25 Jun 2017

Fake News Alert - “Fake News Isn’t New, It Has Just Been Industrialised” - Expert Jimmy Leach Gives Us Some Insightful Advices About The Topic

Continuing with the series “Global PR Leaders”, developed in-cooperation with the World Communication Forum (WCF) – www.forumdavos.com – and my blog “globalpublicrelations”, I had the pleasure to interview a mastermind in digital communications and in the increasingly popular field of “Fake News”. This time we have Jimmy Leach, a journalist, digital consultant and columnist at IBTimes, from the UK, giving some valuable insights about this super interesting topic.

Jimmy has been active in the world of the digital since the turn of the century, taking both content and communications roles and driving the cultural shifts needed in organisations, in order to help them perform better. Recently, he writes most regularly for London Times and IBTimes. He also shares digital insight in publications at The Huffington Post.
He runs a consultancy, Zinzan Digital, which provides communications, change and delivery strategies for heads of state, blue chip corporates, start-ups, NGOs, and individuals, working from nose to tail to hone platforms, content, social media and engagement, helping the client engage and interact with its target audience better, so the audience gets to know the client much more effectively. He has worked in editorial digital roles at two newspapers - as executive editor at the Guardian (responsible for the digital side of the two bigger B2B areas - education and public sector), and as editorial director for digital at the The Independent.
Intertwined with the above functions were senior roles in digital government. First, as head of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office in Downing Street, delivering high profile projects and content for two Prime Ministers, and also as head of digital diplomacy at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, spearheading the drive to make the FCO an organisation recognized as a leader with its digital performance - engaging and communicating across a huge digital and social space in 40 different languages.
And, amongst all that, he has worked for two communications companies - in consumer PR, at Freuds (as Digital Director), and in reputation management, at Portland (as Senior Associate for Digital). Find Jimmy on social at Jimmy Leach Linkedin and Follow him on Twitter @JimmyTLeach.

1)      The title of your article posted on the Huffington Post on March 27, 2017, entitled: “Fake News Isn’t New, It Has Just Been Industrialised”. What do you mean by that?
I just mean that there has always been an objective version of the truth, often held by authority. So 'the truth' used to be what the king said was the truth. Or what the scribes said was true - those who write the history are the ones who own the 'truth'. But there have always been challenges to that - they might have been described as heretics, or revolutionaries, but they were simply challenging the accepted view of events. And these were decried by the authorities as 'fake news'.
What is new now is the sheer scale of that - data-led, targeted versions of different realities (alternative facts). Producing different versions of 'the truth' for specific markets so that people hear what they want to hear - and act or vote accordingly.
2)      Why do you think objectivity is dead?
Not sure if it is dead, but it is not so popular. News is everywhere. We are all able to know everything instantly. The real currency is in interpretation or 'a new angle' on information. That is what drives the attention of people, and we are in an attention economy. It is in the interests of news providers to find that 'new take' on information. It drives revenues and supports the influence they want to have.
3)      Why does a “partisan angle” mean?
News is a difficult market. It is hard to make money - so why would people do it? They do it for the reach and influence it gives them, so positioning their brand or organisation by taking a particular, political, posture enables them to both target their audiences (as above) but also court favour from politicians and decision makers.
4)      In your article, you state that it is “all about the users and economics”. Could you please explain that statement in more details?
We are the ones who click on this nonsense. In our hearts, we know that it is not true, but we click on it to entertain our minds when we should be working... If we rejected the partisan, the slanted, the untrue and the inaccurate, then there would be a market correction.
Money would follow truth, objectivity and even-handed analysis. There is no money in fairness because we choose differently. This is our own fault...
5)      What challenges do you think organisations will face with news, in general, in the near future?
Trump, Brexit and the kind of false flags you get from foreign interference in information means that where we once trusted institutions and senior figures to be honest with us, we now cannot. If there is no single source we can trust to provide accuracy, then news organisations should fill the gap.
But that is not economically viable all the time. If news organisations are supposed to speak truth unto power, it is difficult to see where that truth comes from. And that is on the assumption that at least some news organisations are seeking it.
6)      Is there anything that can be done to anticipate crisis communications generated by Fake News?
I don't think you can dignify fake news with crisis responses if you ever want it to go away. There may be some occasions where fake news generates enough traction to warrant full scale communications’ responses, but the majority of the time, simple, quick denials would suffice.
7)      You were at the 8th World Communication Forum in Geneva, on March 2017, to discuss about Fake News. What is the importance of discussing this topic in events like the WCF?
I think it is important to understand the scale of the issue and to find ways to stop contributing to it. Fake news can often be benign – for instance, “the 17 things you didn't know about sausages'-style”, nonsense content which are simply content marketing campaigns. That adds to the level of sewage in the harbour.
Any organisation which actively seeks ways to improve the quality of information and analysis will stand out and raise the bar for others. Events which encourage professionals to raise the bar should be welcomed.
*** The below image was not provided by the interviewee but included to illustrate the article and give some tips by a trusted source. :)
8)      Final remarks?
A lot of fake news revolves around politics. Reject the political sources of fake news. Use your vote wisely!
Keep an eye on what's trending in the world of communications, PR, international relations and all-between at www.forumdavos.com. Join us next year in Switzerland and be among the trend-setters. Become a Member of the World Communication Forum Association - WCFA, www.wcfa.ch :) See you in the alps!
Follow me on Twitter - @FlaviOliveiraBR - and keep on smiling :)


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you very much, Cathleen! Glad you found it useful! :-)

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