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Champagne russe15/03/2007 - 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 !