It was an invigorating dicussion which saw members of the audience get involved with myself and my fellow panelist, Nasim Ahmed, from Middle East Monitor. The topics ranged from examples of media bias, why and how social stereotypes are maintained to how to go about finding reliable, trustworthy sources and more. At the very core of these topics, we discussed the need for alternative voices that would balance out the surge of information that we are confronted with on a daily basis.
On my way home I was reflecting on my experience, mainly on how my work as an entrepreneur and a journalist impacts those around me. As an entrepreneur, I focus on creating solutions so that companies and publications can reach their audiences/consumers more effectively through better communication. I also ensure that my work always has a social/giving back element to it; I do a lot of work with schools and actively encourage literacy in a digital age.
However, as a journalist, I am painfully aware that many people have lost faith in the mainstream media and loosely fall into two camps. One batch simply does not believe anything that the media has to say. And who can blame them? This mistrust comes following a series of scandals (such as phone hacking) which shocked the population; an institution which was previously deemed as trustworthy and inherently good had suddenly been exposed as being the very opposite. Since the phone hacking scandal, people do not trust journalists or journalism, in the same way that they do not trust bankers or politicians.
The second batch decide to believe every single thing that is presented to them without consulting other sources or reading up on history. The latter is a very dangerous combination, which many of us partake in, and leads to divisions between communities. The biggest example is our current rhetoric surrounding immigrants, migrants and people of colour in the West.
People do not trust journalists or journalism, in the same way that they do not trust bankers or politicians.
Some of the best ways to create a platform for alternative voices to be heard and recognised starts by utilising technology and the Internet. This does not just extend to communications and writing, but to most areas of life. Five years ago, no one would have thought that entrepreneurship would be a viable way of working. We are beginning to question ways of thinking, rethink our definitions of success, health, beauty, education and happiness. Granted, it’s happening on a small scale, but it nevertheless is a sign of progress.
Similarly, we wouldn’t have realised how powerful technology can be when confronted with social injustice. The biggest examples of this are hash tags like #ReclaimTheBindi #NotYourAsianSidekick #BringOurGirlsBack which went on to gain a significant following in a matter of days. Naturally, these hash tags came under a lot of scrutiny and were met with much cynicism: “How can a hash tag save school girls in Nigeria?” It might not have directly saved their lives, or continue to be reported a year on, but it captured the world’s attention and sustained it long enough to focus on what was happening.
I fully believe (despite its obvious flaws and issues of malpractice) that technology can be used as a force for good, in ensuring that alternative voices are heard. Perhaps I’m being a bit too idealistic – who knows? There is a very good reason why entrepreneurs, bloggers and blogs now have a significant level of influence. They have a way of connecting with people, building up networks, readers and other bloggers as well as dispelling stereotypes. This all happens in a fast-moving environment that political institutions and mainstream media have simply been unable to catch up with.
We all know (or have a vague idea) of the problems currently facing our world which appear to be getting worse .But something worth remembering is that there is always more good in our world than bad – we just don’t hear enough about it.