Here is the abstract of the paper I am giving at the University of Westminster today (Wedesday 8th June)
“Marching on the news media: how PR tried to conquer journalism during the Russia-Georgia conflict of 2008”
When Russian troops went into the breakaway Georgian territory of South Ossetia in August 2008, a second front, far from the
battlefields of the Caucasus, was soon opened. Its forward positions were in Moscow and Tbilisi, but its strategy was conceived on the boulevards of Brussels. The objective in this second war was international opinion. Drawing on interview material from a BBC World Service documentary which the author made with David Edmonds in October 2008, and analysis of the work of the rival Brussels-based consultancies who advised on the media campaigns of the belligerents, this paper seeks to examine why both sides put so much effort into spinning the war, and what effect that had on the way it was reported.
In doing so, it will also reflect on the fact that, despite the predicted reduction of television’s influence as a news medium, it continues to be seen as dominant. Both Russia and Georgia are among the countries which, in recent years, have launched international television news
channels. The paper will also consider the correspondent as the privileged holder of a rare perspective in conflict zones - particularly in cases where access permits them to observe a conflict from more than one side. In conclusion, it will suggest how this perspective, combined with new technology, can enable the journalist to bypass the efforts of public relations consultants, and thus provide audiences with better information: exactly the kind of journalism we should preserve, and encourage.