BIC NEW YORK – A group of journalists was recently convened by the Baha’i International Community (BIC) to explore how the work of media organizations and practitioners can lead to constructive or divisive results, and to examine the role that media can play a role in contributing to the progress of society.
In the opening speech, Saleem Vaillancourt, the event moderator, said, “The stories we tell shape the world we live in.
“The media can help build consensus, build unity, generate shared knowledge and understandings, and in doing so, they can help people find lasting and effective solutions to the problems they face.
Mr. Vaillancourt quoted a passage from the Baha’i writings on the function of the media in the advancement of civilization: “The pages of newspapers which appear rapidly… reflect the actions and activities of various peoples. … They are a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech. It is an amazing and powerful phenomenon. However, it is up to its authors to be purged of the promptings of bad passions and desires and to be clothed in the garments of righteousness and equity. “
Participants examined these concepts in the context of different social contexts. Amanda Ripley, investigative reporter for The Atlantic magazine, explained how journalism that highlights communities’ attempts to overcome challenges can “help people see and visualize and imagine another way to interact.
“When people feel like there is no more hope,” she continued, “they can give up or become cynical.… If you do good journalism by trying to solve problems, people are much more engaged than just problem journalism, ”referring to forms of journalism that discuss problems without exploring solutions.
“The solution to the story doesn’t have to have worked,” Ms. Ripley added. “Only the community that is trying to solve its own problem shows the agency. And that engages people with all kinds of demographics. “
The care with which people are seen and portrayed in reporting has been explored by Malaysian scholar and journalist Temily Tianmay. The evolution of the media, she argued, lies in the ability of journalists and news organizations to promote human dignity.
“The prism of human dignity allows us to build unity in new ways,” she said. “If we see each individual as a worthy being and a source of information, how will we treat not only our sources, but also other journalists who may approach their work very differently from us? “
The role of journalists as protagonists in improving society and their degree of integration and activity in the communities in which they work were also discussed during the meeting.
Nwandi Lawson, a former CNN reporter, said: “We have to recognize that [journalists] are social actors. We are part of our society. We have an obligation to seek the truth.
The discussion, titled “The Media, Narrative, People and Their Leaders,” was hosted by BIC in light of the growing interest in how to unleash motivation for meaningful social change – an area of conversation that is also encouraged by Bahá ‘í External Affairs Offices in various countries of the world.
The Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs in the United States has encouraged discussions on how the media can help a society transcend polarization on societal issues. Offices in India and the UK have sparked conversations about how media can highlight the power of religion to contribute to social progress and, at the same time, constructively report on how religion itself can become more effective in achieving its highest goals. . In Jordan, the Bahá’í Office for External Affairs examined the role of journalists in promoting justice, and in Australia, the focus was on how the media can contribute to greater social cohesion.