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The results of the 2016 US election and the Brexit vote caught many by surprise. 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 mediamaking and media consuming principles:
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 report on;
Hint: 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 reporter is not as interesting as the subject. So, get out of the picture.
5. Show, don’t tell;
Hint #1: Provide evidence, not conclusions;
Hint #2: Let your audience experience the story, don’t ‘tell’ them the story;
Hint #3: Pundits in studios or talking-heads in documentaries are telling not showing.
6. Search for root causes and systemic issues;
Hint #1: Reporting on a war is not about being where the bullets fly;
Hint #2: Facts are only one facet of the story.
Hint #3: Reporting every word and action of a politician does not help your audience understand them or their supporters.
7. Look locally, see globally;
Hint: Through the specific you reveal the universal, not the other way around.
9. Network your local networks;
Hint: Bottom-up, decentralized networks can be diverse and dynamic; Top-down networks, not so.
10. Write your own manifesto
Hint: This one may not be relevant to you, your people or your place.
Is the media you are consuming produced from the local perspective?
Who is behind the information you are consuming? Consume critically and find out who owns the news source, who decides what stories are covered, and who selects the storytellers and analysts?
Is the anchor, columnist, analyst, writer, correspondent or reporter whose story you are watching, reading or listening to a local? If not, why is a local reporter not being used? There are occasions when an outsider has the independence, special access or unique insight required to tell the story – but it’s rare.
Are you being told what to think or are you experiencing the story and developing your own conclusions? Generally, quotes from experts and studio-based conversations are fast and cheap to produce but don’t allow the news consumer to learn about issues from those who are living them.
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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