Do you remember the last time you read something that truly inspired you? In today’s Internet onslaught of cute penguins, “top 10 reasons you’re…” lists, and click bait celebrity gossip, it can be difficult to dig up truly meaningful media. That is why we at Repair the World find ourselves turning so often to Co.Exist – a spinoff site of Fast Company that focuses solely on impactful, well-reported stories about the environment, health care, transportation, and other critical tikkun olam-related issues.
Recently, we chatted with Co.Exist’s senior editor, Ariel Schwartz, to get an inside look at what makes Co.Exist tick, and get her take on the role that the media and journalism can, should (and shouldn’t!) play in social change.
When did Fast Company launch Co.Exist and what was the inspiration behind creating it?
We launched Co.Exist two and a half years ago and are one of a few spinoff sites for Fast Company. (There’s also Co.Design, Co.Create, and Co.Labs.) The original impetus was to expand the coverage of sustainability reporting we were already doing online and make the mission much broader. In addition to sustainability, we also cover health care, transportation, cities and urban issues, and food-related issues. Having our own site gave us the opportunity to focus more on stories that may have not been within the purview of Fast Company.
What are some favorite stories you have personally worked on?
One story that felt pretty impactful was around the news that Intel is phasing out the use of conflict minerals in their microprocessors. I was able to interview the CEO for the post, and found it to be really inspiring. It is a story with a much broader impact – not just on consumers, but on workers around the world. Whenever a tech company makes an announcement like that it’s a big deal, but this was a particularly significant commitment that has larger ramifications.
Personally, I have been in Brazil for the past couple of weeks reporting on stories related to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals on poverty. One of my favorite stories from the trip is about female condom use and how education has been really important there. Brazil is one of the few countries that gives away free condoms. I got to speak with a couple of women in poor areas of Recife who are championing the movement, found them to be really inspiring.
How did you first start working at Fast Company, and what drew you to their vision?
Before I worked at Fast Company full time, I wrote freelance stories for them. I mainly focused on clean technology issues because I have always been interested in environmental issues. From there, I started expanding my beat and covering a wide range of topics and eventually I came on board. I was part of the visioning process for Co.Exist and it has been great to see how quickly the site has grown and had some impact.
What role do you think the media and journalists play in social change?
I think a big part of it is spreading information. My personal opinion is that it is also important to make sure the stories do not just go to a base of people who already agree. That can be really easy to do, especially on the internet which can be an echo chamber. We are pretty lucky because Fast Company has a diverse reader base, so we get a lot of people reading our stories who might not otherwise think about climate change’s impact on their lives, or the ramifications of not having enough public transportation. We are not an advocacy organization, so we do not really do calls to action in our stories. I think the best journalism never does that. But if the things we publish inspire people to do that, then I think that’s great.
Check out all of Ariel’s great posts on Co.Exist’s website.