Can the media change the world? This was the theme of the Conference at Convergences 2015 world forum, a forum aimed at developing new partnerships between public, private and charitable organizations to fight poverty and insecurity in the world (for more information about this event go to orange.com).
No answer was found to this big and very topical question at the Palais Brongniart on Wednesday evening. The speakers instead tackled the issue of positivism in the media. Here are the main messages I gathered from them.
The public consider the media to be too negative, gloomy, pessimistic and cynical.
Didier Pourquery, Deputy Editorial Director at the Le Monde newspaper, draws this conclusion and has been working for several years to support the work of journalists who try to highlight positive initiatives which, as he says, “get you going and put a spring in your step”. This kind of reporting is hard because positive information is difficult to come by, it doesn’t make the headlines. Research takes a long time. You have to seek the information locally, which means having to find sources and, in particular, verify accuracy. But it’s worth it because it helps to establish strong relationships with readers, who feel they have a connection with these stories.
Didier Pourquery therefore believes that big media players have a responsibility to report this positive news at the highest level, rather than leaving it to the anonymity of the many blogs that abound on the Internet. As an example, he mentioned the first DIY fair, the Open Bidouille Camp, promoted by the Même pas mal blog on Le Monde’s blog section. A positive event based on sharing between communities, exchanges, know-how and mutual assistance, which deserves to be more widely promoted.
But for this to interest readers, for them to believe and abandon their increasing mistrust towards the media, the information has to be validated, we have to show why it works and provide evidence that what we are reporting is accurate. The role of the media is not to lecture people and tell them what’s right and wrong, but to analyze, provide evidence and explain. As a result, readers might then be encouraged to become more deeply involved and perhaps take action themselves.
Newspaper as activist?
This was the question asked by Rahul Kansal, Executive President of Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd. (Times Group). He believes that newspapers must establish a connection with readers, not only to relay news but also to be activists and create talking points. He illustrated some of the concrete actions taken by The Times of India newspaper to try to change things and engage the reader in actions such as the Lead India program.
This was set up in 2007, on the 60th anniversary of Indian independence, as it was found that young people had no confidence in their political representatives. The Times of India’s message was to tell young people to “stop complaining, stand up and do something!” This was a strong and daring message aimed at drawing young people away from fatalism and inaction, encouraging them to become actively involved in politics for their voices to be heard and their views represented. A wide-ranging multimedia campaign (press, billboards, TV, Internet, etc.) was thus deployed throughout the country to find the country’s future leader. By doing this, the newspaper succeeded in creating the enthusiasm for democracy it had been seeking: over a billion people took part in the campaign, 37,000 candidates applied to become the leader being sought, the TV advert was viewed over 870,000 times on YouTube and, above all, Indians voted in their hundreds of thousands (over 440,000 individual votes) by SMS to elect their representative to compete in a TV show dedicated to the operation. The campaign also won several awards, including the Grand Prix at the 2008 Cannes International Advertising Festival.
Rahul Kansal confirmed his demonstration with the Love Pakistan operation. This initiative is surprising to say the least, given the tensions that exist between the two neighboring countries. It is based on a simple desire to remind everyone that beyond the borders, beyond the barbed wire, live people who are not all that different, to transmit a message of peace and try to bring the two countries together. This idea was promoted through 26 concerts, 120,000 messages of love and exchanges between schools. In Pakistan, the desire for peace increased from 59 to 74% after the operation. It is therefore easy to see that for Rahul Kansal, the newspapers have a real role to play in the lives of their readers.
And how about you, dear reader, are you receptive to messages from the media? Have you become involved in an action as a result of an operation promoted by the media? Feel free to leave us your comments below!