Mark spoke at the Westminster Media Forum on the 26th April 2018 ¬ the subject Next steps for tackling fake news – impact, industry response
and options for policy
Responding to the challenges: media literacy, responsibilities and options for policy Mark Borkowski, Founder and Creative Head, Borkowski PR
My friends in media land in media sales claim our attention span in that 8 seconds, so given the fact that the goldfish’s attention span is 6 seconds I’ll try and make this as short as possible to so my views actually do embed yourself.
I believe everything is different and everything is the same, predominantly because human behaviour is not fundamentally changing and as a publicist who started as a PR at the tender age of 20, I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared as what I’ve actually seen particularly over the last 10 years, perhaps 15. I don’t see standards improving; I see standards degrading. The cost of journalism and the will of many people to go into journalism is diminishing dependŠ whatever the rhetoric, the corporate rhetoric has been placed out.
I’m just going to show one slide, how do I make this. Okay, it’s an extraordinary slide. This is life on the moon. This was a story in The Sun, a New York newspaper, a penny dreadful, 1835. Supposedly this was the image drawn by someone who’s looking through an enormous telescope and looking at the face of the moon. And here we see life on the moon. This was ran; this ran over six editions. It generated a huge conversation and when it was declared a hoax, The Great Moon Hoax, a month after by an opposing publication so newspaper proprietors still fight as they did then, it had to be reprinted. The curiosity level was so great, it had to be reprinted and the reprint sold more than the lie that was perpetrated. So, the fake news, as we all know, is not new.
The great PT Barnum, many people studied it but in some way we’ve forgotten history; we’ve forgotten the lessons of history and actually many of a well-known broadsheet features editor spoke to me the other day to say that they were discussing Lee Harvey Oswald at which point a junior on the desk said, who’s Lee Harvey Oswald. The fact is that we’re moving so quickly, it is now the power of the now and that is what the audience require. The great Frederic Remington, and I’ll read this last one out about fake news, Frederic Remington, an artist hired by Hearst to provide illustrations to accompany a series of articles on the Cuban Revolution, soon became bored with the seemingly peaceful Cuba and wired Hearst in 1897; everything is quiet, there is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return. To which Hearst allegedly replied, please
remain, you furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the news.
So, if you look at the values, I think the penny dreadfuls of journalism back in the late 1800’s, 1900’s there was scare headlines in huge print,always focusing on minor news; lavish use of pictures and imaginary drawings, faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudo-science and a parade of false learning from so-called experts. Ladies and gentlemen, what has changed? Really, what has changed?
If we have this eight-second, it’s a world of abundance; it’s a world of abundance. The genie is out of the bottle. So many people draw their, their references from tin-foiled hat lunatics on YouTube. It’s the truth and the distributors of the information need to be regulated, we’ve gone past the point of no return. We are in very dangerous times. And these continual erosion of standards despite, as I said previously, the rhetoric of corporate entities who are voices for many of the digital giants, need to be silenced. We need to be included, the speed, the friction of speed which we accept to get information without in any sense fact checking is becoming something of a plague. You know, we have too many parochial ideas, ignorance of the history of ideas and we need a greater media literacy in the school system.
And fake news is not dissipating because we’re chasing the money. We’re chasing click-bait just as click-bait in a pre-digital era drove income. And if we think of how people consider ideas, is what they really feel about the spokespeople.
And I want to read, finally because I want to be quick, I want to read two quotes and I want you to think where these come from, here they are, always put on a piece of paper, do not use this. I’m overwhelmed by tech. There are number of impersonal forces which are pushing a number of technological devices which anybody who wishes to use them can use to accelerate this process of going away from freedom, and imposing control. And that was a word of warning from Aldous Huxley in a Mike Wallace interview, and if you haven’t seen a Mike Wallace interviews they’re all on the net now watch them, in 1958. And the conclusion of his interview, Aldous Huxley’s interview was, all you need now is money and a candidate who can be coached to look sincere. Political principles and plans for specific actions have come to lose most of their importance, the personality of the candidate, the way he is projected by the advertising experts, are the things that really matter. Again, what’s changed?