Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Culture Footprint Interview - 6th July, 2010

Forum for Change
Culture Footprint
Duncan Williams
Media Entrepreneur

Welcome to Culture Footprint, featuring one of the people of God making a difference in the world today, aiming to be an inspiring presence and telling the story of Christ in the culture. Interviewed by Marijke Hoek for the Evangelical alliance.
Duncan Williams is a Director on the board of Independent News Ltd. Buying up formerly loss making regional newspapers, fast tracking them into profit, Duncan has gained a portfolio of titles launched specifically at improving communication within local communities. He was born in Plymouth. His grandfather was a local vicar in Cornwall.

He likes old creaky films (Cliffhanger Serials from the 1930s and ‘40s, George Formby or Will Hay comedies and Hammer horror films), travel, meeting new people, understanding cultures and belief systems. He has a lifelong passion for the sea and if possible would like to run his media 'empire' from a boat; "Just like a James Bond villain”, jokes his family. 
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
A Pirate or a Timelord.

How did you get involved in the media?
I edited my school magazine and continued to write in my spare time. I attended Launceston College, won a place at the London International Film School and continued studying media and communications technology at Merton College, the London Electronics College and London University .
University of Life , though, is where I got the most results... I started work as a 'runner' for Goldcrest films in Soho at £80 per week. Went on to get a slightly better paid job in advertising, writing copy and scripts.  As the press started to pioneer their digital presence I was offered a job on a national newspaper and magazine title.    I learnt how advertising funded much of modern media, built a healthy book of contacts and realised that this same funding source could be approached to invest in positive media publishing...

What is the power of a good story?
A good story does as it says on the tin; It reports a truthful, inspiring message. Maybe sheds a little light on some gloom...  or draws attention to somebody or something worthwhile.  The story's power lies in the fact that through its reporting it seeks to encourages more of the same...

Does good news sell? 
Put it this way, if you were a newspaper advertiser would you want to promote your product or service next to an article about something dark and negative or positive and uplifting? Positive wins through.  Even in reporting a tragic story the reader demands a point and purpose to the retelling. It's human nature to want a good motive to override a bad one; it's what best assists group survival.

Can entrepreneurship create a better world?
During this period of time, with the economy as bad as it is, real entrepreneurs are vital to the world economy. This is reflected in the huge interest shown in programmes like Dragon's Den, American Inventor, The Apprentice and now even The Young Apprentice.  Entrepreneurs have an unshakable faith in the future; they have positive ideas and inspire others.  They create jobs and are a hub for economic growth.

What is your most treasured possession?
My left hand.  I nearly lost it, along with all my fingers, following a gory incident some years ago. Fortunately, after a lot of surgery, the fingers were sewn back together and the mangled mitt was saved.  They are all now present and just about correct... and appreciated that much more by me!

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream for society. What is yours?
Often whatever society fixates upon it tends to get more of.  So by offering a more positive media I genuinely believe we get a more positive society.  When all focus is placed relentlessly upon the negative, true vision, faith and hope all get eroded. A new pair of glasses can remind people that the world can still be a very beautiful place even in the most difficult of times.  Modern media can be that powerful.

What is the greatest challenge you face in media enterprise?
Balancing ethics, readership sales and advertiser revenue to produce long term profitability.

What do you invest in the next generation?
Training, time and experience. Interns from universities such as Oxford , London and Plymouth have all been integral to bringing in new talent, helping to keep our titles fresh and current. One lucky graduate even got a placement reporting at the recent Cannes Film Festival.

What is your most/least green credential?
I try and walk, where practical, everywhere. In fact, as my journalists will tell you, many an editorial meeting is held 'on the hoof' with me striding from one meeting onto the next, often held streets away.    However, my least green credential is my liking for McDonald's cheese burgers, so I sometimes stop off along the way...

How can the media increase wellbeing in society over the next decade?
Marginalised elements of society often find it hard to access or express views in the mainstream media.  Broadly speaking there is a trade in sensationalism and death. A tragic killing gets a mass of column inches and airtime, whereas the celebration of a human life gets far less.  A birthday of a 100 year old citizen deserves as much, if not more attention, than the gleeful reporting of yet more doom and gloom.  Coverage should always aim to be personal and real.  Profiles of people should aim to help readers identify and feel a part of the story rather than apart from it.  Ten years of revised media attitudes could have a remarkably beneficial effect upon society.

Tell us a joke...
A local news vendor was standing on the corner with a stack of papers, yelling: "Read all about it. Fifty people swindled! Fifty people swindled!"
Curious, a man walked over, bought a paper, and checked the front page. Finding nothing, the man said, "There's nothing in here about fifty people being swindled." The news vendor ignored him and went on, calling out, "Read all about it. Fifty-one people swindled!"