When I think of this course, I imagine 1,000 McDonald’s double cheeseburgers in America; 76 premier league tickets in England; two pet kangaroos in Australia; and 5,000sqm of land in Nigeria. All of these can be bought with 2,200 American dollars, the same amount required to take a Public Narrative course at Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education program. United by the desire to be informed, over 100 of us have decided to invest our cheeseburgers, premier league tickets, kangaroos, and plots of land to improve our storytelling and leadership skills in order to make the world a better place.
For me, this desire to be informed dates back to my early years when I lived with my Grandmother. I stayed with her from when I was 2 years old until when I was 10. My Grandma was ‘addicted’ to the news, and she didn’t miss the local network news at 9 pm every single night. I hated the network news, it always interrupted my Scooby-Doo show.
“Barile!” she would yell from the kitchen, “It’s 9 O’ Clock, put it on NTA”. After a few years, she didn’t have to yell anymore, I would tune to the news at 8:45 pm and when she’s not watching, I’ll try to tiptoe into my room to fake a deep sleep. It never worked. She would ensure that I sat next to her throughout the entire one-hour bulletin, in between, she would turn to me as I was frowning to say, “It is good to be informed.’’
Thanks to my Grand Ma’s persistence, by the time I turned 14, my blue Nokia phone and my grey shortwave radio were my most prized possessions. I still remember the dark and lonely nights sitting on the bed in my room, hearing the crickets chirp outside the window. I would sit still and place the radio’s speaker close to my ear as I listen with rapt attention. I was hoping to learn something new; a new word, a story, something … that I could use to brag to my friends.
Sadly, I don’t feel as much hope when I listen to the news today. With current happenings in the global media industry, many journalists are beginning to lose hope in their profession. According to the International Federation of Journalists, more than 1,120 journalists have been killed in the past 10 years for exposing the truth. Imagine their kids with no one to hug on Christmas Day or Thanksgiving. Imagine what is happening to their friends, siblings, or even their spouses?
Here in this Harvard class, the media is also very integral to the work we all do in our respective fields. Added to the Renaissance March, Sadie, I’m sure you won’t mind a feature story about the issues your campaign addresses on the homepage of the Huffington Post. Kate, what if an Investigative Journalist worked with you to uncover the human trafficking in order to raise public awareness on the issue so that more teenage girls will be saved from those 60-year old men? Bob, to further bring the inclusion bill to your Community’s attention, wouldn’t you like CBC to do a 1-hour phone-in program with you at primetime, to discuss why the Council should vote in support of the bill? Dan, can’t we get National Geographic to do a special series on the disappearance of birds and its effect on our lives? These are just a few ways the media can help to amplify the work we all do.
However, despite these benefits, we are currently approaching a media apocalypse. Veritas, the Latin word for “truth” adopted by the Founding Fathers of Harvard University in 1643, is currently at the brink of extinction. New dictators around the world are fighting hard to kill the truth and stifle the voices for journalists. This is why the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) supports journalists like me through legal protection and capacity building. They also run solely on donations from concerned people like you who support the free press. If 100 of us donate ten dollars each, we will raise one thousand dollars which is what is needed to pay the bail fee for Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo, who is currently behind bars for exposing corruption and money laundering in a government-owned bank. A bank established to help poor farmers and small businesses in Cross River State, Nigeria. Let us do something now! This cannot wait, we must protect the press today or else Veritas will die, and Its blood will be on our hands.
Visit https://www.mediadefence.org/donate to make your contribution. Thank you!
Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education
Public Narrative — Narrative Ninjas Section
Reflection paper #4 — Story of Self, Us, and Now
NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Ebenezar Wikina and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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