This is an article I wrote for the Gates Foundation blog, Impatient Optimists, in advance of their #storytelling conference where I chair one of the sessions. It asks how are we going to get the kind of journalism that can tell us about difficult issues like global health?
Here is a paradox. One of world’s richest men, who also owns a global communications technology giant, can’t get your attention. Not even when he’s doing something really clever and very good.
That’s Bill Gates’ problem and I hope we find some solutions for him at a meeting in Seattle of some of the world’s most innovative media people.
We live in a world where it is now possible to tell everyone about everything. The Internet allows us all the potential to connect globally and instantly. But because there is now an abundance of information and a deluge of digital distraction we don’t always pay attention to the important things. The things where we can make a difference.
Here’s one of those things.
Billions of dollars are being spent by the Gates Foundation to eradicate diseases in Africa (and on a lot more) but it’s not enough. We need to make sure that the example that this work is setting, and the benefits it brings, are spread wider and last longer than the largesse of the philanthropists who put in the money now.
To do that we need to communicate the facts about health and development much better than we do at present.
We need to have a debate with people in the rich countries and the poor countries about how to prevent the waste and suffering that comes with bad health and poverty. We need those citizens to have the knowledge so they can persuade their governments to act. We need to inspire other people to help and pass on the lessons learnt.
The best way to distribute that information and the best place to have that conversation is through the media. It can be through social networks like Facebook or Twitter. But we also need journalists who can report from the field and use their expertise to explain the issues and analyse what’s going on.
Unfortunately, the news media in much of the world is in crisis.