Digital Media as a Means For Social Change

There are always events going on at SIPA each week featuring interesting speakers from all different fields.  A recent example focused on professionals representing digital media channels you are likely familiar with.  The following article was contributed by SIPA student Timothy Shenk.

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Two leaders in the evolving digital media landscape spoke with SIPA students about promoting social and political advocacy through online videos and other channels.

Steve Grove, head of news and politics at YouTube, and Noopur Agarwal, director of public affairs at MTV, discussed their organizations’ work in separate presentations.
Grove described the ways news and political videos have proliferated on YouTube in recent years, as everyone from federal bureaucrats to amateur pundits use the medium to speak directly to millions of viewers. In an innovative approach to journalism, YouTube has conducted virtual town hall meetings by soliciting questions from the public and submitting them directly to leaders such as President Obama, Grove said.

However, unlike the traditional news media, YouTube is unable to vet its content for accuracy or decency before it is posted online. Pornographic, copyrighted or hateful material must be flagged by users or identified by a computer algorithm, then reviewed by a YouTube employee, before it can be taken down, Grove said.

Agarwal described MTV‘s approach to social advocacy. Beginning with the Live Aid concerts in 1985, MTV has used its pop culture brand to advocate for issues of concern to young people. In 2004, MTV launched a campaign on its college network, mtvU, to press for an end to the genocide in Darfur.

MTV carries out its campaigns in partnership with public policy organizations. For example, MTV promotes testing for sexually transmitted diseases in partnership with a public health research and advocacy organization, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

MTV also partners with the social networking service Foursquare to encourage people to post an online badge showing that they have been tested. Surprisingly, it has become one of the most popular Foursquare badges, Agarwal said.

Most recently, MTV launched “A Thin Line,” a campaign to raise awareness about digital abuse. MTV runs advocacy videos on its main cable channel and promotes a website where young people share real stories of online bullying.

“This is the first generation that’s grown up this way and has relationships play out online,”Agarwal said. “It’s part of being a young person from now on.”

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