This post was first published on Medium.
Who is a storyteller? That is the first question we ask when we give a mobile storytelling workshop.
When the audience is media organizations or journalists or student journalists, most hands are raised. When the audience is composed of community members or nonprofit groups — everyone but journalists — the majority of hands is not raised.
This response surprised us.
We figured every person considered himself or herself a storyteller. We learned the opposite is true. Most people do not consider themselves storytellers (even though storytelling is one of the earliest forms of communication). Our job is to change this way of thinking.
Everyone is a storyteller. We become one when we are born. Our family history is our first story, and that story goes back generations. Some of us just need a little extra encouragement to spark our inner storyteller.
Now is a great time to provide that spark and tap into a power we all have. With 7.4 billion people in the world, stories are everywhere. With technology, we have the capability to tell and share them at any time.
All stories matter. The problem is, many stories are going untold and unheard. Here is how we can change that.
1. Collaborate with the community and build trust.
Community members need the tools and techniques to have the know-how and confidence to tell their stories. Media and storytelling professionals can provide this training. Show community members how to use storytelling software. Teach them the fundamentals of storytelling. Doing so will build trust in the community. Once community members understand the power of story, they can begin telling their own story. Once they find their voice and become comfortable telling their own stories, they can begin telling stories on the community. Local reporting can bring a community together. Unity in the community leads to unity outside the community.
2. Get hyperlocal.
Smartphones and mobile technology give everyone the opportunity to be a reporter and media company. Some will not want to be a media company. Some will not want to be a media company or reporter. But everyone in a community will have that choice. And covering the news of a community on a hyperlocal level can strengthen a community. More local news leads to more informed citizens, more traffic for local media, more local advertising and more business opportunities. Money in community grows. Community gets stronger. Create a wonderful, virtuous cycle that all starts with documenting local life.
3. Democratize mobile.
Mobile enables people to report from any location at any time. So we need to get smartphones into the hands of as many people as we can. One way to do this is by starting a recycling program for iPhones and Androids. Ask people to give away their old smartphones. Create a drop-off system like Goodwill does with clothes and toys. Anyone who wants a smartphone can have a smartphone for free. The phones won’t have cellular service, just WiFi access. Now everyone has the hardware to be a storyteller. The playing field becomes more level. We are in the planning stages to run an Iphone giving campaign like this with a nonprofit educational organization. If we can do it, anyone can.
4. Go live. Stay live.
Tell stories at any moment. Use current mobile, future-looking technology to show life as it is in real time. Publish the stories live, so people can follow along live. Archive the stories, so those who cannot follow along live can relive the story later. Real talk. No editing. No censorship. No made-up news. Keep it real from beginning to end. Keep rolling and broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is 2016. Reality is not always pretty.
5. Diversify the stream.
The same recycled headlines appear on the Internet, in our social media feeds, on TV and radio channels, over and over again daily. News organizations cover people in power. Imagine if we could diversify the story stream. Imagine if more voices could be part of editorial conversations at media organizations. Imagine if there was a structured news service that served everyone and focused on serving those without power first. Time to stop imagining.
6. Be unbiased.
We have more information channels at our disposal than ever before, but the whole story of what is happening in our world still is not being told. Mainstream media doesn’t have the resources or will to tell every story. Powerful interests control many media organizations and spin stories how they want. Local and independent media has limitations. So we are left with news that is incomplete and biased. We are left with a population that is misinformed and uninformed. Present the facts in a nonpartisan way.
7. Provide context.
One element of media alone does not show the whole story. Context is essential. Provide background, the information the audience needs to be informed. Good information has value. Explain why it matters. Tell the whole story. Leave no holes.
8. Be creative.
When John F. Kennedy died, Jimmy Breslin wrote about the man who dug Kennedy’s grave. Everyone else covered the funeral. Original reporting has been devalued in the Internet Age, with an emphasis on clicks. But that is changing, and engagement and time spent are becoming more valuablemetrics to measure. However you choose to tell your story — audio, video, photo, text, GIF, drone, virtual reality — use your imagination.
9. Keep an open mind. Use an open platform.
The world has some big problems. Stories can help us find solutions. We can be part of the solution.
When telling a story, use an open platform that everyone can access, whatever that platform is: messaging app, storytelling tool, social media. Many stories being told today are only reaching small, segmented audiences controlled by algorithms or big cable providers. They exist in echo chambers. They are not open. Technology is not available to all. Many existing platforms have barriers to entry. This type of media ecosystem creates an environment where some people have more advantages than others. Stories will level the playing field.
10. Originality wins.
The truth shall set us free — and get us paid. It may not make us all lottery winners, but with the rise of mobile and the blockchain, we will have more opportunities to profit from original media and information on our smartphones in real time. The more authentic the stories, the more influential, instructive, and helpful, the greater the potential for reward.
We will see this evolution as more people tell stories. So how can we get more people to tell stories? How can we hear more diverse stories? And how do we make storytelling better?
Who’s with us?