Making case for Quakers to reach for their phone cameras

Showing by doing - Patrick Chalmers filmed by Judy Kirby in a video report featuring Compassion in World Farming's Philip Lymbery (l). Photo by Alistair Heslop.

Showing by doing – Patrick Chalmers is filmed by Judy Kirby in a video report featuring Compassion in World Farming’s Philip Lymbery (l). Photo by Alistair Heslop.

I’ve been working with UK Quaker organisations over the last couple of years, first as a journalist writing article series for the weekly magazine The Friend and latterly in various initiatives aimed at encouraging Quakers to speak their work to the world as citizen journalists.

I like spending time with Quakers – those I’ve encountered so far combine an engagement and energy for taking action to improve our society with a rootedness in their daily faith and practice. Though not a Quaker myself, I find this combination of activism and faith very inspiring. It somehow cuts a path between what seems like apathy on the part of many people with regard to the state of our political systems and the anger, judgment and aggression to which many activists can be prone, myself included. I understand why people might be either apathetic or angry, both at once even, yet I personally can’t accept not trying to do something about the state of things.

It is in that spirit that I joined forces with Quaker journalist Judy Kirby, ex-editor of The Friend and a life-long reporter, to pitch a funding proposal to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, more specifically their Power and Accountability strand.

Our idea was, in fact it remains, to train Quakers as citizen journalists focused on improving both our media and the quality of our governance structures. For me, as I explain in Fraudcast News – How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies, there’s no point in doing one without the other.

Though we failed to get any JRCT money, I think basically we pitched for too much as an unproven start-up project, we have done some useful work in preparing the application and road-testing our ideas. We will build on these during the coming months on a more ad hoc basis, as funds allow.

Our latest example of road-testing was in London earlier this month, where Judy and I took part in the Quakers and Business 2014 Annual Conference. The theme was Food – there’s a story behind everything we eat, making it particularly suited to talking about the benefits of Quakers taking to citizen journalism.

Below is the 15-minute talk that I gave as an event speaker. I basically argued that yes, there are many food stories we can tell as citizen journalists but what we also need to understand are the chronic failures of our political systems to respond to those stories.

In addition to talking, Judy and I were also determined to demonstrate our arguments by doing.

That entailed shooting a series of sample videos, on the eve of the conference and on the day itself, to showcase the potential of using a smartphone video camera to shoot no-edit video reports for web broadcast. Had that been our sole mission for the event, what follows would be a more comprehensive video series than the four shown below. These are still a good sample of what’s possible.

We did a couple of videos featuring speakers John Hunter, a smale-scale Lincolnshire beef farmer and co-funder of The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, and Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming. These are the more conventional reports you might expect from an event such as this – allowing event non-attenders to get a flavour of proceedings.

In addition to these, Judy did her first publicly aired video interview – she, like me, having spent most of her career in print. It featured event participant Terry Hobday as the interviewee after she volunteered to tell her food story, one relating to researching the effects of poor nutrition on childhood behaviour and development. Terry then promptly accepted my challenge to take the microphone herself, conducting a debut interview with another volunteer storyteller John White having had only the most rudimentary training on how to do it. I was hugely impressed with the result – pure chutzpah!

The video series showed what is possible with nothing more than a smartphone, an attached microphone and some basic training in the shots template devised by those cunning types at visionOntv - Hamish Campbell and Richard Hering. Having spent decades of heartache trying to get activists to find their voices on camera, this duo have hit on a templates series for people to learn some very serviceable basics themselves.

Judy and I, during the coming months, are aiming to take this technique to Quaker groups around the UK. We’ve one event already booked for April - with the Quakers and Business group. We think it’s a potentially powerful tool to use as part of wider citizen-journalist efforts to promote positive-but-radical social change from the grassroots up.

Give me a shout via @PatrickChalmers if you think we can do something together.

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Wrist slaps for rich, jail for the poor – suits you democracy

Five major banks have been fined £2bn for rigging foreign exchange markets. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters. Thanks Reuters.

Five major banks have been fined £2bn for rigging foreign exchange markets. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters. Thanks Reuters.

This is not a complicated post to write, nor need it be very long.

The basic premise is how the UK legal system treats criminal behaviour differently depending on who’s behaviour it is – somewhat at odds with Magna Carta notions of due process – an idea that dates from, err, just a tadge under 800 years ago – not to mention Ancient Greek principles of equality before the law – from 2,500 years ago.

Exhibit A – a powerfully argued Guardian Comment is Free post by columnist Aditya Chakrabortty. The author describes today’s Britain as a place where the poor are forced to steal or beg from food banks while MPs, some of whom fiddled thousands of pounds in expenses at little expense to themselves, create a system where the hungry go to jail.

I can’t disagree with his arguments.

Exhibits B and C – respectively referring to some piffling fines levied against HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, JP Morgan and Citigroup for cheating their customers and rigging foreign exchange markets, and the serial fraudlence-without-jail of too-big-to-jail poster child J P Morgan.

For all the breathless “record fines headlines” – the penalties levied are so much pocket change for these banks, expunged in a moment’s trading of their shares. And, more important still, no one goes to jail, I mean, how could they?

I will host a local screening of The Corporation this Friday – a film that describes the psychopathic behaviour of companies operating to the inexorable growth demands required under capitalism. Fuelling this machine necessitates the subordination of our systems of mock democracy - the latest US mid-term elections being the latest perfect storm. This promises to be an ongoing story as things stand.

The ancient Greeks nailed this problem too, describing it as oligarchy not democracy. The UK’s Russell Brand has a far keener grasp on this than do his detractors, even if he hasn’t yet identified much in the way of possible solutions. This site – participedia – seems closer to the mark with its listing of experiments in new forms of participatory politics and governance around the world.

And my, don’t we need those?

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Media bias against Scottish independence laid bare

David Patrick

Yet another example of why Twitter is a hugely useful source of information. @DrDavidPatrick turns up as a follower of my @PatrickChalmers account – so I take a look at his profile. Up pops his excellent short film cataloguing and analysing the media coverage – sorry bias – of a year’s worth of newspaper coverage in the run up to the Scottish independence vote.

I highly recommend you invest the 22:35 minutes it takes to watch – not only for some profound insight into the Scottish referendum debate, which is important enough, but far more importantly for an introduction to what is an endemic problem of pro-establishment media bias when it comes to covering any politically important issue you care to name.

This is not a left-right thing as far as ordinary people are concerned. Anyone who gives a damn about their political future, that of the people they love not to mention wider humanity and the planet, needs to wise up to this stuff. This is what Fraudcast News is about – as it says in the book’s strapline – How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies.

Unless we take personal responsibility for our political and media literacy – which includes understanding these well-worn but generally poorly-known and highly-effective techniques – we will continue to be kippered all ends up when it comes to having any influence over our lives. This is vital stuff for us all to understand, and to be able to spot, in the propaganda that bombards us daily. What’s more, you won’t, or didn’t, learn this stuff at school.

Dr David Patrick has done a great job for all of us with regard to the referendum – you can read about it all in more detail here – we should all be hugely greatly to him for that.

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Taking the medicine – disappointment in defeat

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

So Scotland voted No to independence – I’m disappointed.

I became engaged and excited at the prospect of an independent Scotland over the last few months, being a native, having done a reporting trip there, hosted a political debate and followed the campaigning with wonder and amusement at the creativity and verve on display.

The exercise threw up both of the core elements I address in Fraudcast News – how radical improvements to our governance systems might be possible and what sort of media coverage would help those come about.

I thought an independent Scotland might become an exemplar of more accountable, transparent government, a huge improvement on Westminster.

That was the main reason I was, and remain, an enthusiastic advocate for Yes.

My side lost – dang.

So I have to take the medicine I advocated a few months back for those on the losing side, as described in this blog post for the National Collective

This is the essence:

There is an end in sight to the referendum marathon – and a day-after that promises a large chunk of Scotland’s resident voters wake up on the wrong side of the result. The losers will include the angry, the anxious and deeply disappointed, with many seeking someone to blame. The winners’ challenge will be how to celebrate victory without rubbing neighbours’ noses in it. Whatever the outcome, “yes” and “no” voters will be picking up the pieces side by side.

You can read more here.

It is of course not the end of the world – which is why I’m now turning my attention back to climate change issues.

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Quakers and Business review of Fraudcast News

Screenshot from 2014-07-29 16:02:27

I was delighted to get a full review of Fraudcast News in a recent issue of The Friend magazine. Below is an excerpt while this a link through to the complete article.

How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies – A Review

An article by Elizabeth Redfern that appeared in the 4th July 2014 edition of the Friend.

Press corruption is sadly a subject we’re now familiar with, from the press’s own coverage of the Leveson Inquiry and more recently the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and others, who – in what might become the longest criminal trial in English history – are charged with phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid. It would be nice to think that this is an unfortunate blip in an otherwise sparkling British press history. Certainly I hadn’t taken much notice of the inquiry or court case until I’d started to read Patrick’s book, when some familiar words started to nag at me.

 

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Fraudcast News reading and Q+A, London, Aug 1

Screenshot from 2014-07-18 15:21:44

When Patrick Chalmers hit on becoming a foreign news correspondent, he dreamed of somehow helping advance the cause of social justice around the world. When he eventually landed that dream job, he soon realised it had little to do with improving people’s lives. So he quit to work out where he’d gone wrong, in the process transforming himself into an author, activist and campaigner for better media and governance structures.

Among the results was Fraudcast News – How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies published in paperback and as a free PDF download. Patrick will read from the book and discuss how it relates to current political events at all levels, ranging from climate change inaction, renewed conflict in Iraq, Scottish independence or the rise of UKIP.

 

Screenshot from 2014-07-18 15:26:29

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Making peace in times of war – the heroes of Vietnam

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