Opportunism an insult to a profession
As a former newspaper journalist and senior editor I’m appalled by the News of The World scandal. The unethical and illegal practices of that paper’s reporters, and of the private investigators employed to gather information about public figures, is reprehensible.
The ramifications for the NoTW publisher News International and global parent News Corporation are profound, with Rupert Murdoch offering humiliating public apologies to British politicians in a globally televised inquiry and the likelihood of tough new regulations and legal action.
There is little doubt in my mind that other UK newspapers will be swept up in this.
The danger in Australia is to associate a distinctly British media culture (borne of the ferocious competition between that country’s national daily tabloids, known as Red Tops) with News Corporation’s Australian media assets.
In almost 18 years working for daily and weekly newspapers owned by News Ltd (the Australian holding company), I did not see or hear of any journalists hacking phone messages, employing PIs, bribing police or indulging in other outrageous illicit or illegal behaviours.
That’s not to say reporters and editors (and the readers who consumed the stories) weren’t indirectly complicit in some ways with the NoTW scandal. Australian newspapers, TV and radio stations and online news sites probably reprinted stories from British newspapers that had been sourced from phone message taps or other illicit activities, or generated their own versions of these stories. But they were certainly not aware of the methods used to gain the original material.
I’m therefore disappointed that public figures, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, are using the NoTW scandal to push for inquiries into Australian media behaviours and changes to Australia’s own laws governing privacy when no evidence has been provided that it is in fact a problem here. No connection has been drawn between the culture of Britain’s Red Tops and Australia’s News Ltd titles, which operate under a much different business and behavioural framework. It is a step too far.
I am not defending News Ltd, nor all journalists in Australia, but I regard these calls as opportunistic and unjustified. They are an insult to thousands of ethical journalists who work for News Ltd, Fairfax, AAP, ACP, the ABC, SBS, Seven, Nine, Ten and many other proprietors.
Politicians may not like the way some news outlets report on their activities and policies, but they should remember that reporters cast a sceptical eye to governments, oppositions, politicians and policies of all persuasions. It can make them uncomfortable, and when wrongdoing is uncovered it can even cost them their jobs. That’s one of the responsibilities journalists have in a robust democracy.
This won’t hurt a bit…
How anaesthesia is practiced, not just in Australian hospitals but perhaps all around the world, may be fundamentally changed based on the results of Australian research being undertaken at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne.
Doctors at the hospital believe that general anaesthesia in older people may significantly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Much basic data on this issue has been already captured by the hospital’s Department of Anaesthesiology but thanks to funding from the Bupa Health Foundation, a Porter Novelli client, the team at St Vincent’s now has the opportunity to take its research to the next level.
The St Vincent’s project was one of 11 different initiatives recently announced as the Bupa Health Foundation’s 2011 award winners who will share more than $2 million in funding from the charitable body.
The research initiative was featured on ABC TV 7pm news nationally (June 29, 2011) by ABC medical reporter Sophie Scott. In the report, researchers pointed to the way people are usually anaesthetised for surgical procedures may need to change in the future if they are able to prove their hypothesis (and they are confident they will). This means doctors may now need to look to further use a range of alternative techniques, from local anaesthetics to spinal blocks, depending on the type of operation being carried out.
This will also open up ways to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s Disease, even to the point of introducing preventative medications for the condition in patients who need to undergo general anaesthetic.
However, as a friend of mine noted after seeing the television coverage, “If you think I want to be awake when someone is cutting me open, you can think again – I will take my chances with Alzheimer’s.”
Different approaches to anaesthesia for various procedures have been trialled internationally over many years. While it is clear there may be therapeutic benefits to not putting a patient completely “under” during certain operations, there will need to be a great deal of patient education and reassurance carried out before we see any significant shift in what people will expect and accept when it comes to anaesthesia for a surgical procedure.
Ambassadors, brands and being irreplaceable
Coco Chanel once said that “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” Now I don’t really consider myself particularly memorable but I have always been intrigued by those who are. And in a world saturated by advertising it is imperative to understand what makes a brand, product or person irreplaceable.
Our society’s fascination with celebrity is undeniable, which is why ambassador selection can play a big part in the success of a campaign. However, with the plethora of options from movie stars to sporting legends, from master chefs to reality TV sensations, who will make the biggest splash now but also, keep the brand top of mind for years to come?
Last Friday, July 1 marked what would have been Princess Diana’s 50th birthday. Even 14 years after her death, her mark on the royal family and the world is undeniable. In a recent article for UK’s Daily Telegraph, Patrick Jepson, equerry and private secretary to HRH The Princess of Wales, suggests that it was her combination of beauty, pluck and compassion as well as the “strong dash of injustice” that immortalised her story.
Interestingly, Jepson refers to the Monarchy as a brand for which Diana became a powerful symbol of “glamorous concern”. At a time when much of the public life seemed dehumanising, she became the change agent that encouraged the stiff-upper-lipped nation to recognise the existence of feelings behind the Windsors’ veil of decorum. So much so, that even now the world continues to compare Princess Katherine to Diana and searches for the same compassion in her sons.
Just as in the case of the royal family, the right ambassador can humanise a brand and soften consumer sentiment, leaving them open to your message. However, the emotional connection that the ambassador creates with their audience comes from the person themselves and not the script you provide.
Maya Angelou once said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This rings true for the world’s most powerful brands. Think of Apple, Chanel, Coca Cola, Disney, Facebook and Nike; stripped of emotion, these brands provide products that are somewhat different but by no means irreplaceable.
So, when trying to determine the best ambassador concentrate outwards rather than inwards. How do you want to make others feel? Determine the emotion that will resonate best with your audience and seek out the people that channel that feeling in their everyday (be it glamorous) lives.
Who’s steering the live export ship?
Sigh. It’s happened again.
How does Australian agriculture so regularly – and spectacularly – evacuate the moral high ground and competitive advantage to its international competitors?
AWB in Iraq, AWI and mulesing……..now live animals exports. Again.
Yes, the vision from Indonesia is terrible. The farming kids (mostly now adults) in the office acknowledge that horror and the unacceptable lack of concern for animal welfare. Most of us who grew up on the land have waved goodbye to sheep and cattle destined for remote international dinner plates.
However, once again, a legitimate agricultural industry with worthy motive has been caught out, and in being caught has lost any opportunity for moderate debate, perhaps this time, irretrievably.
Here’s a simple perspective. The reason live export is preferred for markets like Indonesia, the Middle East and other parts of Asia are partly cultural and religious, but they’re also quite practical. Refrigeration. Or, rather, the cost of refrigeration, both commercial and domestic.
Fresh meat (not frozen) is required, so animals must be freshly slaughtered. As it does in so many global markets, Australian agriculture is a big player in feeding the world.
The problem is that live animal export communication – like so much of Australia’s agricultural trade – has been managed by industry bodies as an issue to mitigate, unsupported by a program to educate and inform. Too late came this Meat and Livestock Australia op-ed in The Australian.
The current situation is an opportunity for all stakeholders to better collaborate on a trade that is economically and socially beneficial for Australia and its trading partners.
In the interests of animal welfare and food safety, Australia should be involved in the trade.
It can and should – as a major producer – set the standard for global animal welfare by ensuring that more money and effort is directed effectively towards education and facilities in end-use countries. The animal rights lobby has a voice and a cause, but ending the trade from Australia doesn’t serve the cause.
The way forward is all parties – producers, regulators, the complete supply chain, governments, observers and the wider community - to accept and agree live animal exports serve a legitimate economic and social purpose, that Australia can lead this industry, and that animal welfare should be the centrepiece of action.
Update 04/07/11 – today’s Australian and Weekly Times
“INDONESIA has slapped its own ban on live cattle imports, citing the Australian government’s export embargo that has paralysed the northern cattle industry.”
This is hardly surprising given the knee jerk reaction to cease live export. They are naturally going to maintain security of supply from elsewhere, sadly from countries without animal rights charters. The Australian industry loses again, as do the animals themselves.
NB. This blog post was written in collaboration with Porter Novelli consultant, Sharon Watt.