Serving and Saving Humanity

Molly Bingham - Washington, District of Columbia
Entered on November 18, 2009
Molly Bingham
Age Group: 30 - 50

When you are sitting alone in a cold, dusty six-by-nine-foot concrete prison cell with nothing but a wool blanket and the constant fear of death, you think. A lot. You ask yourself questions.

It was March 2003, in the days when Saddam Hussein still controlled Iraq. I’d been arrested, accused of being a spy, and was being interrogated and held in solitary confinement at Abu Ghraib.

It’s one thing to know what you’re doing is dangerous but do it anyway because you think it’s right. It is something else to have your worst fears realized. Would telling this story of a people during war have an impact? Was it worth the risk? Was it worth prison?

Did I really believe journalism was worth dying for?

I come from a media family. In 1918, my great-grandfather bought the Louisville Courier-Journal. My grandfather managed the family companies, as did my father. My family didn’t own the paper just because of what it was worth, but because it was worthwhile.

Journalism was considered a public service. A public trust.

Media has a responsibility to inform and educate the community. It plays a critical role in shaping healthy, constructive, and peaceful societies.

Sitting in Abu Ghraib, I knew all of this. The question was, did I really believe it? I did. And I still do. But I also believe media has to change—and change profoundly.

We live in a smaller, more tightly connected world than ever before. We now share across race, religion, and nationality all of our most pressing human concerns and challenges: pandemics, climate change, growing populations, limited resources of food, water, energy. We are one interdependent, global community.

Media hasn’t embraced that fact. It doesn’t reflect that reality.

We have an opportunity, if not an obligation, to change how media functions and who it’s designed to serve. Media is still a public service and a public trust. But the “public” it serves is no longer limited to how far a newspaper can be delivered between rolling off the press and reaching your front door. Media now goes anywhere, anytime. And it must now serve a single, global audience grappling with the challenges of our interdependence.

Media’s responsibility is to deliver information relevant to our times and our needs. To deliver information that will help each of us recognize the challenges we share: that we actually have a lot in common, that we share our future.

I know that if we commit to this kind of profound change, if we call for and create a new era of media appropriate to our world, our surroundings, our needs, we will foster a healthy and vibrant community—our global community. We will learn to successfully recognize, understand, and manage our complex and connected world.

So here’s what I believe: media not only serving humanity but helping save it.

Molly Bingham has worked as a photojournalist, journalist, and filmmaker and lives in Washington, DC. Her 2007 film, Meeting Resistance, codirected with colleague Steve Connors, tells the story of Iraqi resistance fighters living in Baghdad. Bingham is the founder of ORBmedia, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to produce world-class journalism for a global audience that strengthens understanding of our interdependent world.