Today, we present our spotlight on a great journalism project: Driven Media. “Driven Media is a journalism startup that aims to help young women understand their lives and potential. We do this through multimedia stories about the lives, relationships and stories of real women. As young women, we really felt that gap and lack of representation of women in the media. When you are looking for inspiration and hope and just a good story that you can relate to, it just isn’t there. We wanted to change that, and felt like we had the skill set to, so we did.”
Acro: First, please introduce yourselves.
I’m Samantha Harrington. I’m 22, originally from Wisconsin and I graduated with degrees in Journalism and Arabic from UNC in May 2015. I like sunflowers and Joan Didion and tea and good music and friends and talking and painting (in no particular order haha).
I’m Hannah Doksansky, a 21-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, who will graduate in the spring from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I drink coffee by the gallon, spend many hours catching up on the phone with friends, and take the occasional photo to document everything.
Acro: Give us an intro to your project. What is it called, what do you do, and what was the inspiration for getting started?
Driven Media is a journalism startup that aims to help young women understand their lives and potential. We do this through multimedia stories about the lives, relationships and stories of real women. As young women, we really felt that gap and lack of representation of women in the media. When you are looking for inspiration and hope and just a good story that you can relate to, it just isn’t there. We wanted to change that, and felt like we had the skill set to, so we did. –sam
Our team consists of Sam and I, who rove down the east coast in a tiny green prius, and two women named Josie and Hrisanthi who create multimedia interactives for each story while also working full time at newspapers. We all met at an entrepreneurial journalism lab at UNC and knew from group projects that our skill sets could be combined to create better storytelling. (HD)
Acro: What are you hoping to achieve through Driven Media? Is there something about storytelling (and, in particular, mobile storytelling!) as a medium that’s particularly useful for achieving your goals?
I think we’re trying to achieve a world in which women can share stories and learn from one another. We’re just trying to be the platform that facilitates that learning. You can connect to anyone online that has access to internet. It lets us transcend physical and geographic space and limitations in an awesome way. And obviously mobile is super important. Our target audience is young women. Young people get a lot of their information on their phones (I know I do). So every story we do we want to make sure looks good on mobile. Surprisingly our analytics show that still like 70% of people are getting to our content on desktops, but I expect mobile will become a bigger and bigger thing for us. –sam
Acro: What is your method? How do you go about finding subjects and collecting stories?
We basically show up in a place and call everyone and anyone we can. We’re focusing on a series of stories this fall about immigration while traveling down the east coast. So that means we’re in a new place every two weeks and really have to start the discovery process all over again. Generally we start with organizations—cultural associations, resettlement agencies, restaurants, etc—but sometimes we turn to social media to find people. In West Virginia I searched Twitter for people who had tweeted, “West Virginia and Filipino,” and just tweeted back at them. It looked pretty desperate responding to like 3-year-old tweets, but almost everyone responded. Once we’ve found people to talk to we do some like exploratory interviews to figure out what the story is. Then once we’re at that point we try to figure out the best way to tell it. Should this be an audio piece? Or is video or text better? Things like that. –sam
Acro: What are the particular challenges of your project, if any?
Oh, do we encounter challenges. Our biggest challenge is always money. We crowdfunded $50,000 to launch the company in August, which enabled us to make necessary investments like equipment and a car. But we know that Driven cannot continue to exist without a viable business model. We brainstorm often new ways to make money to sustain future tours. (HD)
Another challenge worth noting is that we are always on tour. Sam and I work very hard to make sure we maintain a balanced lifestyle because we can easily slip into a pattern where we work constantly. We try to see every place that we visit and explore a little bit. We found that our stories are better when we take a moment to breathe every once and awhile! (HD)
Acro: Where is the project going from here? Do you have plans to broaden it, and/or are you in the process of collecting more stories? What’s your vision for the project in the future?
We are releasing stories weekly but our fall tour will come to a close in December. In the spring, we are going to take a break so that I can graduate college and we can focus on the viability of the company. We are exploring many revenue models so that we can hit the road again in the summer. This fall we have told the stories of immigrant women in five cities, but we will most likely switch to a new, yet to be determined theme for future tours. Reach out if you have ideas for new topics! (HD)
Acro: What do you think it would take for women, and especially women of color, to have more meaningful representation in journalism and news media?
So I think the biggest way is just by getting more women (of all backgrounds) involved in producing media. It’s really hard because I feel like so much of media success is just being in the right place at the right time. But at the same time I also believe that just working hard and talking to everyone opens so many doors. If you have an idea, the worst thing you can do is keep it to yourself. Shout it out to mentors and friends and strangers alike. Ask them to introduce you to anyone who they think might be interested in what you want to do. You never know who you’ll meet and where they’ll lead you. And once you’re in a place where you’re producing content and you have an audience you have to continue to be firm and loud about what you want. Challenge traditional concepts of what kind of stories are important and how they should be told. –sam