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Champagne russe

15/03/2007 - par Mark Tungate

Yesterday I was in Reims, proffering journalism tips and tricks to a roomful of communications executives from the worldwide offices of a giant agricultural company. There were various amusing aspects to this trip, not least the opportunity to see Reims itself, home base of the brand called Champagne. It seemed a bourgeoise, rather self-­satisfied city. But I was awed by the mighty cathedral. I was also surprised to learn - thanks to our stone-faced but dedicated guide- that medieval cathedrals were not at all the grey, chilly places we see today. The walls and statues were painted in bright colours. Sculpted foliage was painted red, ­ to symbolise life. The ceiling was light blue, with a spangling of gold stars. It must have looked like a photograph by Pierre and Gilles. Maybe religion was marketed better in those days.

The second thing that surprised me - this time during the course itself - was the way corporate communications professionals still regard journalists with a mixture of suspicion and dislike. We are, I heard, demanding, arrogant, unprofessional and inaccurate. We make mistakes, tell lies, and don't apologise for either. I felt like apologising for the entire journalism profession. But my favourite comment came from the Russian delegate, who told us of his solution when he wanted to ensure that a journalist would right a positive article. « We just pay them » he said, with a shrug. Ah, Russia !

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