Design things that matter: why we should be cultivating resilience in media

Resilience in media
3 min readMay 14, 2021

Do you recall the exact moment you realized this pandemic was going to be truly earthshaking? I remember I was in an Uber on my way home, stuck in the usual 5 p.m. traffic, and I stumbled upon this article about how doctors in Italy were struggling to contain the crisis. They had to create an emergency protocol to basically put down on paper how they would prioritize saving one life over another when the time came. That’s when it really hit me: this pandemic was going to push all of us over the threshold.

A lot has happened since, and as journalists we all have experienced what Lev Manovich describes as:

“The moral anxiety which accompanies the shift from constants to variables, from tradition to choices in all areas of life in a contemporary society, and the corresponding anxiety of a writer who has to portray it.”

Our industry has had its own kind of reckoning in the last year, too, addressing much-needed conversations about racism, sexism, classism, toxic work environments and sustainability, just to name a few. If journalism were a character, it probably would be repeating this line in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

‘Did I do anything wrong today,’ […] ‘or has the world always been like this and I’ve been too wrapped up in myself to notice?’”

These conversations are long due, and we have the opportunity to reshape the future of journalism through a lens of resilience.

Cultivating resilience should become part of the journalistic ethos just like telling compelling stories and heading fiercely to cover mayhem and danger have been so far.

It goes beyond personal resilience though, it’s also about cultivating resilience in systems, which implies:

“The ability of a system to survive, adapt and thrive in the face of chronic stresses”, a system that also has the capacity to transform when required. (Resilience Fellowship Program by CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism)

Journalism –as a job, as a societal pillar and as an industry– can’t thrive if it relies on a system that often discriminates by race, gender, class, location, language, “college pedigree”, body type and so much more. It also can’t foster sustainable innovation without #DEI, nor can it respond to disturbance and retain its original form without a clear, well-grounded sense of purpose. This is, above all, a field of service, which is why impact should be evaluated through a lens of service, community and story (like Maritza L. Félix describes here).

Purpose unlocks resilience, radical imagination ignites it, and relentless adaptability cements it.

I started this project because I believe in diverse, equitable, inclusive and adaptable newsrooms that foster meaningful conversations. The key to unlocking the targeted actions we need to co-create this type of journalism lies in resilience-building. That’s my theory of change. If you believe that too –or if you don’t and want to have civic discussions about it– let’s talk about #BuildingResilience in news!

This is a space to explore how cultivating resilience can transform different areas in media, including leadership, sustainability, community-building, collaboration, equitable innovation and impact.

By no means is this a finished recipe for success, but rather an ongoing reflection to invite an expansion of understanding about the need and the different ways to cultivate resilience in news organizations.

Stay around for more updates about #ResilienceInMedia. If you want to help grow this community or directly contribute to the project, you can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thanks for reading!

Gaby Brenes is a multimedia journalist dedicated to addressing two questions: How might we tell useful, relevant and compelling stories that cut through the noise? And how might we cultivate resilience, agility and inclusion in news organizations? In a Venn diagram with digital strategy, social research and multimedia literacy, she’d be right where the circles overlap.

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Resilience in media

Let’s talk about #BuildingResilience in news. We believe in diverse, equitable, inclusive & adaptable newsrooms that foster meaningful conversations.