Theo Coggin

A blog on communications

Archive for the month “November, 2016”

The “Fifth Estate” – A brave new world?

fifth-estateJournalism as we know it, or as I as a self-confessed news junkie have known and loved it, died when Donald Trump became President-Elect of the USA. We see this new phenomenon of what is overtaking the Fourth Estate unfolding daily. Will it become known as the Fifth Estate?

Donald Trump and his cronies know they don’t need the New York Times, CNN, or any of the major news agencies that have influenced us for decades. A new road has opened up. Trump realises that with the power of social media, he can tell the Fourth Estate to get screwed – and is doing so, and telling us at will as he Tweets, in no uncertain terms.

With the power of social media, he can and does choose his own time, his own media, his own way of getting his message out, without having to kowtow to the whims and fancies of a press corps baiting him at the White House or anywhere else.

Twitter has been his most obvious form of social media communication, and highly successful it has been. (The fear of his incoming defence and security chiefs must surely be that he will tweet their attack strategies before they are launched!) Much to the anguished cries of mainline journalism that he is not giving them their due, he populates his Twitter account with the messages he wants to go out. He edits them; they’re in the words he wants to use and portray the image of himself that he wishes. Screw the interpretations of mainline journalists, no matter how much time they have spent or how well they did at the likes of Columbia’s School of Journalism.

Some of these journalists are brilliant. They have outstanding minds. But I have to tell them that Trump and his legion of social media advisors know how to use 21st century platforms to bypass them and their frequently preconceived interpretations of the President-Elect. The irritation of the journalists, some of them hardened and vastly experienced anchor men and women, is obvious.

I don’t like what’s happening. But happening it is.

So Twitter, YouTube, Facebook…. you name them. Donald Trump has reinvented the way Presidents of the United States will forever – certainly until I depart this mortal coil – communicate with their publics.

Resurrect yourselves fast, old-time journalists, or face extinction. The brave new world of social media is already way ahead of you as it lends itself to the whims and fancies of the politicians of this century. This in an age when we should be extremely wary of the unfettered use of this media. But more of that in another blog….

Refugee blues in 2016

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there's no place for us, my dear, yet there's no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you'll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can't do that, my dear, old passports can't do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
"If you've got no passport you're officially dead":
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
"If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread":
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, "They must die":
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren't German Jews, my dear, but they weren't German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren't the human race, my dear, they weren't the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me. - WH Auden


I heard this poem read at a Christmas Carol concert this past Sunday. By W H Auden, I had not heard Refugee Blues for many a year.


And then, last night, I watched another appalling “episode” of the refugee crisis stalking our world. It is 2016; almost 2017. Christmas with its own story of the refugee child, Jesus, is around the corner, and all the shopping malls of the cities scream at us again… and again, and again.

And the refugee story remains as apt as 2000 years ago. The difference is that this year, last year, next year… well, the difference is that story simply invades our comfortable living rooms via TV and social media.

I find it good to read again these words written in 1939 just before World War II when thousands of Jews were starting their flight from Germany and newsreels told the story. I find it instructive to read as contemporary media floods our homes, when it deems it newsworthy, of stories of people bloodied and bruised by the big Herods of the modern world, running away from their homes. It is as stark and eerie as the story of that little Jewish family that ran from Bethlehem so long ago.

We just never learn to accept everyone as we wish ourselves to be loved.


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