Saturday, December 10, 2022

Google’s News Innovation Winners 2022 and Being One of the Assessors.

47winners from Google News Initiative’s 2022 Innovation challenge will now be in their stride with funding up to €150,000 for their project. The official announcement is here.

I was honoured to be one of the external assessors invited to join Google’s team. Big shout to Sarah, Ludo, Danielle, Kristen, and Ben for making me feel so welcome.

I’ve been a juror across top flight media, such as The Royal Television Society which picks the UK’s top news journalists and network, amongst others, and have won international awards for my work.

Hence, I could bring this experience to the initiative that attracted 605 applicants from 38 countries. The cache of applications was truly impressive and were eclectic across a spectrum of motivations.

Eligibility for funding fell into the following areas:

  • that the project was innovative for applicant and users
  • the impact it would have on society and news ecosystem
  • the feasibility of the project
  • how inspiring it was and where owners could “show [a]willingness to share knowledge and to contribute to the improvement of the ecosystem overall”
  • being able to demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

I’ve sampled four successful applicants here.

Les Jours

Imagine being able to establish the connection between say a journalist writing a story and the subjects of the article being written with the aid of a visual map.

Such connections between, not only journalists, but important people featured in a story will give news consumers an insight into how power and influence manifest itself in journalism.

This is what Les Jours intend on building — an interactive easy-to-use playful influence map.


One of the difficulties of identifying perpetrators of attacks in wars, based on the munitions used, is producing forensic evidence from the scene of attack using blast debris and crater images.

Airwars is creating a centralised portal providing open-source identification of arms and munitions that can be matched with on the ground pre and post-blasts evidence. The site will be freely open to use by Human rights practitioners, individuals e.g. journalists and groups.


Afropolis in Portugal, is led by a team Portuguese women ( Black and Roma journalists) seeking to create an EU social network of members, and act as a funnel for Portuguese and EU diversity in newsroom.

Their news narratives will envelop nuanced social, economic, and political issues within diverse communities embracing themes seen in the range of mainstream news, but from their agency and perspective. Their mode of delivery will be via podcasts and articles from writers.


L’Humanité are looking to a model of news which targets a younger audience by the creation of DAO, tokens, and NFTs which feed into web 3. A challenge for all news outfits is engaging with Gen Z+ with stories and agency for the audience to be involved in the selection of topics and its coverage.

You can learn more about the current winners and the application process here on Google’s site.

Aside to the creative and intellectual challenge assessing applications, what was hugely enjoyable and rewarding was witnessing the depth and broad the range of thinking by practitioners across Europe, in either addressing immediate challenges or those peering into the future.

In some ways it took me back to an era of Dotcom I, and the unbridled creativity for the web as a new medium. And it made me recall my own work over the years in innovation in journalism -from working in Soho for a number of start-ups, (including being the editor for and then Re-active creating Channel 4 finalists interactive docs, and online web promos for the likes of heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis.

Later, this would merge into work creating Innovative Journalism, profiled by several tech including Apple and more recently using Art, Tech, Journalism and storytelling to help MA students create their own start ups.

If you’re one of the winners of the Google Initiative, Good luck. If you’re looking for an assessor on your project with experience in the aforementioned and diversity, drop me a line Gyimahd [at]Cardiff [dot]ac [dot]uk

About me: I’ve thirty years in the media industry working on top journalism platforms e.g. BBC, media startups and dotcoms, and today balance external work across my main role as an academic. More here

How a film about Dahomey Women Warriors stands to be a game changer — The Woman King (2022).

 News shapes our views of the world; Cinema does too, but also in a cultural shock way. Jaws left beaches deserted; Super Sized Me shifted eating habits; Lawrence of Arabia mythologised British Intelligence Officer, Thomas Edward Lawrence.

The Woman King (2022) is set to be a game changing movie that will have a global historical and commercial impact in many ways, not least storytelling.

That’s not merely hyperbole because for the first time in Gen Z’s time a historical movie, with Black and brown people at the helm is getting the Hollywood treatment. The director is Gina Prince-Bythewood behind Love & Basketball (2000), Disappearing Acts (2000), The Secret Life of Bees (2008), Beyond the Lights (2014), and The Old Guard (2020).

There have been previous Blockbuster films this side of the millennium, such as Black Panther that produced more than a $1billion for the studio. But this is different. The reason is it’s based on a true story and possesses a historical DNA which for centuries, particularly post 17th century, has been erased or maligned.

Take the history of The Congo. Belgium’s King Leopold II’s narrative dominates. He strafed the country — its land and people. In King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild the reader is introduced to Nzinga Mbemes Alfonso.

He was a provincial chief whom in 1491 in his early thirties, with his country’s dealings with the Portuguese, steered his people and their interactions with Europeans. He is portrayed as a sophisticated man an abolitionist, learned — he learned to speak Portuguese. And yet his prominence is often overlooked, instead for narratives around the conquering Portuguese and then Belgium.

This is reality untold which in a post-Floyd era is as much about diversity, inclusion and correcting skewed narratives.

The evidence ( was in not always the case) now is there’s an audience that buys into revised ‘real histories’ version of events; helped by images (e.g. Instagram) and films that emphasise Black and brown people’s agency and outlook. This is happening increasingly in decolonising narratives and historical books such as David Olusoga’s Black and British and Peter Frankopan’s A New History of the World. Recently I posted on an African philosopher to rival the canons of enlightenment philosophers

With regard to film, exposing new narratives, furthermore, a globally young audience seeking self identity carries on its heart a purchasing power that even as combined long tail, must be recognised.

Black stars don’t sell

It wasn’t long ago that studios claimed, as relayed in an interview by Denzel Washington, that a Black lead meant they lost sales abroad. Shamefully, Boyega’s Fin character was minimised in the poster in China. Read: Hollywood’s irrational allergy to ‘black’ films by Roland Martin, CNN Contributor.

Historical Black heroic characters from Africa haven’t been given the Hollywood platform. Africa as a source of film for Hollywood has played into usual tropes, Out of Africa (1985), The African Queen (1951), The Legend of Tarzan (2016), Zulu (1964)— take your pick really.

The emphasis in this post is about historical based Hollywood films today, because there have been films from Africa, made by Africans. Nigerians have wowed audiences with films like The Wedding Party (2016).

Generally, historical narratives that undo the stereotypical view of Africa can be found in in books such as Hochschild King Leopold’s Ghost and Stamped From the Beginning by American historian Ibram X. Kendi.

In these books we learn how warped narratives from Africa were shaped. Particularly, from the 17th Century. Travel writers such as John Rowlands AKA Henry Stanley Morton, Richard Hakluyt etc. constructed racists myths for their audiences in which the Europeans were the civilisers.

Africans had no culture. It was a dark place, e.g. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Britain’s colonial legacy ownership by PM Boris Johnson veers to this when he said of Africa “the problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more’”.

Real Stories

Based on a true events of the Dahomey women warriors, The Woman King (2022) opens an important window, supported by a digital generation to bypass old tropes. As I write this I’m thinking of the many others cultures e.g. Ashantis, Fantis (Ghana), ManiKongo (Kongo), Dogons in Mali etc with rich histories who fended off Westerners, built complex governing systems and the rest.

As a note of caution, and this is speculative, because of limited knowledge of the film at present ( though it is everything I hoped it would be when I watch it), I imagine a vigorous debate in academia and some press will commence after The Woman King (2022) about inaccuracies and aspects of the Dahomey which might either be minimised, or absent. That includes insights into their religious ceremonies and their own involvement in the slave trade.

This exchange of knowledge can only be beneficial in context and the comparative numbers of participants in the trade. Be mindful too that with “based on true story” genre films they’re not documentaries and hence their expositions can be narrow, focus on singular events and the license for storytelling tread pass fact.

The title itself, an interesting semantic pairing, and draws reflection. I lived in Ghana for almost a decade and attended the King’s college, that is Prempeh College In the Ashanti region of Ghana.

Here, the heroic tales of the Warrior Queen Mother is legendary. Yaa Asantewaa embodies an amazing story fighting off the British and restoring pride, whilst equally feared by her enemies. Her story deserves the Hollywood blockbuster.

In many ways the remarkable nature of the The Woman King (2022) isn’t the story per se, and that’s not to take for granted the filmmakers. The filmmakers take great credit in breaking Hollywood money and pioneering onto the screen a film that sticks a knife into empire stories. The fact is there are many Woman King stories that are part of folklore that would make great features.

Take this that we’re seeking finance to make, The Kings Men. It’s the story of how the King of the Ashanti people built a school with the help of a British reverend that is revered internationally. The college won the World Robotics Championship in 2020. How it came to be in the 1950s as the country stared at independence is the intrigue.

If The Woman King (2022) is to make a cultural impact by creating a window for historical African stories, the question of others films emerging to sustain this, is worth asking. From Cinema to Documentary, here the work of Channel 4 News’ in the Black to Front season where they investigate British looting of Benin Bronze and films by Historian David Olusoga are part of the Tent pole. Similarly, if If you’re a teacher of Black history this film is about to offer you the tesseract for your students.

The Woman King (2022) stars Viola Davis, NaniscaHero Fiennes Tiffin, Jimmy OdukoyaSanto FerreiraJohn Boyega, King GhezoJordan BolgerMakgotso MLashana LynchJayme LawsonThuso Mbedu, NawiSheila Atim, AmenzaAdrienne WarrenMasali BaduzaOdeIniyaFumbe. It’ directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood

Subscribe etc. (@viewmagazine twitter)

If you liked the above story, you may like this — The Kings Men, a film in which the King of the Ashanti people Nana Prempeh people created a school which has had a huge legacy on Ghana and globally. Yaa Asantewaa has a direct connection to the school.

Friday, September 23, 2022

A Planet Slowly Deteriorating and People in Mortal Peril. How Not to Do Climate Stories.

“H”ow can climate stories be improved?” was one message. “How can stories reach more people?”, was another. These were fundamental questions. Was I about to pitch too high?

This last week Pakistan has been devastated by floods submerging a third of land, causing 1300 deaths, 33 million people affected (which is almost half the British population in size), and untold human misery. Human-made changes to the climate, experts say is a contributory factor. Unusual catastrophes across the globe this year have left their mark too.

However, blink and you’d have missed its damning, humanitarian and ongoing affect on television news. For environmental officials, experts and ministers gathering for a months in planning the last few weeks are a reminder, if anyone needed it, of the impact of a fragile ecosystem convulsing. Speakers included: Wolfgang Blau, Co-Founder of the Oxford Climate Journalism Network, Leo Hickman, Editor of Carbon Brief (former editor, The Guardian) and Dean Emeritus, Professor Adil Najam from Boston University.

Meeting Online, as well as in-person, the organisers pre-determined focus is one of the most striking, life-supporting, and picturesque regions of the world — the Bam-e-Dunya. It means ‘roof of the world’, a vista of six of the world’s impressive mountains, supporting a spectrum of habitats. Ironic, as the roof of the world is collapsing and those below slowly atrophying.

Valiantly, an award winning journalist and one of the organisers Abubakar, has made it his mission, through deep dive research and report, to expose the region’s life, traversing, amongst others, the famous Khyber Pass that connects Pakistan and Afghanistan to interview mountain women.


The swell of global cataclysms thus far may not yield enough empathy your end to make a radical change to behaviour and to halt a diseased climate. The reasons are plentiful.

If anything it’s occurring in a space with which you may have little emotional connection. If you do catch a glimpse of human sacrifice and ruins, it’s transient. There’s another calamity, perhaps not of this scale, but enough like a game of musical chairs to occupy your thoughts. Carl Sagan, a noted scientist, nailed it back in 1987 with his observation. No one cares because it’s not going to affect them. It’ll be their children or grandchildren.

For my hosts across the Net, I have a solution, of sorts, in this complex web of solutions in applied storytelling. There are two ways, by no means exclusive to each other, of looking at this. Let the conscientious thinking policy makers do their work setting rules and influencing governmental behaviour or get the ecosystem of communications; in this case I’m focusing on News and journalism, and its impact on consumers, to do your bidding for you.

Why News? It shapes your understanding of the world. But there’s a snag, if you’re relying on News, that requires untangling. Mainstream TV News won’t have the answers for you in addressing viewers enough that may motivate behavioural change, even if you get precious moments of coverage.

The reason is simple. It’s TV News’ detachment that sits at the core of its impartiality and guides its output. This from The Power of News by the influential media historian Michael Schudson.

Increasingly journalists take a distanced, even ironic stance toward political life- in fact they are en-joined to do so by both the tenets of their professionalism and the cynical culture of the newsroom.

TV News, through the presumed lens of its audience, sees climate change as “boring”, too complex to resolve into story arcs and too remote. Otherwise a whole 30 minute programme would be dedicated to it: “Dear Viewers. This is a special news programme about Pakistan”. It’s issue led, and if a story of the scale of Pakistan does emerge there’s a debilitating sense amongst gate keepers of ‘how-do-you-tell-the-story’ without, wait for it, putting off their viewers.


Itmay have caught your attention that to illustrate a global climate crisis I’ve used a polar bear. I’ll come back to this. Another reason that TV News will likely fail to capture how the story could be told is the lack of representation in western and global north newsrooms.

Take the BBC, there’s no person of colour at the helm of its domestic TV News output that more likely will be emotionally, psychologically and culturally tethered to a story of this nature. This doesn’t necessarily mean impractically hiring every national for a potential disaster zone to be an editor, because a consultative editorial advisory group, comprising wide representation would suffice.

I remain intrigued why stories about human suffering are always confide to day shots. What happens when the lights fade? What happens when in Pakistan you’re five feet in water with children and there’s no light? I remember, flash floods in Ghana, not on the scale of Pakistan, but at night, the suffering intensified.

For the neuroscientists and psychologists amongst you, the quest is how do you tell an empathetic story that motivates people into action. Again, modern mainstream News isn’t your answer, but there’s a hint towards solutions.

The passing of the Queen provides an illustrative canvas. There are countless reasons why the death of her majesty would make global news. I’ve worked in newsrooms in the BBC, Channel 4, WTN and so on, enough to know the answers, or most of them. She was the Queen. Celebrity sells too.

But a look at some of the front covers from around the world reveals something interesting. The pageant was an organisational feat of pomp and circumstance and some images dominated front covers. This is no accident for the organisers and the media who know an arresting image when they see one. What makes a story land? Powerful Images that coherently tell a story, often where few words are required. It’s not always a given; it’s a cognitive puzzle.

Whilst researching for my keynote, I tried in vain to find free copyright images or video like the ones below from The Guardian and The Atlantic. Nothing! The use of a Polar Bear from Unsplash was to make that point. If you want your Human interest stories to travel, make pictures like the below available for public use, and social media share. This brings me to a set of solutions I provided in my address. But before then, more on the power and reach of international stories done well.


How did a report about famine and deaths in Ethiopia in 1984 spur on a rock singer to put together concerts, Live Aid, that would motivate generations into action? Why did a 30-minute report Kony 2012 about an outlaw in Uganda (East Africa) Joseph Kony garner so much attention? Today it stands at more than 130m views. How on earth did a fictional film, a Korean story “Parasite” about domestic workers out on their luck become an Oscar winner? It’s how they’re told.

Television News is one of our biggest influencers; its currency is information, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into action on the consumer’s part. In any case, the argument is that’s not TV News job. That’s PR! But that’s not entirely the case either.

Coupled with this complex matrix for telling a story that seems far removed from viewers’ consciousness is the growing impact of climate state craft practitioners working to suffocate meaningful reportage. My next slide I shared.

They can’t be ignored, however there is a solution to story craft that is journalistic, not PR, and cuts through to viewers.

In the past 20 years plus through global research which would form the basis of my PhD, and coupled with my experience at making programmes, I identified a new breed of storyteller that embraces a different storytelling ethos.

Let me first provide context. You may be aware of something called Cinema Verite or Direct Cinema that emerged in the 1960s as a style of news and doc making that radicalised factual and news narrative. The figure behind it was the late Robert Drew.

It’s no exaggeration to say what Drew and his colleagues did was to fundamentally change the way viewers would come to watch and interpret news films. If you’re a seasoned documentary maker or news person, your understanding may be that this style was designed for documentaries. No! Drew in our conversation was emphatic. It was to recreate a style of news, but they news folks didn’t get it, he told me.

That’s the parallel example for where we are now.


In the 1990s-2000s a professional class of news makers would realise, just as Drew had done in the 1960, that by changing news gathering tools, approaches and methods something happened. Left to their experimental space, and unencumbered by Journalism’s detachment and the rest, this new breed of journalists intentionally or unknowingly approached a story like a film director/cinematographer cum photojournalist.

The research showed that some videojournalists and some mainstream reporters were being influenced by wider storytelling models observed in cinema, not for its fictionalisation, but how story forms worked.

If this sound strange, this is what Drew realised and hence the word “Cinema Verite” was coined. He uncovered a cinema style of filmmaking for its time. Forty years on from his find, when I spoke to Drew (made into a short shown at Apple) he was confident the myriad of new storytelling styles was on the horizon. He wasn’t wrong.

Solo and small mainstream teams of journalists and camera operator were reaching beyond information as the driver, and making sense of the story by asking the question, “how can I make you feel how I felt?” Each frame mattered. There was no such thing as GVs; general vision shots to which TV news is attached.

For the coterie I’ve spoken to across the world, there’s a fundamental break with the detachment model TV News promotes, and whilst this new breed of storytellers demonstrated what they could do, they still generally held firm to the qualities that frame TV journalism and would go on to win award after award.

They include Raul Gallego Abellan, which Sky’s Award winning reporter Thomas Moore would comment upon below.

Another exemplar is Travis Fox, whom I provided a content analysis to his news filmmaking below. I’ve had to warn Chinese students when I’ve showed them the full Travis Fox film.

So to the questions asked at the top of this piece. How do you get people interested in climate change against the inertia of TV News management and the statecraft of disinformation? It is at first a complex chicane to navigate, but here are some solutions that should help garner viewership.

How can stories reach more people

  1. Work with the top news agencies who have the infrastructure in story workflow. You may have access and contextual knowledge of the region for co-creation.
  2. The MSF effect. This global humanitarian outfit regularly allows professional media and photographic crews like Magnum to accompany them into disaster zones and makes their media available to use.
  3. SuperSize me, Kony 2012, An inconvenient Truth reveal patterns for how to make stories with an impact. Tell longitudinal stories over a lengthy period of time. If I were an editor I’d pay for a solo videojournalist to go and live and document for the next year to six months, and connect them to different geographical spaces.
  4. The future is Web 3 and decentralising. Those images found on the Guardian and The Atlantic, hold an insight into bringing in young audiences via NFTs and DAOs.
  5. The TikTok effect. This is the platform for innovators and now the not-so-young viewers get their news. It’s where you can experiment and find traction CNN’s Max Foster told me. TV News note, the trajectory for viewers will only decline further if you can’t find new ways of engaging audience.
  6. Super collaborations. Co-create with others involved in the story. Just as you see with the Queens front covers, co-ordinate and share output so it creates a news cluster, which will also be picked up by social media.

I explained in my talk, there are other factors. We run a digital storytelling lab which combines the videojournalism/ cinema journalism ethos described, with design and system thinking journalists and diversity and representation are key components to the art and science of storytelling.

That science falls under Applied Storytelling. My degree was in Applied Chemistry which provides parallels to seeking solutions.

I explained I have form in innovation and hence am confident that any co-creating alliances will have an impact.

At an international level, there are too many projects to name, but some that feed into the sense of reporting on stories that thread big movements include working alongside Nato to train journalists in risk assessment and the likes, and reporting from Apartheid South Africa in the early 90s for the BBC World Service. This summer I worked on Google’s European News Innovation Initiative as a reviewer, and before then, moderated and worked on a UN conference on the Ocean. This is the head of comms’ feedback.

The way forward is mired with levels of difficulty. It involve training new storytellers, revising language ( I’ve tried not to use the word “Climate Change”) and involves exemplary reporting on one hand and fighting disinformation on the other.

There remains a big hole in this advance that could bring greater attention to some of the world’s most pressing problems, and that is places and seats of learning working in alliances with media makers and the public, in a way that has yet to be realised.

Some are forging these bonds, Media.Cymru, The AKO storytelling Institute, Bergen Media City, and the London Institute. Collectively there needs to be a more amplified concerted effort, embracing people and organisations on the sharp edge of the issue.

Perhaps then, in these approaches Dorothy in Arkansas will come to feel the chaos theory of events; the monsoon butterfly that flaps its wings half away across the globe which will be felt emotionally, proving she has more in common with global events than previously thought.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah has been described as one of the UK’s leading videojournalists. More on his work in innovation here and background here. More to follow.