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Politicizing Silicon Valley

Blog: Technology

7/5/2017
— Niyati Desai 

WE’s continuing education program recently provided me the opportunity to attend The Northside Report’s “You Are Fake News”: Truth, Lies and Politics in the Age of Trump, a two-day event hosted by BuzzFeed and The Intercept, focused on making sense of journalism and media in 2017. The Northside Report gathered notable media including Recode’s executive editor Kara Swisher, BuzzFeed’s editor in chief Ben Smith and Huffington Post’s editor in chief Lydia Polgreen, as well as newsmakers such as NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, Instagram’s head of product Kevin Weil and more.

 Northside Report

Panel discussion at The Northside Report’s “You Are Fake News”: Truth, Lies and Politics in the Age of Trump: Will Silicon Valley Resist Trump?

From left to right: Ryan Tate (moderator, Technology Editor, The Intercept), Kara Swisher (Executive Editor, Recode), Scott Heiferman (CEO, Meetup), Sam Biddle (Technology Reporter, The Intercept), Anil Dash (CEO, Fog Creek Software, Blogger and Former Advisor, White House Office of Digital Strategy)

The event explored the integrity of the media industry, which many Americans call into question with the new concept of “fake news.” With their integrity in question, national media are reminded to seek depth in their coverage. Journalists across coverage beats are seeking and sharing the facts and voices that advance discussions around the issues impacting our country.

Increasingly, the public now expects private companies to take a stand on hot button issues. However, in Silicon Valley, a major hub for our country’s ideas, technologies and opportunities, brands often fail to back their altruistic ideals with action. Despite their rapid rise to power, these companies remain mostly absent from conversations around political issues. Consequently, journalists and their audiences must speculate and wonder where one of our country’s leading communities stands on some of today’s most important issues: data regulations, Trump’s controversial travel ban, women’s rights, etc.  – issues that directly impact companies’ customers, operations, employees and talent pipelines.

The media at The Northside Festival seemed to think that the companies in Silicon Valley are “delicate flowers.” They see themselves as good people, idealistic, and want to maintain that public image. But when push comes to shove, they parse their opinions on contentious political issues and only take a public stance when it serves their companies’ interests.

In today’s divisive and acrimonious political climate, when the influential voices of our Silicon Valley clients matter more than ever, we as communications consultants need to remember that taking a point of view around political issues doesn’t always have to be self-interested. At times when it’s necessary for our clients to take a stand and protect their values, we have to help plant their stakes in the ground and work with the appropriate channels – whether publications, social media, impact groups, volunteer initiatives or even perhaps a podium – to disseminate their voices.

It may require picking sides on an issue, possibly opening them up to criticism and negative responses in the short term. However, for the longer run, it should drive important, clarifying discussions for the company, Silicon Valley and ultimately our country.

The country wants to hear our clients’ voices and leadership, and the media industry is hungry to help share them.

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Niyati Desai
Senior Account Executive
WE San Francisco
Visit her LinkedIn