By: Leonard Francis Vibbi

THE CHALLENGE WITH MAINSTREAM AND TRADITIONAL NEWS MEDIA

In the age of information overload, how do citizens cope with sifting through the news to extract social issues pertinent to inspire civic action? What makes social issues discussed through various forms of news media memorable? How can media in modern times cater to a new crop of citizens such as millennials and generation Z whose attention span needs to be sustained by creativity and novelty content?

As the modern news media landscape is constantly reshaped through misinformation and disinformation, there is a need to explore ways to cut down on the increasing aversion to mainstream media by looking at new ways of passing on relevant information on social issues to affected communities. At Bush Tinker, we are exploring new ways of bringing social issues to the forefront of civic discussions within the youngest and most vibrant civic actor (youth) communities and beyond. One way we are doing this is by making novel news content on social issues through mixing of community voices on social issues and instrumental sounds. We have coined a name called Social Tunez and a digital platform of the same name where anyone can access news, community discussions, and commentary on social issues.

Social Tunez is a digital platform that catalogs social discourse on pertinent social issues in local communities. The main aim of Social Tunez is to experiment with the idea of making news or citizen voices on social issues more memorable, engaging, informative, and entertaining through mixing of instrumental sounds with commentary voiceovers. This new approach is designed to overcome some of the key challenges faced in catering for information needs through traditional mainstream civic news media. These challenges are highlighted below:

TIME FACTOR

Traditional news platforms are inundated with interviewers, moderators, and reporters. This style of news production takes away valuable time and attention from members of the community whose experiences deserve to be heard the most on social civic issues. Reporters (who may be guided by the motivation to be recognized faces) utilize a lot of time to report on experiences of community members, leaving little time for themselves to tell their own stories firsthand. Even more challenging is the aspect of media houses being openly ideologically or politically biased. A moderator could for example ask particular questions that could potentially alter the way civic issues are discussed on panels. Overall, news anchors/presenters, moderators, and reporters often take away significant useful time from platforms given to communities for free and uninfluenced civic conversations. Bush Tinker through Social Tunez is currently conducting research to determine total and average time spent by news presenters/moderators in popular programs on radio and television in Sierra Leone. Social Tunez’s approach to minimizing this effect is geared toward ensuring that community members who have social issues get to share their experiences with no interjections or interferences from a moderator or interviewer. If people can freely talk on issues of pertinence without being moderated, we can understand and even empathize more with them even though we may not have had their experiences. In respect of promoting understanding and empathy with social issues on Social Tunez, views on prevailing social issues are purely firsthand from members of the affected community.

LESS CREATIVE AND LESS INSPIRING NEWS CONTENT

The news these days is less original and more copyist and ideologist, as such providing less inspiration. Mainstream news anchors, presenters, and reporters often seem to report the news monotonously and with a minimum of creativity. There is little use of sounds except for those found in intermission breaks or advertisements. In contrast to news, we see the effect of musical instrumentals and rhythms and how effective they can be in conveying or reinforcing the message to listeners. People can easily remember musical rhythms: it appeals to their innate emotions; they tap their feet or shake their heads in time to it; they feel any of many emotions from sadness to happiness. Why not use rhythm/sounds/instrumentals similarly to convey needed information to audiences. Why not use sounds to help sustain people’s attention to issues? What about using sound to promote empathy among community members on communal civic issues?  We believe the introduction of various types of background instrumental sounds, whether during reading news or during a report can affect people’s attention in productive ways. We know that sanctioning research would reveal exactly how so. Aside from sustaining attention to particular social issues using music, Social Tunez is using music to ensure that people can listen to people’s accounts on social issues over and over again. We believe that putting rhythm behind community accounts on everyday social challenges can play a similar role as music tracks. What’s more? It can be particularly appealing to youth who can select and play Social Tunez as and when they like. These tracks called Social Tunez can be played everywhere: homes, offices, as background tunes in lounges, and cars, and other places. To support this easy playability of social issues to inform and entertain community members, the tracks are created to be short and small in bytes in order to enhance it being shared and transferred from one media to another easily.

WE ARE JUST GETTING STARTED

To conclude, we are just getting started with learning about how sound affects people’s understanding and interaction with social issues. We are looking at working to improve Social Tunez as we go along and with an express aim to cater to youth demographics whose involvement in social movement matters the most. Like people’s favorite music tracks from their favorite artists, we want community members to be able to select their favorite Social Tunez and enjoy listening to it. People should be able to add Social Tunez to their playlists, share it with friends, be informed, entertained, and overall be inspired to take action on a particular social issue in their communities.

Here is our first Social Tunez track title Patriarchy vs Feminism and featuring women who are most affected. Enjoy, empathize, and be informed!