Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Communication Across the Globe

By Molly Griffin

Being a citizen of the United States born in the 1990’s, I have never really questioned my right to freedom of speech. My entire life I have felt proud to have this privilege and rarely considered what life would be like without it. Although I have always been aware of the varying freedoms among the countries of the world, I have never truly recognized the value and the importance of this right until several of the lectures on this trip. In addition to the importance of freedom of speech, I have also discovered how it affects the style of communication that is used.  While I have grown to appreciate my right to freedom of speech, I have also learned to value the control the government has over monitoring the media. Finally, the true root of communication is language. If I had to name one thing I definitely learned from this trip, it was the stress on the importance of language.

One of our first lectures in Paris was at the École de Journalisme de Sciences Po. École de Journalisme de Sciences Po has the same reputation the Mizzou J-School has but in the Political Science field. Peter Gumbel, the director of communications, met us for a very interesting lecture/discussion. The lecture focused on French vs. American journalism, and a majority of it was centered on freedom of speech.  What should the press be able to report? 

According to Gumbel’s lecture, the French rights allows for freedom of speech, except when the government deems it harmful. Whether or not speech is deemed harmful is mainly focused on whether or not it is seen as an invasion of privacy or will negatively affect an individual’s private reputation. For example, it is a criminal offense for a media outlet to show a person who is arrested in handcuffs. Gumbel also explained for example that private life scandals of politicians couldn’t be exposed to the public; it’s an invasion of that individual’s privacy.  Hands shot up around the room as all of us were thinking the same thing.

“How can it be alright for the people not to know that the person they might be voting for has a cheating, sneaky private life?”  “Doesn’t that determine part of their character?” “That just doesn’t seem right.” And Gumbel agreed. Furthermore when asked if most of the general population still somehow knew about the scandal, he believed they did not. Most of the class was not only confused by this, but also appalled. In this area, the open communication between the media and the people was definitely guarded.  Although many reporters still reported big scandals and lost their jobs because of it, the difference between American media communication and coverage compared to that of French is vast.  American tabloids are constantly exposing the private lives of individuals and often harming reputations of many, but is it the reporters job to inform the people? Is it about defending an individual person or a population of people? I don’t believe there is one right answer to that, and the value to which an individual holds freedom of speech to is going to vary from border to border.

McCann-Erickson Prague, Czech Republic
Our first media visit in Prague was to McCann-Erickson one of the biggest as agencies in the world. We listened to a lecture entitled “Discovering Czechness.” Ales Vyhlida discussed the people of the Czech Republic and their personality, daily routines, and what McCann-Erickson does to market to the people.

The communication that the advertisers use in Czech definitely differs from that of America. For example, some of the advertisements Vyhlida showed us were what I considered to be highly inappropriate for a television commercial. The advertisements had sexist undertones, displayed violence, and overall a little too extreme. Although some of the advertisements were later pulled from the air, I believe these ads would never have made it on the air in the first place in the US. Each country has it’s own beliefs in what is appropriate for the people and what needs to be monitored.

European Parliament Chamber
Throughout the entire trip it became very clear to me that language is one of the most important reasons for being successful in the world of media and communications. In Brussels, we were able to have the incredible experience of visiting the European Parliament. When we went into the chamber and all of the many translation rooms were pointed out, that revelation became even clearer. We met several individuals at every media outlet we attended and almost each person spoke at least two languages. Some of them had moved to another country for a new job not knowing the language at all and learning it while they worked.

Language truly is the basis of communication, and without knowledge of language it will always be hard to communicate.  We even realized that knowing the language it was impossible to complete everyday actions and sometimes led to major downfalls (hence the 40 Euro ticket several of us had to pay due to confusion over Metro tickets in Paris). This trip has definitely made be excited about learning another language.

Communication styles vary from country to country. What the media is allowed to communicate to the people, how the media communicates a message to the people, and the language in which it’s communicate differ in every part of the world. This trip has opened my eyes to the role freedom of speech plays in journalism, how the government control over advertisements affects the message, and how important language is in communications.  Learning about these different styles can not only provide inspirations for our style of communication, but also help us to better understand other cultures. Communication directly affects culture and the very being of a country.  This trip exposed me to totally different lifestyles, making this one of the best experiences of my life. 


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