Posts Tagged ‘media’

On grains of truth

Once upon a time I was stood in front of one of my teachers having explained myself for some indiscretion. Considering my defence for a moment she opined that there may have been a grain of truth in my excuses, but punished me anyway. Some years later as a suited and booted manager, far further up the ladder than perhaps my teacher had expected, that expression of a grain of truth came up twice in quick succession.

Both were in a marketing context, the first time when we were putting together some promotional material and all of our efforts had failed to impress the marketing director. We needed a hook he told us, something that those reading it could latch onto. It needs that grain of truth that the customer can identify with and see an answer to a problem that they need solving. We got there in the end; we must have because that brochure generated a decent return in new business.

The other time was when I was running a professional event and we had hired a comedian to do the after dinner slot. Chatting about what we did he asked questions to give him, as he put it, a few nuggets, grains of truth that the audience would instantly identify with. Things that he could weave stories around and get a laugh from. Irt was an intriguing insight into how a funny person plied their craft and, despite him having had no real knowledge of what we did before the event, he delivered a blistering 45 minutes that made him seem one of us. Those grains of truth brought it all into our perspective.

This all came back to me recently when I was video chatting with an American contact. In the course of discussing the current political situation there told me that he understands the conspiracy theorists even if he does not agree with them. There will be an event, a fact that cannot be denied, at the centre, but the how, why and aftermath are open to interpretation and speculation. With the echo chambers that exist on social media people who want to believe in a particular slant on that initial grain of truth will come to an unshakeable belief in that story.

There is a lot of fake news out there, even amongst the genuine media outlets where their bias, either political or to make a good story, rarely offers the full truth, but there is a grain of truth here and there just to hang the overall tale on. If only critical thinking was more prevalent it wouldn’t matter, but too many people take anything at face value, especially if it suits the echo chamber that they like to live in.

I mentioned jokes above and any good joke has that grain of truth, the element of reality that people can relate to at its heart. The same applies to a good cartoon. You have to be able to recognise the characters or the situation in order to see the funny side.

Over my years in a suit there were countless occasions when I presented a report, or proposal, that was slanted in the way that I, or my boss, wanted. There was always a backbone of truth even if we left out aspects that may have detracted from our aims. As I worked my way up the greasy pole of corporate management my own experiences of presenting these sort of things stood me in good stead when challenging those who were presenting to me.

Always be prepared to challenge what you are being told. Form your own opinions based, not on what you are told, but what you can find out, and never be afraid about changing your mind later if you find out something new that changes things. There is no shame in learning.


on fake news

I am not one for conspiracy theories and am fully aware that news media are not, in this day and age, unbiased so I treat anything that I read or hear from them with as open a mind as I can. If something interests me enough then I try to triangulate and get bearing from other directions and try to form my opinions accordingly. I was, at least, taught at school to try and think critically and that side of my education was refreshed as I worked my way up the greasy pole of management through three decades.

An example of something that is puzzling me at the moment, and it is an area in which I have a professional interest, is a claim that I saw recently that we have lost over 100,000 lorry drivers from the UK job market.

Now I know that some drivers from EU countries have left due to the UK leaving the EU, but 100,000? This just does not gel with what I see and hear around me. There are not loads of trucks parked up with no drivers and when I talk to immigrant drivers they will admit that some of their compatriots have gone home, but not in any great numbers.

There are issues in terms of recruiting and retaining drivers within the industry; poor pay, nowhere to park for statutory breaks, poor facilities and, for those not directly employed, the costs of retaining their licence. Even getting a licence now is a problem because of a ridiculous EU regulation that we have not struck from the statute that prevents someone going directing to an articulated truck licence (you have to take a rigid truck test first and then move up to an artic) effectively pretty much doubling the cost of a licence.

But the media channels are reporting a shortage of drivers as a problem of us having left the EU and so that is what the person in the street believes when they see an empty shelf at their local store.

I will refrain from banging on too much about these things; there are plenty of other examples and you may well have favourites of your own. It seems that the media are either trying to make a political point or are just looking for ways to sex up a story and think that we are all too stupid to challenge them, or maybe it is also just the echo chamber effect; to give their readers news biased to the way that they want to hear it.

Sad really, but the truth has become what you want it to be and that is dangerous. Orwell’s 1984 might have come late, but I think that it has, perhaps, caught up with us.

perception versus reality revisited

Perception is belief. How you see things is the truth as far as you are concerned and it will stay that way until something comes along that might change your mind. It is a trait that we humans will probably always have.

It is fine as long as we are open to new ideas and are prepared to be proved wrong. If we are not then we are bigots and that is one of the problems with society today; there are too many people who are not willing to have their beliefs challenged.

I grew up through a world of change, not just in what was happening in the post WW2 period, but also because we moved house every couple of years or so. By the time I left school in 1969 it was my fifth school in 12 years. That revolving cast of teachers and other adults that helped form me fell broadly into two groups. One group lectured me in their beliefs whilst the others gave me their opinion, but pushed me to think for myself.

That carried on into my working life where there were many people who were dogmatic about how things were or should be done, the “My way or the highway” type, but there were also the rarer people who would ask “Why” or “What happens if…” and these people were also open to allowing me to challenge their thinking.

I learnt that to be certain was a dangerous thing. Weigh up the available evidence and make your decision, but be prepared to explain why you had come to it and never be afraid to allow others, especially subordinates, to offer their thoughts.

Today in society it seems that informed debate is dead. Social media appears to dominate people’s thinking and if you do not line up with the way others see things you are wrong. In a time when people’s rights are trumpeted everywhere the fundamental right to free speech has been lost. Offence is taken freely, but the way that we react to something that we hear or read is our own choice; we do not have to take offence at anything and personally I don’t, no matter how abhorrent what has been written or said is to my beliefs.

Hatred is everywhere as opinions become more polarised and topics are dealt with at a purely superficial level and, sadly, it is at that slim veneer that people’s perceptions become fixed. What people today seem to believe is not critically thought out, it is based around sound bites on social media which is the last place to be looking for informed debate. Because people gravitate towards sources that support their way of thinking and so shut themselves off from anything that might balance their opinions.

There is no short term fix to this and eventually there will be a swing the other way. It may not be in my lifetime, but it will come. I hope that there is not too much damage done before it happens. There is an old adage that The Truth Will Out and one day we will get back to a place where there is more congruence between perception and reality than there is now.

what’s facilities management when it’s at home?

“What’s facilities maintenance when its’s at home?” The question jolted me out of my reverie as I heard it from the person sat in front of me on the ‘bus. Their companion had no answer and I was not inclined to answer, but it took me back a good few years. Read more…

musings on competition from cheerleaders to infinity

A bit of a mixed bag of threads this morning, but often in life, professional and personal you will find that many roads will lead you to the same place. Read more…

musings on crisis management and the Ebola virus in the USA

October 20, 2014 1 comment

I have been following the Ebola issue rather closely, or should I say it has been following me for here in the USA you can’t escape coverage of it.  Read more…

what’s in a name?

A recent high profile re-brand has caused a bit of a flutter in the industry concerned, so with people talking about it, it must have worked, yes? Read more…

musings on poor procurement and management on the soccer front

Although I am not a close follower of football these days, the nonsense of making a stadium all seater in the interests of safety and then allowing everyone to stand up is enough to put me off, and then there are those ridiculous shorts! But I do keep a passing interest, and a couple of things caught my attention last week. Read more…

facilities managers to save the nation! holiday humour from MondayMusings

Easter Monday began dull and grey, the dawn seeming to be unable to cope with the clocks wanting daylight an hour earlier. TCB was up and about feeding the cats and making tea for himself and the Berkshire Belle and looking forward to watching the motor racing from Brands Hatch that he had recorded the previous day. He’d switched on the TV as the kettle came to the boil, but it seemed that, rather than the news, there was a special broadcast to the nation by the Prime Minister on all channels. Read more…

let’s stop using power words in CVs and bid documents

January 21, 2013 1 comment

Last week I got involved in a cyber-debate about the overuse of power words, in this case about their use in CVs, but the principle applies more widely. I have two main issues with this abuse of language; firstly that much of it is transparently nonsense (and therefore untrue) and secondly that it wastes my time. Read more…