Friday, January 24, 2003

Brainstorming the world in six days

Media reporting of top-tier globalisation conferences (TTGCs), such as the World Economic Forum (WEF), currently on in Davos, Switzerland, will usually to be inadequate, tangential, or hagiographic, or a combination of all three. Unlike, say, an “exclusive” Hollywood A-list party, where the media will naturally be be present in small force (if only because the A-list itself includes a fair number of writers and photographers), a TTGC can manage no such fudging - the sheep and the goats must be counted and separated .

In the micro-scheduled (270 seminars in six days) WEF, every delegate is concomitantly micro-managed, in terms of their level of access and accreditation. Involving not just multi-hued lanyards and laminates (now standard at just about every large-scale walk-around event, whether a conference or rock concert), but "smart" name tags, the WEF and its TTGC ilk are wrapped up in as much deadly-serious yet arcane protocol as an Elizabethan royal court.

Even for a journalist with high-level access, then, there is no mood-on-the-street “pulse” that can be taken at a TTGC – everything and everyone is much too stratified for this. The near-inevitable protests outside any TTGC, of course, may represent an attractive, alternative angle of coverage – despite the hugely wasteful misallocation of media resources in a privileged insider choosing to cover the outside, and so jostle alongside everyone else in the broadcast commons.

Today’s The Age/AFP report - - of the start of the WEF certainly doesn’t digress to things on the outside. Indeed, the report is so tame and context-less, it could almost cynically be dismissed as being just direct regurgitation of WEF PR guff. Only the mistakes it makes have me wondering – maybe there is at least one real journalist holed up in Davos; with the excuse for his/her terrible copy being their low level of access and accreditation – so low in fact, that they can’t even come up with a factually correct simulacra of a WEF media release.

So for the record, the mistakes: (i) Accenture is NOT, in January 2003, fairly describable as “formerly Arthur Andersen” with the former (consulting) firm being spun out of the latter (accounting) firm in 1989, and severing any remaining all ties in October 2000 -
(ii) there is apparently a six-day “brainstorming session” at WEF, a session that in fact runs the entire length of the Forum itself. One’s mind boggles at the amount of butcher’s paper being drawn upon on sturdy easels for this session. Okay, this one is probably not so much a “mistake”, as the infelicitous use of ambiguous term. One fairly senses, however, that the poor hack who wrote these words, has never directly experienced a corporate “brainstorming session”. For this reason alone, the WEF appears to have chosen their leading wire journalist well - from the streets of Davos, the mood is that of the office junior when he/she is locked in a cupboard for six days.

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