29 November 2012

TFPL Connect International 2012

The last TFPL Connect event in another good year gave us a personal perspective on the changing balance of power in communication and information delivery.

But first we had an introduction from TFPL supremo Darron Chapman which gave us his view of some current trends. He also reminded us that we lost Angela Abell earlier in the year. She was a regular at TFPL events and I spoke to her many times.

Our guide for the main part of the evening was Jonathan Charles, former BBC reporter and now Director of Communications at the EBRD.

His main message was to compare and contrast his two roles and to explain how in both he tried to be a trusted source of the truth.

What follows is a mix of his comments and my reactions to them.

There used to be very few sources but they were all reliable in 1987 (25 years ago). The only people who provided the news were qualified journalists working for reputable organisations.

Now information is faster and there is more of it, more sources, but reliability is less.

In the news we are reading the first draft of history, but it will change over time when it, and its implications, is understood better. Nobody in Spain has forgotten which side people were on during the Franco regime.

The digital revolution needs trusted guides - such as the BBC. Corporate communications now better funded than journalism and is placed to fill this role, if the job is done properly.

We were shown a video of work done by the EBRD in Slovakia. I felt that we were only being told part of the story, in particular the children looked very white.

Is it really a more complex world than 25 years ago or do we just understand more about the complexity?

Can you only be trusted by being safe? By that I mean sticking to facts that are easily verifiable and lack a complex context. What is the truth about Syria?

Are the BBC really to be trusted? There have been many times when I have found it to be outrageously biased in favour of "the establishment".

Information is always seen through the somebody's biased eyes. Perhaps we should be honest and recognised our own biases, rather looking fr an absolute truth that does not exist? Are trusted guides just myths?

I think we can trust guides by making allowances for their bias when this is obvious but the BBC pretends not to have one.

As usual at TFPL Connect the main session was followed by an long networking session slightly charmed with wine and nibbles. A good group of people go to TFPL Connect and the conversations always flow widely and easily. That is why I go whenever I can.

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