Since beginning her career as a broadcast journalist more than three decades ago, Maria Shriver has seen major changes in the industry. Back in the 70s and 80s, journalists were expected to remain as neutral as possible, reporting facts without inserting their own opinions.
"You were just allowed to tell the story, find the best stories you could, inform people, and leave it to them to make up their mind," Shriver says.
However, today's media platforms are built differently. Because companies need to make money, controversial opinions, which tend to attract viewers, are allowed into the mix much more than they once were.
These new platforms have created a challenge. With content from fake news sites finding tremendous popularity on social media sites like Facebook, consumers are starting to mistrust much of the news they see.
This is dangerous, since the news media has long served as a "Fourth Estate," a foundation of a healthy, well-informed society. Recently, I spoke to Shriver, who shared her thoughts on journalism today, how journalism can still make money in the future, as well as her own efforts as an "ambassador for change' in the world.
Adapting Quickly to New Media
Shriver sees a great deal to celebrate in media. With so many platforms now available, brands have the opportunity to monetize information in ways they never before have. Although media outlets still struggle to find ways to make money on news in an increasingly Internet-driven market, the future is promising. Shriver hears marketers across all industries talk about how difficult it is to monetize this new landscape. She says the key is being quick to adapt.
"I think the model is up for grabs across all industries," Shriver says. "So I think that's exciting that you have to be, I think, nimble, creative, excellent, and decisive, and you have to be willing then to go be really decisive on Monday, and if it's not working on Friday, move over here."
Just the Facts
Despite prevailing concerns about fake news, Shriver feels it's a "great time" for responsible media. Now, more than ever, there's a demand for journalists who have been trained to be conscientious about the work they produce. Some commentators have put doubt in people's minds about whether or not what they're hearing is false, and Shriver believes that can be dangerous for society. Instead, journalists have a responsibility to use this as an opportunity.
"It's a great time for journalists who believe in fact-checking, who got into journalism as a place to inform people, to follow the truth, to use stories to inspire," Shriver says. "I remain incredibly optimistic and hopeful. I think it's our job to leave our kids a better world. I really believe that. I was raised by two people who drove that into my skull every single day."
Architects of Change
Shriver sees herself and others as "architects of change," shaping the future with their work. In order to accomplish this, though, she feels that people need to work together. The concept of partnerships led to an interview series called Maria Shriver's Architects of Change, where she has one-on-one conversations with some of the world's most well-known (or even not so well-known) thought-leaders. The series launched in 2015 and originally took place in front of smaller audiences. Now, Shriver and her team are using Facebook Live to reach the masses. She's spoken to Deepak Chopra, Shonda Rhimes, Russell Simmons, Ann Romney and others.
Initially, Architects of Change was a ticketed event that donated a portion of proceeds to Alzheimer's research. Over the months, she has seen the program evolve, eventually partnering with Ford Motor Company. Both Shriver and Ford representatives say one of the primary goals of the series is to inspire young leaders to enact the change they want to see in the world. Shriver sees founder Henry Ford as an original architect of change, bringing one of the most important inventions of all time to the global consumer market.
"Well, to me, people come out of these conversations and say that they look at issues completely differently," says Shriver. "We've had people come out and start non-profits, want to write a book, want to join an organization, start an organization. My goal is for it to grow way beyond me, and to gather people and workspaces and homes and churches with the guiding principle of having conversations that ignite people, that open their minds and their hearts, and that try to make the world better."
This year's lineup includes authors Krista Tippett and Byron Katie, Brian Grazer, Frank Gehry, Jamie Lee Curtis, xPrize Founder Peter Diamandis, and Headspace's Andy Puddicombe, among others.
Media Partnerships a Path to Monetary Success
This type of media partnership is an example of how brands or news media may find success in the future. Shriver's years of journalism experience taught her the art of crafting a compelling story. She says you must sell a story just as you'd sell a product like a pair of shoes. Not only does this mean conveying information in the story, but shaping it in a way that's both inspirational and creative.
What's more, Shriver says it's becoming increasingly difficult for a news organization to survive on its own. When a large corporation like Comcast buys NBC, the partnership benefits both sides. She says she believes great things can happen when someone has the humility to realize they can't do things alone and reaches out to others who have the same mission.
"I try to find, as I say, like-minded partners, be it Ford, or when I work with my documentaries, whether it be HBO, Netflix, or Shriver Reports," she says. "I've also worked with the Alzheimer's Association. Whoever it is, I try to find partners to help me produce the best possible material across as many platforms as possible in a creative way that lands on Main Street. And whenever you partner in anything, personally, politically, professionally, you have to give a little, take a little, and change a little, right?"
With leaders like Shriver bringing communities together to make a difference, journalism has a promising future. It's important that trained journalists continue to bring integrity to the field while also finding a way to tell stories that inspire and connect with consumers. With her Architects of Change interviews, Shriver hopes to continue to include as many as people as possible in the conversation.
"You know, in this day and age, you have to be in the experience business, the excellence business, the execution business, and the customer service business. Be you a media company, a car company, a retail company. So I think media isn't what media was when I started in media, right? And so, I like to be in the excellence business. I like to be in the execution business, and I really do believe that I'm working on a platform going across all platforms to use media as a force for good in the world. That's how I want to use my voice. I continue to use it."