The long road to Kyiv (5)

Indeed: it took us about 6 months to get there, but we made it!

I bear a certain degree of responsibility over the event subtitle: “Business helping politics” even though I was a bit more extreme: “Business talk drowning rhetoric”.

One friend asked me to explain what I mean here:

I  believe that finding a way to talk through differences is always the alternative solution to any problem, and this is now the sacred mission of communication pros globally

The word “sacred” is not there by chance.

When I started in the Communications business about 20 years ago, our task was simple: we were our client advocate. Of course, we counseled clients to avoid the grossest blunders, to avoid lies and stick to the truth – but that was out of simple practicality. Lies are more difficult to remember than the truth and self-contradiction is always a risk.

We did not have to care much about the general public best interest, because we weren’t talking to the General Public, but to the Media: it was THEIR job to double-check, balance, get confirmations before the stories went to print.

But, alas, the Digital Disruption of the Publishing Industry moved quickly to undermine a business model that did not place premiums in the right places: the protection of the General Public interest WAS NOT what paid the rent at big publishing houses: what paid the rent was the creation of a mass-platform that could carry advertisements. When a new, even more massive platform came about, advertisers voted with their wallets.

The baby went out with the dirty water, though, because this new platform did not have any of the fact-checking, investigation and in general, the ethics of printing what was genuinely believed to be facts; the principles of sound journalism did not make it through the zero-attrition New Media where the cost of setting them up was so low that nobody had to worry about their success and could wait for the magic of organic to channel traffic to the stuff people liked.

Journalists’ defense of their profession was interpreted as a mere defense of accrued positions (and salaries) and was promptly disrupted. One of the results was the triumph of propaganda over facts, biased accounts that sound just like truthful stories and in general, the lowering of journalistic standards.

I call it “sacred” because, although the category of Journalists may not exist anymore going forward, their Ethics must be safeguarded religiously by anybody who will engage in communications in the future.

Instead of worrying about stupid backward battles tightly connected to a situation that does not exist anymore, Communications professionals (Journalists and Public Relations practitioners alike) should join forces in developing a new standard to ensure that


Is this something that could be started in Kyiv?

4 thoughts on “The long road to Kyiv (5)

  1. Interesting agenda, Gianni, from someone who remembers what it was like before everything went digital. First, sociologically and historically speaking, could it be that, like with every great disruption, there is always -after the initial period of just seeing the endless possibilities of the new paradigm- a need to revisit the abandoned values of the old framework. If only to arrive at a more balanced point of view. I am well aware that with this thesis-antithesis kind of thinking I find myself in the company of some of the most orthodox Marxist theorists, but let’s face it, dismissed by the entire world minus Fidel Castro, even they had a point sometimes.

    Having said the above, I do share the feeling that the bottom has fallen out from under the truth (or information as a means of getting to the truth), just to be replaced by an avalanche of random expressions of opportunism – and sometimes organized opportunism. Not a pretty sight.

    Or … is this just a sentiment of old men (well, older … well, middle-aged perhaps), or is this actually happening? And is it threatening the core of communications, taking us further away from basic skills needed to resolve our differences at the cost of messing things up properly? And does that make it legit to use words like ‘sacred’ to characterize the mission of those that have doubts about this development? Using more ‘big words’ might just add to the general shallowness in communications, where word inflation seems to be the fashion.

    Trust me, I see where you’re coming from. Question is, can our perception of the world be trusted, or are we going the same way said Marxists have gone. In other words, is it the truth, or just another opinion cleverly and perhaps subconsciously hiding some agenda? Whatever the outcome, it seems to me Kyiv of all places makes for a fitting background to this discussion.

    How’s this for sacred communications, comrade?

    • “truth” is elusive. Always was. Let’s change frame: if judges disappeared would it not fall to lawyers to uphold the principles of law? Would it not become their “sacred” mission?

  2. Interesting thoughts, indeed, Gianni. Whether “sacred” or not, you are opening a big can. Where facts hit commercial, political and religious interest, the truth in history has often been distorted. Those who had the power and the money where able to create the channels they needed for their propaganda to maintain the status quo. That said, whether analogue or digital, I think it all comes down to some deeper values, that transcend cultures, religions and political systems. Its values, such as ethics, broad-based education and transparency that will help us overcome some of the darkness of the past and the present. I do believe that the fact that all of us have now the (digital) ability to voice our opinions and share our observations, has diminished the risk of being misguided by a few. In that sense, there is more scrutiny on those who try to play the middle man,whether you call them media, politicians or any kind, at least much more than ever in the past. The fact the we are all observers and publishers at the same time feels me with hope that the times of totalitarian regimes are slowly, but steadily fading, regardless of the recent, but in my opinion temporary renaissance of a Russian czar, named Putin.

    • then perhaps the solution is to make the possibility of reader comment both compulsory and well evident. I can say “My yogurt makes you taller” either in an ad or in a blog or social media post, but readers can vote it “Hoax!” and such vote displays prominently on the article, ad, post…

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