A pair of skilled influencers reflects on Ukraine, condemns autocratic leaders, distinguishes political speech from human values, and urges a focus on printers suffering around the world

Eric Vessels and Cary Sherburne, president and editor of WhatTheyThink, respectively, comment on the ongoing social and economic devastation in Ukraine, discuss and describe their commitment to reporting what’s happening, highlight the values of democracy and peace, and envision various forms of help from print players. WhatTheyThink pledges its support to Print Against War.

Sometimes we forget that things that are happening globally affect our industry in those areas. Someone reached out to us, and we’ve done some coverage of things that are happening there and how it’s impacting the industry. 

We stand for free speech. What we want to do with this Print Against War effort is to just communicate from the WhatTheyThink family that we stand in solidarity for those who are trying to fight this kind of war and oppression, and we stand for the democratic values. Free speech, communication, and print have always been just a huge part of that.

There are a number of ways to contribute financially. There are plenty of organizations out there that are addressing them now, but one of the things that Print Against War is trying to do is to begin to stage for the future of how Ukraine is going to be able to rebuild its printing industry when this war is over. And it will be over at some point. The rebuilding task is huge and we support their efforts to try to figure out how best to accomplish that rebuilding process.

We stand for the democratic values. Free speech, communication, and print have always been just a huge part of that.

Eric Vessels

We’ve been able to develop a platform that has some level of attention both in North America and globally. So, whatever we can do to raise awareness for the types of things that will help, we’re willing and able to leverage that platform for the better. I just want to tell the global print publishing community that WhatTheyThink is here to help, and we also encourage the suppliers to the industry to be thinking about how they can help you. Whether it’s grant programs or it’s donation of equipment to replace the ones destroyed by the illegal bombing and other devastation. 

There’s an ongoing need for financial donations for rebuilding the entire country. If we can focus on the printing industry and really help get them back on their feet, I think that’s a very admirable goal, and I have to say personally that whether the Ukrainian people are in the country or not right now, their strength and their bravery are just astounding, and their leader President Zelenskyy is doing an amazing job leading the country, and keeping their spirits up and trying to push back the illegal invasion that’s going on there.

There are probably a lot of vendors I know, a lot of people in the business community are hesitant to speak out on things that could be construed as political. And I know I’m that way as well, but I think there’s an underlying human value that transcends politics, and I think that’s why you’re seeing a lot of brands and lot of businesses actively speaking out on this because it’s not necessarily political. 

There's an underlying human value that transcends politics, and I think that's why you're seeing a lot of brands and lot of businesses actively speaking out on this because it's not necessarily political.

Eric Vessels

It’s a human value to be able to live in peace and have the freedom to pursue your lives, and all those kinds of values that are more democratic than American necessarily. They’re not uniquely American but hopefully people find the courage and will to continue to speak out and support. I don’t think it necessarily has to be political, so I don’t think that there’s a lot of pressure to have companies stop doing business with Russia. And I don’t think we should be thinking that all the Russian people are bad people at all, but taking away some of the conveniences that these foreign businesses bring into their culture. 

It’s sad that the Russian people have to suffer through this too. I mean they’re not the ones declaring war, and they’re also not the ones necessarily that have all of the information. They aren’t even aware of what’s actually happening, and as you’ve seen in a lot of news reports there’s a minority and there is a free press in Russia that’s trying to operate, but they continue to be quelled and in some cases threatened if not outright physically harmed.

There are more and more autocratic leaders in the world, and increasingly freedom of the press around the world is being attacked. So, this effort of Print Against War goes beyond Ukraine, and if we can establish a model here that works for getting Ukraine’s printing industry back on its feet, that can be extrapolated to other countries where things might be occurring that are not peaceful.

We want to express our concern and our thoughts and definitely our deep support for the people of Ukraine and people all over the world within the industry that are fighting to save their businesses and keep print alive. Because it’s an important communication medium, and we’re committed to it.

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