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Small bites of bright ideas offer a new model for media activism

A new TV news project is doing what The Fig Tree has been doing for 27 years, celebrating the many little ways people are helping and can help address issues to make a difference in the lives of people.  Their focus is global health challenges.

The first “Be the Change: Save a Life” show on ABC’s 20/20 ended each segment by describing solutions suggesting that viewers can help with small gifts:  $20 provides a snuggly wrap that keeps a newborn warm in India, or $15 a month provides a container of peanut-based paste that can end malnutrition for children in Guatemala, or chlorine tablets and jugs of water to use until permanent pipes or wells can bring clean drinking water to Bangladesh.

“Be the Change: Save a Life” focuses on solutions, recognizing that by sharing news about what is possible through people’s ingenious ideas and commitments, lives can be improved and saved.

ABC News plans a year-long project to focus attention on diseases and health conditions that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people.

As we know, when people are informed about what people are doing to transform lives, they become inspired.  Many may simply be encouraged to continue what they are already doing, knowing they are not alone.  Many others may become involved, finding their niche to create solutions using their gifts and resources.

Accompanied by the website, the program offers descriptions of the projects and videos summarizing them.

One page suggests:  “Put your creativity to use.  Ordinary people share their ideas to fuel a global water movement.  You could be next.  Take action.”  The interactive feature of the web means people can instantaneously click to make donations that may improve the quality of people’s lives.

Communication is key.  Imagine if this focus spreads in the mainline media and continues for more than one year-long project.  Imagine if journalists deflect their attention from the usual ho-hum sensation of wars, sex, crime, celebrity and polarizing politics.  Imagine if it becomes popular to cover solutions, to tell stories of how people’s sufferings can be alleviated.

Actually, I’ve been tired for a long time of the ever escalating violence, sex and media fare, shoveled out to the point it’s numbing and boring.

Public broadcasting veers away from the junk-food media diet—that purportedly assures profits—generally offering a menu to stir thinking, tell stories, investigate issues and raise awareness.

What’s refreshing about ABC’s effort is it combines media immediacy with enough depth to understand and become concerned, plus a dash of hope and a way to act.
In addition, as an “antidote for bad news,” NBC Nightly News has shown since 2009 segments on “Making a Difference,” highlighting good news of people giving time to help others.

Let’s hope others catch on.  Then we can spend some time in coming years, yes, informed of problems—conflicts, crimes, corruption—so we can be involved in the democratic process and see with new eyes beyond the problems to the many, many people working on solutions.

Through solutions, we can see impoverished strangers far away as people like us, caring about families.  Media can help us be in solidarity with people who suffer, learning beyond simple health-care fixes that there may be systems of injustice behind inequities causing their suffering.

Imagine, if corporate leaders put some effort into these projects, met people and became involved with them as brothers and sisters sharing the planet.
Imagination is what I hope the ABC program stirs.

That’s what we seek to stir.  Feedback coming with donations let us know people are refreshed by our content.

It’s a joy to be part of this journalistic venture, and we look forward in 2011 to educating more people on and modeling solutions-oriented journalism.

Mary Stamp-Editor


Copyright © January 2011 - The Fig Tree