On May 10, we convened our annual Media Impact Forum at the American Philosophical Society—the home of America’s oldest learned society—in Philadelphia. From its earliest days, the American republic has relied on scientific inquiry to propel our nation forward, in all facets of our life–in commerce, national defense, social policy and creative expression, among many other areas. The meeting helped philanthropy focus on the special role of science in our national debates, the importance of sharpening the communications of science, and broader issues about understanding how and when communications and storytelling make a difference.

Below, you’ll find video clips of each session. If you want the highlights, check out the thread we made for Twitter Moments. Or just read the notes here.

And here are some more in-depth impressions from those who were there:

  • One of our speakers, Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, posted his entire talk over on Medium. The gist? That Benjamin Franklin, in response to polarization and fake news, would say that these are not even remotely new concepts.
  • Independent consultant Louise Lief wrote a nice recap for the Knight Foundation’s Trust, Media & Democracy initiative, noting that, like the media, science is also having some trust issues that need to be resolved. Read it here.
  • The day before, on May 9, we hosted a smaller meeting for funders to address the particular challenges associated with communicating science. We’ve posted the full text of the opening remarks given by Brent Glass, director emeritus of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the world’s largest museum devoted to telling the story of America.


Vince  Stehle, Executive Director, Media Impact Funders

Mirror Images: The EepyBird Kaleidoscope 
Using three mirrors, a pair of hands and a soundtrack,  Fritz Grobe of EepyBird Studios created a mesmerizing kaleidoscope.

Overview and Objectives for the Forum 
Vince  Stehle, Executive Director, Media Impact Funders

The Science of Story Building, Part I 
Research shows that stories are the building blocks of memory. But research can also help build stories that are more memorable, compelling and inspiring. The power trio from University of Florida and the annual Frank gathering shared a set of principles rooted in a deep exploration of the scholarship in this area. This presentation was be divided into a morning session and an afternoon conclusion.

    • Ann Christiano, Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida
    • Annie Neimand, Research Director, Center for Public Interest Communications, University of Florida
    • Matt Sheehan, Director of Stories and Emerging Platforms, Lecturer, Department of Journalism, University of Florida

The Viral Video Manifesto: EepyBird’s Recipe for Creating Contagious Content 
How do you create a video built to go viral?  How can that help spread your organization’s messages? EepyBird Studios’ Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, the guys behind the Diet Coke & Mentos phenomenon who’ve been creating successful viral videos for global brands since 2006, gave an inside look at their repeatable formula for creating contagious content—and a look at the results of their pilot project for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Networking break 

An Exploration of Philanthropy and Scientific Adventure with National Geographic 
We heard from Kaitlin Yarnall, Vice President of Media Innovation for National Geographic, who offered lessons for funders from the organization’s experience as an expert in science exploration and grantmaking.

Seeking Greater Impact: The Most Unknown
Greg Boustead, Program Director of Science Sandbox at the Simons Foundation, explained how philanthropy can provide the support films need to reach larger audiences.

Rebuilding Trust in Media for a Stronger Democracy  
Indira Lakshmanan, Newmark Chair for Journalism Ethics at the Poynter Institute and a Boston Globe columnist, explored how to restore trust in journalism across the political spectrum.

Designing and Building a Healthy Space for Civic Interaction 
Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, argued that like our forefathers intended with the Postal Service and free press, we need public spheres to be carefully designed and governed to enable citizens and communities to more effectively connect, communicate and engage civically.

Rethinking Civic Media Ecosystems: Platforms, Outlets and Voices 
Eli Pariser, co-founder of Upworthy, offered a parallel argument to the previous session that our current commercial media ecosystem fails to serve all of our communities and everyone in our community equally. Pariser contends that we can and must create new media outlets and practices that actively empower diverse audiences through “community-focused, impact-oriented channels and entities.”

Lunch and Site Visits
Led by volunteers, attendees will have the opportunity to visit one of three museums in the immediate area. (Attendees will need to sign up in advance.)

  • Museum of the American Philosophical Society
  • The American Revolution Museum
  • Science History Institute

Musical performance: Creativity  and How Science  Influences It   
Violist, educator and composer Nokuthula Ngwenyama presented “Rising,” a layered musical dialogue with herself, in conjunction with a dance on film. There was also a discussion and demonstration from her new work, “Primal Message,” inspired by the 1974 Arecibo message.

Making a New Reality: Ensuring Equality in Emerging Media 
Reprising her presentation at our recent gathering at the Sundance Film Festival, Kamal Sinclair, director of the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Lab Programs, offered a brief overview of a major research project commissioned by the Ford Foundation on the urgent need and myriad opportunities to ensure that emerging media forms are as diverse as they ought to be.

The producer of Awavena, a mixed-reality film supported by Skoll and Sundance, revealed the mysterious and compelling story of Hushahu, the first female Shaman of the Amazonian Yawanawa people. Awavena is a great example of how diverse voices, cutting edge technology and powerful storytelling can come together in a seamless immersive journey, created by an all-women filmmaking team together with the indigenous people it seeks to empower.

Networking Break 

Science of Story Building, Part II 
The Frank team returned to conclude their principles of effective storytelling and invite a forum participant to illustrate their approach by telling their story employing the techniques discussed.

Science Friday
We talked to Danielle Dana, Executive Director of Science Friday, on the issues with delivering science news on print, audio, video and online platforms to mass audiences, and how you do it well.

About the Media Impact Forum
Each year, our Media Impact Forum brings funders from across the country together with pathbreaking media makers and analysts to share insights about the field’s most influential projects and trends. Join us for inspiring media presentations and dialogue, and the chance to network with your peers to deepen learning and spark collaboration.

About the Author
Nina Sachdev

Nina Sachdev

Director of Communications

Nina Sachdev brings more than 20 years of journalism, news editing and marketing experience to her role as a communications director for Media Impact Funders (MIF). Since joining MIF in 2016, Nina has been leading efforts to showcase the power of media, journalism and storytelling to the philanthropic community. Through strategic communications, member engagement strategies and high-profile speaking events, Nina works to educate and inspire funders to make more strategic decisions about their media funding. Nina brings with her from her journalism days a special focus on sexual assault and reproductive health, and is a tireless advocate for the importance of quality, impactful media and journalism around these topics.
Nina cut her teeth in journalism at The Dallas Morning News, where—as an intern on the copy desk—she was tasked with editing the obituaries of famous people who hadn’t yet died. Since then, Nina has worked at The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, The Philadelphia Daily News and The Philadelphia Weekly in almost every editorial capacity imaginable, including senior editor, A1 editor (when that used to be a thing) and slot (does anyone remember that being a thing?).
Nina is the creator and editor of the award-winning The Survivors Project: Telling the Truth About Life After Sexual Abuse, which exposes the reality of healing from the effects of sexual abuse. Nina holds an M.A. in journalism from Temple University. She lives in Philadelphia with her family.