“Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing.”
How well does the opening verse of Bob Dylan’s 1964 classic, The Times They Are A-Changin’, depict the world today?
It is safe to say 2016 was a year of political upsets, and landmarks. From media to politics, climate change, immigration, and even the Nobel Prize, predictions failed and a new political rhetoric crystallized, delivering what may shape the narrative in the next decade, and even beyond.
Besides unprecedented public scrutiny, media and politics definitely witnessed seismic shifts last year. For this reason, and its implications, the media arguably faces its toughest task in recent years. “Only one in five Americans have confidence in the media to fairly report the news, the lowest level since Gallup first measured it four decades ago,” says Columbia J-School Knight-Bagehot Fellow Stephen Kurczy, in his article A New Paranoid Style in American Politics. And considering the trend of nationalistic ideologies, following Brexit and the emergence of U.S. President Donald Trump, the growing popularity of Marine Le Pen in France, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, it is safe to say we stand at the brink of a new paradigm.
So how should the media report this paradigm shift, despite its mostly liberal view? And how does society make sure it listens to the voice of “we the people”? I believe these are media policy questions that require a balanced response to avoid the backlash of public disapproval, social polarization, or being branded “fake news.”
As a journalist and trisector professional (someone who can engage and collaborate across the private, public, and social sectors), I desire better policies aimed at using media and politics for social shaping. I’ve worked with public, private, and nonprofit organizations, leveraging resources from each sector for growth and development. I also understand the role of media in the propagating policies and programs. But I desire more, especially as wicked problems like immigration, racial issues, religion, terrorism, and social media among others play pertinent roles in this new era. However, it seems plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Douglas Imaralu is a media, policy, and international development professional. An Atlas Corps Fellow from Nigeria (class 21) serving at Restless Development, USA, he’s also the Lead Consultant at clairVOYANCE. Follow him on twitter @jefumare