I’ve always enjoyed debate and place great importance on our freedom to challenge opinions we disagree with.
This can be tough, and I have become jaded lately by what I’ve seen and experienced on Twitter in relation to Syria. I stayed away from it for a couple of days last week because of the unpleasantness displayed towards people who expressed different views to opponents of the decision to start a bombing campaign.
Social media enables anyone to voice opinions, unchecked and unfiltered, to the wider world. On balance, this is a good thing. It’s make discourse more interesting and gives an airing to views which are too easily overlooked by the mainstream. If there was ever a time when politicians, media and civic institutions shaped public discourse, it feels distant today.
It’s beyond doubt that PR has changed massively, and continues to do so, thanks to the opportunities created by digital communications and the diversification of traditional media.
CIPR president-elect Stephen Waddington asked a room full of comms people at the South West Communicators’ Conference in Bristol recently how many had bought a newspaper that morning, and only one confirmed that they had. It’s possible that some people in the room were too busy on their tablets or smart phones to realise he was asking them a question. But he had made the key point; that the media is changing rapidly and communicators must respond to this. Many operators in the South West are rising to this challenge with some great work, as Bristol agency Spirit demonstrated with its support for the Gromit Unleashed campaign in the city.
For weeks, I’ve listened to arguments about the press ahead of Leveson’s damning report today. It’s depressing, but not surprising, how quick people on all sides of the debate have been to reach judgements about the report, which appears at first glance to be thoughtful, proportionate and measured.
During the hearing, we’ve heard sickening tales of people traduced by media misconduct. It shouldn’t be forgotten how people like the McCanns, the Dowlers and Christopher Jefferies were treated at times when their lives were already under huge strain. Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and Charlotte Church (who was on Question Time tonight) have sounded at times like they are speaking for the country when calling for independent regulation of the press. It was painful to see experienced tabloid journalists Trevor Kavanagh and Nevile Thurlbeck speak on Channel 4 News tonight about the importance of a free media. Surely noone disagrees with this. But their performance tonight suggested that they don’t get what’s happening around them, or what they need to do to deal with it.
I’ve been reading about something called Celebrity Death Twitter Harvest, or the tendency for people to express collective sadness on social media when someone famous dies.
The recent death of Dad’s Army star Clive Dunn led The Guardian to ask today why celebs (or anyone who tweets) mark the passing of someone famous with such a tribute. Well, it contributes to the conversation taking place in the Twittersphere for a start. And it’s easier than buying flowers.
I’ve always thought some of the tweets seem insincere, but it doesn’t stop me from doing it to acknowledge the death of someone who has made an impact on my life. And doesn’t this go with the territory?
He was derided as the symbol of unethical journalism in the ‘cut and paste’ age for lifting passages from the work of others to embellish his copy. Having made a name for himself by criticising the wrongs of others, the industry was never going to give him a sympathetic hearing once he was found out.
I don’t have sympathy for him either, but the rest of the media is in no position to crow about this practice in my view; what, after all, does that make the press releases regularly published at all levels of the media? It isn’t plagiarism in the sense that Hari’s activity was, sure. But it is little more than ‘cut and paste’ reporting in many respects.
There are a couple of things recently that have brought this subject closer to home for me and added to my suspicion that this becoming more common.