Socially Aware Media and Poverty

In honor of Blog Action Day, I thought I’d write a bit about Socially Aware Media and how poverty comes into that.

I’ve found that many people get into media because they want to make the world a better place. And the media does have that power. We can create change, and do on a daily basis. Yet creating change and making the world a better place can be two completely different things. Yes, you have the power to change things for the worse. And it’s happened. I think I can safely say that media around the world has encouraged – both implicitly and explicitly – racial and gender injustice, for instance. Yet in those same areas, there has been a lot of positive change brought about by media.

An example: Today I met with a woman who I first met July 2007, at a conference in California where we showed “Fuerza”. Ben (the director) and I had a Q&A session afterwards. This woman asked what she could do about immigration. We gave some generic answers, as well as an idea to work with the Mexican economy to decrease the “push” factor of immigration.

Fast forward a year: this woman has led a discussion group on immigration at her church, traveled to the border to explore sustainable economics with Mexicans, visits undocumented immigrants at the local detention center weekly, meets with an immigrant rights group weekly, and more. And she still isn’t satisfied.

Okay, at this point, I think I must change my mind on an earlier point. The media has little to no power to make actual change. It does, however, have the power to encourage others to work for change. “Fuerza” will not change policy, comfort a mother torn from her family, or create a sustainable local economy. But its viewers can.

Now, media has a strange relationship with poverty, one unlike other genres of social injustice. Making media takes money. In general, creating media is getting cheaper, but it’s still expensive to make a movie, publish a newsletter, or even a blog.

Now, it is wrong to jump in and say, “Oh! I have a voice! I will speak for the poor!” The impoverished have a voice. They know how to speak. They simply don’t have access to the same equipment, connections, etc., that we have due to our privileges. They’re not being heard.

So you’re not a “voice for the voiceless.” Your job as a socially aware media creator is to allow the people who aren’t being heard or are being silenced to speak to those who weren’t listening. These people may be inspired by the new voice to make change.

When dealing with poverty, or any other issue of injustice, you must take into consideration the imbalance. You must realize that perhaps your video has only men, because you only interviewed politicians and other people in positions of power. Recognize the systems at work, and always look on the low side of the power totem pole for your best stories, the other side, and potential to make the world a better place.

Posted in Fuerza, Socially Aware Media
One comment on “Socially Aware Media and Poverty
  1. Great article. I agree with you that the poor do have a voice and that people who make media can’t really help directly but have to offer a route to those who can. It is the media’s job to put problems that need to be dealt with in the public eye.

    Then I feel that we can all help, even if you are the person holding the camera or writing the blog. You can put down the camera or walk away from the computer and embrace the persons in need. You can volunteer time, effort, money and votes. I think that needs to be recognized too.

    I also agree with the idea of “look on the low side of the power totem pole for your best stories.” There is a lot more inspiration and human sympathy at the low end than at the top.

    Once again, good article.

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