Evan Davis caught up with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales at Davos on this morning’s Radio 4 Today programme. How Wikipedia can be integrated into teaching, or whether it even should be encouraged at all has been a heated topic of debate amongst fellow lecturers of late. Wales was challenged on the subject, and dealt with it deftly, arguing that telling students not even to look at Wikipedia was like telling them not to listen to rock ‘n’ roll.
He went on to discuss issues that pick up on themes addressed by Edelman’s Annual Trust Barometer, published this week (Edelman’s UK CEO Robert Phillips in video above). The Barometer reports that levels of trust in traditional media have plummeted, and are at the lowest level in the UK compared with the other countries in the twenty-strong survey. Commenting to PR Week, the BBC’s head of press Donald Steel (who is a member of LCC’s PRfutures industry advisory panel) questioned the total doom and gloom, citing Ofcom research showing high levels of trust in UK broadcasters. Academics and financial analysts are ranked as the most credible from the Barometer survey – my own recent personal experience would also have to lend me to place a big question mark over that finding, although the survey’s finding may be more a question of reputation and credibility, than one of reliability.
Returning to Jimmy Wales’ interview, he cited the use of the banner “The neutrality of this article has been disputed” on Wikipedia as evidence of why people come to trust the site, and then proceeded to throw the ball back to mainstream media. He questioned whether you could ever imagine such an approach from the BBC or the New York Times. He asked whether you could ever imagine a journalist saying, “We had a big argument in the newsroom about this, but we decided to run with it anyway.” Instead, they come over as the single, most authoritative, objective source. Evan Davis swiftly ended the interview, noting that Wales had raised issues that were ‘close to the bone’. It certainly gets to the heart of those issues of ‘trust’, and whether we need more of an attempt from mainstream media to reveal more about how their stories are put together or sourced, and to better show what is opinion and fact.
Despite all of this, I still want to fly the flag for the traditional media. It is funny how, when a report such as the Trust Barometer is launched, it is done with a large eye on mainstream media coverage (note a press release is still produced to accompany the launch). New media has its advantages, but it can still be done badly. Traditional media, when done with creative flair and imagination can dovetail efforts through new media, crucially delivering traffic, providing a trusted guide in a bewildering world, and aiding word of mouth with entertainment.
Talking of which, it’s Saturday, and we are due to find out tonight who is the UK’s choice of entrant for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Out walking the dog this morning, I got caught by a stranger calling her by the name, ‘Lulu‘, a previous UK entrant with ‘Boom Bang A Bang’. It’s something I do regularly – “Here Lulu!”. The problem is, my dog’s name is ‘Sparky‘. “It’s not fair on the poor dog, is it?” asserted the stranger. They did have a point, I suppose. I apologise, and promise never to do it again.