Other speakers included Greg Barrow from the UN World Food Programme; BBC World Affairs Producer Stuart Hughes; Jarvis Smith, founder of Green Magazine; Julie Mollins from Reuters AlertNet; Anna Coote, head of Social Policy at the New Economic Foundation and  Beadie Finzi, foundation director of BRITDOC.

“The vision is for the event to become an annual global gathering exploring emerging trends and how media can be a force for good in the world,” says Jeremy Wickremer, founder of Ideal Media, who organized the summit.

I truly hope something will come out of this…

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