Around the world, media are under pressure to harness the power of new technologies to reach the public. Innovation Lab Day at the Global Media Forum helped scope out ways as it highlighted pitfalls and inequalities.
"Can we stop calling stories 'content'? That makes them banal. We are all doing storytelling," Abhay Adhikari, director of Digital Identities, told us before outlining the qualities that will make us successful beyond our wildest dreams.
The ideal media innovator is contextually aware, platform-agnostic, time-poor and obsessed with impact. If she is all these things, according to Adhikari's theory, her story will succeed. He has seen it happen and helped it happen, and he gave us examples to add to the long list of projects we will have to find the time to explore after the Global Media Forum, a conference hosted by Deutsche Welle, ends.
While the journalist's toolkit may be bigger than ever, the essentials remain the same: research, contextualize, inform and take responsibility. That was the message hammered home on Media Innovation Lab Day, the finale of the three-day conference focused on global inequalities.
"To report on a place, know more about the place," Georgie Ndirangu, of CNBC Africa, said on the subject of tackling reporting inequalities. He related how Raila Odinga had been sworn in as president of Kenya in January, despite the fact that Kenya already had a president, Uhuru Kenyatta. International media flown in to cover the conflict had ready access to the protesters backing Odinga. Was it their reporting that caused "Who is the president of Kenya?" to be a popular search on Google in Africa?
Media have a responsibility to provide local context, Ndirangu said, but we must provide the public with the information that they need to draw their own conclusions. The German government gave the media a powerful image to interpret at last weekend's tense G7 summit in Canada. The photograph appeared to show Chancellor Angela Merkel scolding US President Donald Trump, but it was journalists' job not to be seduced by what the picture implied and report what happened at the meeting.
Ndirangu shot videos during the course of the conference, at which journalists commented on reporting inequalities. They warned us not to advance an agenda with our reporting, criticized our tendency to focus on what sells, underlined how critical it is that money does not guide editorial policy. They stressed the importance of women in the media, both in leadership positions and reporting on hard news.
That was not a sentiment shared by all.
"I support inequality due to my religion and my own views," said Albert Igbasi, 32, a Nigerian journalist who took part in the conference. "Men and women are unequal because they are different due to their gender. Women, for example, think faster, and that's why they should stay at home taking care of the kids and the household. Media should balance equality by accepting inequality. Within this inequality, women's rights should be supported."
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But Igbasi appeared to be a minority at the conference, where women were a huge presence. Though their absence on many panels had been a topic of discussion in 2017, this year it felt like GMF was close to reaching gender parity.
And that was an inspiration to some, such as Omar Mohammed, 32, an Iraqi historian and the founder of @Mosul Eye: "Having so many women in this global forum, it tells me that we need to involve more women in our communities." He, too, would include more women in his own work, he said.
If the goal of the Global Media Forum was to highlight inequalities in the service of storytellers, it may have achieved that, at least in one case.