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C. Stearns: Address to World Summit 2020

Address to World Summit 2020, Seoul, Korea, February 3-8, 2020


Good morning, everybody. Let me congratulate all of you for your attendance at this very important conference, which is designed to increase our understanding of where journalism and the media are today and what we can do to reclaim and upgrade the mission of journalism in the 21st century and to clarify the freedom and responsibility of the press for the future.

Obviously, the establishment of the International Media Association for Peace (IMAP) is a great step forward, and I commend the founders for their foresight. I had the opportunity to read the IMAP resolution and feel it is concise and a great way to chronicle humankind's desire for peace, security and human development. I also want to acknowledge the leadership of Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and her late husband, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, for their clairvoyance and extraordinary ability to perceive events in the future and then to develop strategies to address them. It is truly commendable.

I read The Washington Times every day, and I can't tell you how important this newspaper is. It provides insight that no other newspaper in Washington, D.C., provides. From the balanced coverage of the Brexit issue in Britain to the continued coverage of the turmoil with Iran and Iraq, The Times provides factual accounts and much needed insightful information. I often say after reading the newspaper: "I didn't know that. Why didn't I read about that before or elsewhere?" I want to commend the staff and editors of this fine newspaper. I only wish they would let me publish an edition of it in my hometown of Ocala, Florida!

I work in a large PR and communications company, APCO Worldwide, with 32 locations around the world. Our company is involved with media and journalism activities in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and America. Many of our clients ask us to help them in crisis situations involving the press. We also do a lot of corporate branding, helping our clients influence their markets and target their customers. We have experience with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google Search and use them in our efforts to influence and target audiences around the world. I intend to outline some of these techniques today to give you an idea of what can be done.

I also want to share a vision of the future in telecommunications using platforms, such as artificial intelligence and virtual/augmented reality. This future technological revolution is about to occur. It will affect journalism and the media platforms throughout the world. It could be a disruptor, just as the smartphone has been.

As a former president of the United States Association of Former Members of Congress (USAFMC), I have gained insight in how to strengthen the effectiveness of the United States Congress as it carries out its constitutional responsibilities. The association's goal is promoting a collaborative approach to policy making. Our membership includes 100 senators and 450 members of the House. This collaborative approach is also useful in trying to effectuate good working relations within the press. I don't have to tell you that with the onset of the Internet, the media have changed. Between the availability of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Google Search, a company or a person can get their message out without the mainstream media.

Social media are less expensive and can be targeted. But in some respects, this has been a disruptive force, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. Let me give you some examples [using PowerPoint slides] of how social media practices and focus groups are used in research and are tools to bring clarity to our clients' challenges.

Twitter: Every week you can refer to this tweeterboard to understand the platform's impact on public opinion. These are the current [U.S.] presidential candidates … and a new person, Adam Schiff, who is the Democratic House impeachment prosecutor. After the name is the current poll or exposure of that person by [the website] RealClearPolitics. The next column shows the week-to-week trend for tweets. After that is the number of likes from the total tweets. The next columns show trends of positive and negative. Tweeterboard is a good gauge of notoriety and engagement.

Focus groups: At APCO we use a variety of research tools to answer our clients' questions. We monitor the social media but try to uncover the “why" and "how" that drive what people think, say and feel. We do focus groups, digital analytics, phone and online surveys through a software program called Telescope that allows persons to answer, in real time, questions of interest.

Market reputation: Once we do that, we go out in the field and do an "ongoing reputation monitoring" across 14 markets and six audiences to find these answers.

Media landscape: We look at all social media that occur over a period of time for a client and graph it for emphasis. The blue circles show op-ed, panels and events; the green circles show activity on [Capitol] Hill or Congress; the red is negative press; the other colors are extraneous issues. This gives us a pictorial of the clients' current presence in the media landscape garnered from all the social media available from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Search.

Based upon these slides, you can see how social media are changing the way to communicate. I will mention one other case study involving our campaign to promote the eating of fruits and vegetables. Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, digital, radio, outdoors advertising and print, we were able to amplify this message for our client through a targeted audience. But in many cases social media can be used in a negative fashion, and APCO's goal is to correct the perception from this negative perspective.

So what can be done? Through IMAP, they can establish a standardized code of conduct that is fair and credible. This code could be distributed and posted on the Internet and social media. The International Association of Academicians for Peace (IAAP) provides a platform for reference and comment on various egregious actions in the media as well as to use the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) to speak on the need for civility and respect for opposing arguments.

While in Congress, I was chairman of committees that had jurisdiction over the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is responsible for Internet privacy and regulation of much of social media/consumer protections, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees the broadcast media and much of the standards on Internet speed and broadcast transmission, including the controversial argument for net neutrality that you may have heard about.

Many of the enforcement actions by these two regulatory agencies affect and apply on a global basis and provide a paradigm for what IMAP may eventually adopt. For example, should broadband Internet be classified as a public utility? This was not done when the new FCC chairman put out the publication “Restoring Internet Freedom Order." The FCC is involved with 5G infrastructures, robocalls, and next-generation TV standards. Under the previous Democratic chairman, [Tom] Wheeler, the position was that broadband networks be connected by analog to public utilities. Under Republican Chairman [Ajit] Pai, today that is no longer the case. Quasi-government management or public ownership has not always been a panacea.

I mention these two agencies because they could be another resource for IMAP in its efforts to bring continued freedom and responsibility to the press. These agencies should be monitored, and, in some cases, IMAP should step in and take a position. Transition innovation and technology advancements are making it almost impossible to curtail fake news, which brings into focus the need for an overarching association of members who will endeavor to set standards and crusade for freedom of the press and social justice, while maintaining integrity and collaborative values. Before I close, as I mentioned before, I want to bring your attention to a new technology, mainly prompted by Google, Microsoft, and Samsung, which could be disruptive just like the smartphone was.

Google Glass is designed to merge your physical world with your digital life through a device similar to eyeglasses. It is evolving into an eyepiece, and eventually it becomes a contact lens.

XRA web page: At APCO we have a client, XRA, an organization promoting this new technology. You can follow what this organization is doing to promote this technology from their website. With this new technology you can connect/program the device with your voice, hand or head movements to open the Internet and do everything you can do on the smartphone through physical prompts. You won't need a keyboard. There are billions of smartphones in the world today. Augmented-reality phones with artificial-intelligence devices may surpass smart cell phones someday. Holograms on your device with 5G speeds will allow you “to boldly go where no one has gone before," as they say in Star Trek.

Let me close by saying that IMAP can do no better service to humanity than publishing ethical standards, bringing to bear the need for accurate and responsible journalism and building regional associations of nations for peace, security, and human development. I believe this is an incredible goal.

I have a quote from Edward R. Murrow, a famous American broadcast journalist and war correspondent and a pioneer in his field, speaking as the director of the United States Information Agency (USIA) in testimony before a congressional committee in May 1963:

"American traditions and the American ethic require us to be truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that."

I believe that sums up what IMAP is trying to do, and I praise them for it! Thank you!



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