среда, 12 декабря 2012 г.

Information Leadership: Inventing a New Media Code of Conduct

What is Information Leadership and how it impacts our perception you can find out from the article by Pierre Casse, Professor of leadership at the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, and Nataliya Berezovska, CEO at Detonate Ventures, and SKOLKOVO Executive MBA graduate, publushed in the "New marketing" magazine. 
“What’s worse than a the lack of tolerance is the excess of tolerance” Voltaire 
The Power of the Media 
There is a little doubt that traditional public communication channels have a tremendous impact on the way people think, feel and behave. This is nothing new and has always been the case. Information can become knowledge and knowledge is power. This is becoming even more palpable since social networks and other user-generated web sites have become so ubiquitous across the world. People read, watch and listen to the news as well as to the countless comments made by a myriad of people across the spectrum of events, from local to global, and whilst absorbing this information consumers often fail to realize the extent of the impact such information may have on them. As such they may become brainwashed into interpreting reality in such a way.

 Nevertheless the freedom of expression is a vital component in any democratic system. With respect to the World Wide Web, the United Nations’ Council on Human Rights has recognized the right of all people to connect to the Internet as a medium of expression. However, we must accept that access to such an abundance of information, coupled with the fact that interpretation is subjective and control of information flow is limited, can have an adverse effect on the proper functioning of any democratic system.

Therefore the question as to how we find the right balance between democratic values and the way in which we share information is ever more crucial. It is no longer only the concern of traditional media professionals such as editors and program directors. Who can be sure that the next ‘Arab spring’ generated through social media would lead a society towards positive change? From journalists to bloggers, from Facebook and Twitter users to owners of interactive web-based platforms, we are all face a range of major information leadership challenges.

The “Credibility and Reliability” Challenge
Did you ever have a chance to read soviet newspapers or watch TV when the USSR existed? There was a huge gap between what people could see in the news and experience in their day-to-day lives. Propaganda was the only form of mass media communication. Today propaganda has taken some new and subtle characteristics. For example:
  • Focusing too much on the bad news 
Isn’t it quite depressing to listen to the news today? The way in which some editors select what is to be presented to the public is both devious and damaging. When challenged on the issue the fact they justify their decisions on the basis that bad news sells more media is churlish. The nature of public interest in news hasn’t changed much over time. According to a study carried out in 2007 by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, war and terrorism, disasters both man-made and natural and crime and social violence are consistently in the Top-10 most popular topics among all news categories. But do news editors really only have to concern themselves with sales and profit? Naturally as news media consumers we are upset to hear about Anders Breivik’s attacks on civilians in Norway or the recent movie theater tragedy in American city Aurora, both involving mass killings unparalleled in recent history. There is no way of ignoring such terrible news. But should we not also be concerned about the way in which we consume such news and the potential impact this might have? In focusing on the wounds and deepening human tragedies from every angle and through every media channel to the point of total saturation, might we not encourage psychopathic behavior in the future?

The systematic presentation of bad events has an impact on the observers, readers and listeners who slowly but surely begin to see the world in a very distorted and depressing way. No wonder that so many men and women are so pessimistic across many societies today.
  • Reporting on the news in a biased ‘guerilla-like’ way 
Another major issue is the way in which media people “spin” the information in the way they present it to the public. They interpret what is said and done, edit interviews to present the information in a way in which it was not intended and do not clear the final cut with those involved and they often manipulate films and pictures. This manipulation of information can be very subtle and extremely damaging especially in the reporting of people’s behavior. The main issues are often connected with giving:
  • One side of the picture and ignoring other perspectives; 
  • Some explanation about what happened in a given situation without checking or validating the source of information; 
  • The impression that the reporting is based on solid evidence when actually there is no real proof or validation of it in many cases for the sake the so called “scoop”. 
Here we are not referring to instances of divorcing celebrities in which the tabloid press covers the story based on commercial agreements with one side or another. Biased reporting is much more threatening when hidden manipulation is being used for covering such fundamental issues as political systems or relationships between nation states. One can find such instances in some news media regarding the political situation in the Middle East or ethnic conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia to name but two.
  • Transgressing some basic ethical rules 
Some news media players go so far as to spy on people, stealing private information from computers and mobile phones. They report on people in such a way that they destroy their lives. They broadcast information without checking its reliability and when shown to have been in error, they admit it and apologize, but seem unconcerned about the misery caused since the apology cannot undo the damage which has already been done.

Nataliya Berezovska, CEO at Detonate Ventures,
and SKOLKOVO Executive MBA graduate
One of the oldest tabloid newspapers in the United Kingdom, The News of The World, is closed now after 168 years in business as a result of illegally hacking into the phones of prominent people in society and Rupert Murdoch, one of the world’s most powerful media moguls, has seen his reputation and that of his corporation, News International, which owned the newspaper, tarnished as a result. People are still discussing the phone hacking scandal which emerged in 2005 in Britain and revealed 600 alleged victims, including celebrities, sport stars, politicians and victims of crime. The British government was forced to set up an official investigation into how the press should be regulated in future so that people’s privacy can be respected. The so-called Levinson Inquiry will report in 2013. It seems that certain players in the news media sector will do anything to attract people’s attention and generate sales.

The evidence would suggest that some news media producers confuse the freedom of expression with a lack of inner culture and civil tolerance. Polish radio presenters Cuba Voevudski and Michal Figurski not only caused a real scandal just before football tournament, Euro2012 which was jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine, by broadcasting insulting comments about Ukrainian women on air. As a result of their offensive behavior, they now face potential jail sentences of three years according to the criminal code. Unfortunately for the accused, nobody can turn back time and undo the humiliation caused as a result of their behavior.

The “Battle for Audience” Challenge 
It is clear that the way in which information is distributed presents a key challenge. Digitization and the proliferation of mobile platforms offer more effective methods of reaching ever larger audiences. The media landscape has changed forever. Large media corporations across the globe consistently report decreasing profits generated by traditional print media with corresponding increasing trends in online subscriptions. For instance, papers such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, The Times and Financial Times have all reported that on line subscriptions have exceeded subscriptions for traditional print media this year for the first time.

The combination of current trends in information distribution and social networking give rise to some interesting implications. From a technical perspective, anyone with access to the Internet has the same potential to distribute information as the world’s media corporations. The speed with which information is circulated is increasing. However in the maelstrom of information exchange, the facts as reported are sometimes inconsistent from source to source, something of which the consumer must be ever mindful. Nevertheless, creating the news is becoming more interactive. Our engagement in social networks provides us with the opportunity to absorb news to which we would never have had access if the friends in our networks would not retweet or like it sharing information directly with us.

 Given the changing and emergent nature of the media sector and the pressure on media distributors to build and control audience circulation, traditional media distributors have a tendency to overdo it and focus on the generation of sensationalist news items to capture the consumers’ attention and outdo the competition. The battle is going to intensify in the near future.

The “Responsibility” Challenge 
Back in the pre-digital era where every member of the editorial staff in the media supplier had a designated role and job description, the lines of authority were clear and there was no ambiguity as to who was in charge. But now the situation is far more complicated. It is not only unclear as to who is responsible for the information circulated but consumers are so often confused as to what conclusions are to be drawn from the information distributed.

Public concern is growing over where to draw a line between the need for editing information in the public interest and censorship. One question to be addressed is if, and how, those who act without due consideration for the public interest can, or should be, moderated. In the case of social networking platforms, should users who abuse their rights of expression by acting in ways contrary to the public interest, have their accounts deleted?

Democracy in action can sometimes give rise to distasteful outcomes. For example, James Holmes, the alleged gunman accused of shooting innocent movie goers at a theatre in Aurora, Colorado, USA managed to generate many on line followers and supporters once his profile became public. Following the incident, young people created Holmes-related fan pages on Tumblr and Facebook through which people could express their support for his acts of violence. However the Holmes Facebook page which had registered approximately 800 “likes” was mysteriously removed soon after it was launched on the day of the shootings. A spokesperson for Facebook, in an interview with CNN, explained that whilst “incredibly distasteful”, the Holmes page didn’t violate the company’s terms and conditions. At the same time, authorities at Facebook systematically delete images created by artists in instances where they consider such images to demonstrate nudity. Students at the New York Academy of Art consistently find work removed from their profiles. Even Gerhard Richter, a famous German visual artist, found himself the victim of Facebook’s policy when the picture of his “Emma” was deleted from the Centre Pompidou fan page.

An individual may ask how anyone can be personally responsible for information in circulation. Once in circulation we lose control. It is critical that we realize that we don’t have any private space on any social network. Therefore we must exercise care over what information we choose to share, particularly when it comes to sharing details about our private lives. “Savvy sharing” should become the motto for Internet users who broadcast over social networks.

As examples of less than “savvy sharing”, a deputy in the Ukrainian parliament uploaded a picture of the dashboard of his sport car while driving more than twice the legal speed limit or the American teacher who lost her job as a result of posting offensive comments about her students on Facebook. There are many such examples of people failing to both appreciate the implications of releasing information into the public domain and recognize the importance of sharing information responsibly.

The emergent culture of openly sharing information publicly through social platforms is still in its infancy and so it is not surprising that a recognized code of behavior has not as yet been established. As a result, people in many societies across the world are exploring the implications involved and calling for some common code of conduct to clarify the issue of responsibility in the proliferation of online media.

The “Media Leadership” Challenge 
As we survey the trends in the media sector we can’t fail to recognize how society’s information management systems have grown. It’s a complicated environment in which behavior is emergent. Mechanisms in play include both traditional and new media, individual contributors and social platforms, news agencies and informational crowd-sourcing etc. When considering how the world is changing, it seems clear that people are no longer passive media consumers waiting to be spoon-fed but rather active co-creators and distributors of media in their own right. In this new emerging scenario, speed of distribution is of the essence. The World Wide Web, as a distribution infrastructure provides people with the means of generating and participating directly in affecting social change where they consider this desirable and to the benefit of society as a whole.

Nobody is protected from the enormous impact of the free circulation of any type of news – from politicians whose comments and views can be validated and reacted upon very quickly to business people who cannot hide anymore behind some confidentiality rules that protected them in the past from too much visibility.

Of course, it’s up to each individual to make up his or her mind about what’s happening in the world around them. Moreover each individual must decide for themselves on the implications of new trends in social communication and interaction. Nevertheless the situation seems fragile enough to require some action in reinventing ourselves in the way we consume and share information with each other in our social environments.

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