Inclusion Insight

“News for All” – Week Note 2

I’ve been interested in “Futures Thinking” for some time now. It was a central element of GALWAD, a major arts project I was involved with, and “Teaching the Future” is the core mission of Black Mountains College, where I’m a Trustee.

My favourite thing this week was attending the launch of a new Youth Futures Hub for Wales – “a network of young people in communities across Wales to inspire, envision and build a culture of Futures thinking to create change.” It was fascinating to hear from brilliant young leaders about their vision of the future and the very clear articulation of the systems change they need.

During the conversations I was particularly struck by the fact that we were sitting in the Senedd, but that speakers were talking about the need for civil disobedience and the many ways in which political systems are failing them and often deliver bad outcomes. It’s one of the reasons why the focus of my Media Cymru work on journalistic storytelling (and indeed lots of the other things I do) is on enhancing the capacity of people to take action on behalf of themselves and their communities.

Journalists often feel uncomfortable about inspiring action – fearing it conflicts with traditional (albeit outdated) notions of objectivity. However, I think those fears are easily dealt with if we consider the alternative. Do we really want people to consume the information we provide and do absolutely nothing with it? Do we want the news to simply happen to them without them feeling able to respond to events in any meaningful way? That’s certainly not my hope for the journalism of the future.

I think part of the problem here is that, as Damon Kiesow put it to me over breakfast ahead of the Future of Journalism Conference this week, “Journalism doesn’t have a Theory of Change”. If you haven’t encountered Theories of Change before, essentially they’re about exploring and describing the outcomes you want to achieve and then working backwards to consider and put in place precise actions that will help you achieve those aims. 

Again, for those who are sceptical about journalism needing to have a Theory of Change,  it’s helpful to flip the question and say, “what’s the alternative?”. Without a Theory of Change, journalism ends up – consciously or unconsciously – supporting and reinforcing the status quo. That’s absolutely fine if you’re someone who does well out of the status quo – but if you’re someone who’s marginalised or disadvantaged in that world…not so much. Perhaps that starts to explain why so many people and communities don’t find much that helps them in traditional journalism.

I have actually built a Theory of Change for my Media Cymru project – the current version of which I’ve shared here. It’s a living document, and will develop and adapt as my work proceeds. I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts on it.

Conveniently, lots of the thoughts I’ve been having were brilliantly summarised in a fascinating session on Pioneer Journalism that I had the privilege of chairing at the aforementioned Future of Journalism Conference. I loved it for many reasons – and not just because I appeared in one of the papers that explored work from my previous life at Bureau Local!

As Pioneer Journalism is essentially about the work that defines the trajectory of change in the industry, there is obviously a lot of future thinking involved. Andreas Hepp and Wiebke Loosen first coined the term “Pioneer Journalism”, so it makes sense perhaps that they should have the last word here. As they put it, “agency is dependent on a projection of the future”. To take action, you need to know what you want and how you’re going to get there. Journalism can, and arguably should, be part of that – particularly for the communities most often harmed or let down by the status quo.

Has this sparked ideas for you?

Do get in touch if you want to pick up on any of these thoughts.