When she co-founded The Huffington Post in 2005, Arianna Huffington wanted to give a voice to people with something interesting to say but nowhere to say it.
"That, together with a journalistic enterprise, was the heart of The Huffington Post," Huffington said at a Digital-Life-Design (DLD) conference in New York City on Tuesday, which brought together business, creative and media leaders from around the world. "And I believe that is at the heart of what Jerome and Brandon are doing -- giving a voice to people and therefore connecting us and identifying our common humanity."
Huffington was referring to Jerome Jarre and Brandon Stanton, two young entrepreneurial "superstars" who are "shaping the future of media." The three sat down at DLD for a conversation about where media is headed, what that future looks like and how we can continue to give a voice to the voiceless.
Jarre is a digital-video mastermind and a celebrity on Vine and Snapchat. The 24-year-old joined Huffington as one of her guests at the White House Correspondents Dinner last month. For Jarre, it's all about showing people what reality looks like. The future of media is about "real" stories, he said.
"I think news has been really good at informing us but it’s not being good at making us feel good, making us improve, making us have hope, making us pursue our dreams, making us pursue our full potential," Jarre explained. "That’s what needs to be the future of news."
Stanton founded Humans of New York in 2010, and has since photographed thousands of New Yorkers in their natural habitats and written dozens of stories about their lives, gathering millions of social media followers along the way.
Prior to Humans of New York, Stanton was unemployed and broke. Now, he travels around the world to capture other peoples' stories. And he's on a mission to sidestep and counteract the worst tendencies of the media, especially the tendency to focus only on crises and disasters. For example, when there's a hurricane, he said the media naturally seek out and feature "the house that got the most destroyed."
By contrast, he said, "I try to show a normal distribution of reality by just stopping people randomly. And it’s not that they’re real and violence is fake. It’s just a more normal distribution of stories."
Huffington said that it's time for others to imitate and replicate what Jarre and Stanton have been doing.
"It's just amazing to see all these ways, both old and new, that doing something you love -- doing something that appeals to the better angels of our nature -- is also monetizable."
It's also a lesson for those in media, she said, that it's possible to make a real difference without "selling your soul."