We live in a phenomenal time: the world is getting smaller due to a digital environment, social networks, and developed transportation systems. The issues and opportunities are getting global; communication and information are becoming an integral part of our reality. In this new environment, one of the most important preconditions of being successful is the ability to work with the information both as a generator and consumer of it. Unfortunately, very often we lack in this issue, this is the reason why media specialists regularly speak about the quality standards of information and its impact on the readers and even on current processes of international relations and decision making.
In April of this year, I had an opportunity to participate in an exchange program organized by Digital Communication Network, World learning and U.S. Department of State. The exchange program was held in the United States, during which media specialists from 16 countries discussed the current issues of the digital environment, exchanged their professional experience and outlined the main ways of mutual cooperation in order to make the digital world a better place.
During this period, we visited the Poynter Institute for Media Studies (Florida, USA), where we learned about the local experience of data verification.
In general, the mechanisms of struggle against disinformation were the main topics of our discussions. Currently one of the effective experiences is the formation of media companies specialized in data verification (fact-checking organizations) and their active involvement in this process. There are no such large companies in Armenia yet, but I believe that this format will soon start to be more active in our country.
Our group participated in the ISOJ two-day conference, which was held in Austin, Texas: one of the major industrial centers of the USA. World’s leading media companies like the New York Times, CNN, Insider Inc., and others represented their successful digital experience. Professional journalists and editors from many countries, especially from Latin America introduced their stories about creating objective journalism and their struggle against disinformation.
I always like to say that media does not only belong to journalists anymore, it belongs to businesses, political figures, and individuals. If in the past professionalism of journalists and presenting objective information were the main problem, today almost everyone deals with information: individuals write statuses, PR specialists write articles, advertising specialists make videos, etc. In other words, there is no clear distinction what a certain specialist should do if we speak about media content generating. Based on this principle the exchange program was for PR specialists as well.
Here is the part about PR and my journey to Atlanta.
Most of the time I was waiting for my trip to Atlanta not for the fact that the city was the center of civil movement in the 1960s and home city of Martin Luther King, not for the fact that headquarter of CNN is located here and Coca-Cola was originated here, not for the fact that Olympic Games of 1996 were held here and even not for my beloved song Georgia by Ray Charles. I could not wait for my trip to Atlanta for the opportunity to spend a week in a PR and marketing agency Nebo. Here is why: I founded my own PR agency in Armenia with my friends five months ago, so I had so many questions to professionals, who made great achievements for 15 years in the USA.
Atlanta was full of contradictions: on one side of the street, you could see the headquarters of world-famous companies, on the other side of the street you could see many homeless people.
The intensive week spent in Atlanta was coming to its end: it was time to go to Washington. Yes, Washington DC.
I do not know what kind of impressions you had while visiting the US for the first time. As for me, I was impressed by green areas, esp. in Washington, where I only expected to see tall buildings, car pollution, and a very busy crowd. It turned out to be my subjective associations. In fact, Washington greeted me with endless green areas, cyclists and people quietly walking in the parks. The official residence of US president White House, home of US Congress the Capitol, Abraham Lincoln memorial, Potomac river with its rafting races, and river area with its cozy streets that I discovered was very impressive. In Washington, our group was hosted by Voice of America, as well as by Embassy of Lithuania, where we, along with embassy representatives of participating countries, discussed the challenges of disinformation that almost all the countries face.
Our last host was the U.S. Department of State, which was the official organizer of our exchange program. It was very challenging and interesting to dine with the regional representatives of the U.S. Department of State and to discuss world current events.
While being beyond the ocean you discover not only a new and interesting culture, about which you heard from Hollywood movies, but you also realize that in these conditions of information freedom all the borders between the countries disappear. There are no better opportunities or better countries in order to be successful. All you need is a connection to the internet and the ability to work with information. You can create a product, idea or service and tell about it to the whole world with the help of digital tools.
The center of the universe is where you live, even if there are other places with more green areas in the world.