3 Innovations In Participative Journalism That Will Change The Media Industry

July 25, 2014

AshokaAshoka , Contributor

High Quality, Reliable and Cost-Effective International Reporting

Seasoned foreign correspondent Cristi Hegranes has watched as media companies have closed their foreign bureaus to save operating costs, thus limiting journalists’ access to diverse stories and sources and creating a narrow focus on high-profile cases of war and poverty. In response, she founded the Global Press Institute (GPI) to demonstrate how affordable, high quality, and diverse news can be produced by enabling communities to tell their own stories.

Hegranes is challenging the notion that only university-educated, professional journalists, who are connected to major publications, can produce quality content. GPI provides a rigorous six-month training, and then employs those who complete this training to write for the Global Press Journal. GPI has already syndicated stories to more than 25 major media outlets around the globe.

Is this model a standard that media companies can begin to adopt globally?

Access to Information

Sascha Meinrath believes the media can no longer operate effectively in a world where large portions of the population are disadvantaged by poor Internet access. “It’s a business model that just doesn’t work,” he said.

As director of X-Lab and the founder of the Open Technology Institute, Meinrath is tackling the issue of access by developing a mesh-wireless network that allows multiple communication paths to a single network, allowing users to directly connect with each other.

This network does not require a centrally located transmitter; it allows users to overcome both physical and technological obstacles. This solution is critical where there are barriers to freedom of the press, or where Internet access is controlled and monitored.

“The more inclusive we are, the more benefits accrue to everyone that is in that system,” Meinrath said. Could this be a solution for media outlets struggling to provide objective and balanced content in an oppressive regime? Will it lead to more open and transparent content sharing? Meinrath is optimistic.

Many new media platforms are being launched with financial backing from Silicon Valley’s top investors, but there are many more startup and alternative media platforms that are still struggling to get the funds to launch or sustain themselves in media markets that are highly controlled or regulated . Sasa Vucinic, a journalist and editor in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, recognized that any figure of authority or institution with power can set and skew the content agenda by creating a dependency on funding. This inhibits objective reporting and sharing of accurate information. In response, Vucinic co-founded the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF)—a social investment fund that offers affordable financing to independent media outlets.

When a media venture is selected for support, it is guided through a process of management and connected to a network of other media outlets. Throughout this process, the fund ensures that all aspects of the media outlet are well managed and aligned with strategic goals. At the same time, the ultimate goal is to eliminate dependence on MDLF’s network for financial sustainability.

Herganes, Meinrath, and Vucinic have all developed their empathy skills so they can understand the needs of the new and emerging marketplaces in a rapidly changing world. They are seeing power shift from siloed tactics and strategies to collaborative and networked solutions. The old model of top-down information produced by elites has thwarted citizens who want to be actively engaged and connected to a global community, and who want to make sense of the change that is engulfing them.

It’s clear that no single innovation will ensure the future success of the media industry. It will take creative, flexible, inclusive and empathic problem-solvers who are working collaboratively to add value to a changing media environment. At the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum on June 30- July 2 and at the Ashoka Globalizer, these 3 leading social entrepreneurs and manyother promising media innovations proved that there are those who are beginning to tackle these problems.

This post was written by Laxmi Parthasarathy (@laxmisarathy), a media development professional and currently Global Media Partnerships Manager at Ashoka.

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