11 Point Guide for Media Makers and Consumers in an Upside-down and Inside-out World

Many were surprised by the results of the 2016 US election, the Brexit vote and the Colombian peace treaty referendum.  This has reinforced CSFilm’s belief in the importance of understanding the world from the local perspective.  The news media was unable to effectively educate the public about the disparate beliefs informing our polarized world.  To address these shortcomings CSFilm used the lessons learned from its work to define a set of media-making principles.  Here they are:

1. Be of the people or place you are telling a story about;

Hint #1: Anchors, columnists, analysts, staff writers, foreign correspondents, national and desk reporters etc. are not necessarily of a people or place

Hint #2: If you grew up on a farm and then spent 30 years as a staff writer, foreign correspondent, anchor and/or talk show host, you are no longer of the farm

Exception: If for reasons of safety, access or balanced perspective, the only way to communicate local concerns is through an outsider, then break this rule.

2. Be transparent about your knowledge and experience of the people and places you are communicating about;

Hint #1: You’re human.  You have inherent bias.  Transparency helps reveal even those biases unknown to you.

3. Listen deep and look long;

Hint: Easier done if you are of the people or place.

4. Amplify the voices, views and actions of your subjects;

Hint #1: Don’t mediate.

Hint #2: The storyteller is not as interesting as the subject.

Hint #3: So, get out of the picture.

5. Look locally, see globally;

Hint #1: Through the specific you reveal the universal, not the other way around.

6. Dig deep and wide for root causes;

Hint #1: Reporting every word and action of a politician does not help your audience understand the people that support them.

Hint #2: Understanding war is not about being where the bullets fly.

Hint #3: Facts are only one facet of the story.

7. Provide evidence, not conclusions;

Hint: Let your audience figure it out, don’t ‘tell’ them the story.

8. Show it, don’t talk about it;

Hint #1: People sitting around glossy studio sets are not showing it.

Hint #2: Documentaries dominated by talk heads are not showing it.

9. Develop and connect local distribution networks;

Hint: Bottom-up networks are well grounded for impact.  Top-down networks, not so.

10. Start again at #1 and practice these principles so that you can break them wisely and creatively;

11. Write your own list of principles that best serves your people and place.

CSFilm’s mission is to model and advocate for bottom-up storytelling that informs and stimulates public debate. With your generous support we will continue to work with the under-represented to voice and visualize their stories.

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