Monthly Archives: January 2012

Graphic designer required for global public-service work (aka no budget freebie)

I recently released the eBook of Fraudcast News and am now in the final stages of preparing the paperback. Both are under a Creative Commons 2.5 licence, share-alike with attribution for non-commercial uses (I’m also offering the ebook/pdf free to people if they promise to punt them around a bit).

I need a cover design for the paperback before I can put it out there – which is where you, or someone you know, (might) come in. As for all things Fraudcast News, I have no budget. If you’re still reading, this is what we’re talking about:

  • Me – a budget-free, self-publishing author seeking a stop-them-in-their-tracks cover design for a book that shows up the bogusness of our democracies and the poor journalism that keeps them in place.
  • You – an impossibly talented graphic designer of such sought-after brilliance that finding time for this irresistible brief will require you to make career-threatening work choices to get this done now.

If you’re still reading, this is the book blurb:

People like to quote Winston Churchill’s quip about democracy being the worst form of government bar all the others. Yet who’s the butt of this decades-old joke if it’s not us?

Why do we accept democracy as an occasional choice between identikit candidates? We know our votes change little, leaving power with a wealthy elite that acts via corporations and global financial markets.

Fraudcast News unpicks this political charade – and the media complicity that masks it – in Britain, the EU, the United States and globally. It shows how reporters, far from being relentless critics of the status quo, are just as beholden to big money as our governors.

Yet this is a hopeful story, told as the confessions of an ex-Reuters journalist. It shows how we can have influence by training up local reporters who focus on accountability and governance where they live. It imagines joining them up into a global reporting network for a worldwide citizenry.

If you care about journalism, or dream of it as a career, if you believe “democracy” should mean “we, the people”, this book’s for you.

If you’re still, still reading, what I have in mind graphically is something clear, clean and simple that conveys the sense of bad journalism and bogus democracy. The thumbprint below is the best I could do from the off-the-shelf images for Lulu’s eBooks.

I have scavenged a few images from fotolia and elsewhere, attached below, for ideas. If all else fails, it will be time for me to get going with the Teach-yourself-Photoshop tutorials.

The sooner I can nail the cover the better, it’s time to get this book out there and to  get on with its aftermath.

I like the clean lines and simplicity of the Corporation’s image (the documentary’s pretty excellent too):

Something from all or some of the following could work:

or

or

or

Perhaps into some sort of “We the people + mass hands on LHS and $ on the RHS:

In addition to we the people versus $$$, I am being impossibly ambitious and probably graphically over complex in also wanting to include something to show the sorry state of our journalism. I can’t resist it though, with these images being ones that strike me:

The first couple of scenes from this image:

Perhaps “Democracy?” in the speech bubble

Finally, if we ever get that far, I was toying with something for the title Fraudcast News in this sort of a treatment:

or

Or equally, the magnifying glass looking at the word “democracy” and showing up “oligarchy” on closer inspection.

These are just ideas, none of them cast in stone.

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New masters of the media universe? I don’t think so.

I couldn’t help but weigh in on the Observer comments thread in response to this frothy article about the new celebrities that are our mainstream financial journalists.

These are people with enormous influence and power. Sadly, they are not helping us much in tackling the feral behaviour of unrestrained and barely regulated international financial markets and banks. They describe the surface of these complex issues but not why nothing is being done politically to change the fundamentals. Don’t be fooled by puff stories about a few bankers’ bonuses – which is deckchairs on the Titanic territory.

To be fair to the reporters highlighted in the Observer piece, it is probably impossible to do these  jobs properly while staying employed in those posts.

I know the tensions involved having been a markets reporter myself from 1997 to 2001, an experience I describe in chapter 3 of Fraudcast News. It was a key part of a reporting experience that led me to conclude that I must quit Reuters to find an alternative journalism model.

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The divided brain – what does it mean for democracy and journalism?

A friend of mine recently put me on to RSA Animate, an animation app for iPhones, iPads and Androids. He suggested it might be a useful tool to illustrate the arguments I put forward in Fraudcast News.

I soon found the following film, whose quality and vision convinced me my friend was right. It summarises some ideas by the psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist about how humans’ ‘divided brains’ – and our faulty understanding of that reality – have profoundly influenced our behaviour, culture and society. The work is part of the RSA’s 21st Century Enlightenment Project, which is full of such gems as this.

The film’s subject matter has direct relevance both to democracy and to journalism, with implications for the way we are governed, or govern ourselves, and the way we talk about the way we are governed.

This is 11 minutes and 48 seconds I don’t regret having spent watching something on  the internet.

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Paul Mason on revolting

Paul Mason interview with the Guardian in which the Newsnight economics editor gives an intelligent assessment of the global wave of revolts that began in 2008.

Mason makes a great communications bridge between the conventional world and the protesters – one that is vital to both sides of the debate. He is always worth listening to though it’s a shame you have to watch an ad for a very large computer company before you get to do so in this case.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/video/embed

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Fraudcast News published as an eBook, paperback to follow

So I survived. I not only talked (a lot) about writing a book on democracy and journalism, I then finally did it. In comparison, working my way through Lulu’s self-publishing process was a doddle.

For Fraudcast News, this is what’s written on the packet:

People like to quote Winston Churchill’s quip about democracy being the worst form of government bar all the others. Yet who’s the butt of this decades-old joke if it’s not us?

Why do we accept democracy as an occasional choice between identikit candidates? We know our votes change little, leaving power with a wealthy elite that acts via corporations and global financial markets.

Fraudcast News unpicks this political charade – and the media complicity that masks it – in Britain, the EU, the United States and globally. It shows how reporters, far from being relentless critics of the status quo, are just as beholden to big money as our governors.

Yet this is a hopeful story, told as the confessions of an ex-Reuters journalist. It shows how we can have influence by training up local reporters who focus on accountability and governance where they live. It imagines joining them up into a global reporting network for a worldwide citizenry.

If you care about journalism, or dream of it as a career, if you believe “democracy” should mean something, this book’s for you.

You can buy the resulting eBook here for £2.00 (corrected on 25 January – it’s displayed as £2.00 but without tax/VAT, making the real price £2.40 – sorry about that). Equally, you can contact me via the comments section or Twitter @PatrickChalmers and I’ll send you a free copy. There’ll be a direct link to a pdf in due course, when the self-publishing schedule allows.

The reason I’m offering the free option is not because I have surgically removed my Scotsman’s DNA but because this is about democracy and I think people should have a chance to examine before they buy/read and not buy at all if they wish. A few lost sales is not something that bothers me, I’d like people to read the book and share it.

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

The model is inspired by Dan Gillmor, who did the same with his book Mediactive.

This is a video interview I did in October, explaining the project:

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A tale of two kitties

Simon Kelner addresses Hacks and Hackers London

 

Interesting Wednesday night in London, during which I pitched Fraudcast News to the January’s Hacks and Hackers London meetup group.  I gave a two-minute spiel about the book – which you can read at the end of this post – saying what it’s about, why everyone should read a copy and what comes next.

I spoke before Simon Kelner, former editor of The Independent, who is now heading up the newly launched Journalism Foundation. It’s an interesting initiative that provides seed funding for all sorts of excellent-sounding and innovative media projects, including ones in the UK. In its own words, the organisation “promotes, develops and sustains free and independent journalism throughout the world”.

A lot of Kelner’s talk, and subsequent questions, turned on money and how to get enough of it to pay for decent journalism. Kelner foresees a mixed future that will include income from advertising, audiences and philanthropists such as his own patron, the former KGB spy Alexander Lebedev. I’m not comfortable with media that rely either on advertising or wealthy individuals for their survival – neither guarantees unerring defence of public interests over commercial or personal ones.

There’s no doubt some money is necessary but I think it the wrong question to tackle above several other, more important ones. Those include having an editorial focus that is rooted in defending the public interest and a news operation that is designed to encourage citizens’ direct input. The reason Jimmy Wales and his band of Wikipedia collaborators could black out the English-language pages of their site on Wednesday was because of his funding model. Wikipedia is not a public company whose managers are legally beholden to making money for shareholders.

My favoured alternative to the “commercial viability” Kelner wants for his start-up media projects is far less dependent on money. I think we should build locally based reporting nodes by developing materials and free workshops for the mass training of quality citizen journalists. They can then report on their local communities, as and when they are able to, improving political governance and accountability from the bottom up. In time, reporters can link up with others in different areas to cross-report on issues from dual or multiple locations anywhere in the world. To be fair to Kelner, his Foundation is backing local journalism, including a free weekend workshop for citizen journalists to be hosted by Lincoln University.

I found it ironic, given our different views on cash, that Kelner should end his presentation with an appeal that people should click on the Foundation’s site and donate. I ended mine with the assurance that since my book and its associated follow-ups are all about democracy, people could have it for free if they want. Let’s hope I’m not wrong here.

Fraudcast News – the two-minute elevator pitch

What’s the book about?

  • We all like to rip off Winston Churchill’s quip about democracy being the worst form of government bar all the others. Yet who’s the butt of this decades-old joke if it’s not us? Why do we keep falling for the illusion of influence we get from representative democracy – a vote every few years to choose between parties that are pretty much identical? We all know fundamental policies stay the same, that power remains with a moneyed elite who act via corporations and global financial markets.
  • Fraudcast News unpicks this political charade, not just in Britain but also in the European Union and elsewhere up to the global level. It shows how our media, far from being relentless critics of the status quo, suffer the exact same problem of financial capture.
  • Yet this is a hopeful story, one in which ordinary people can have an impact. It has practical solutions, built from the ground up, to create local reporting nodes focused on the quality and accountability of our governance. It imagines a global-local reporting network serving a worldwide citizenry.

Why should you read Fraudcast News?

  • If you care about journalism, or dream of it as a career, you need to read this book. It explains how most journalism becomes compromised by concerns of ownership, income, sourcing and ideology, not to mention lobbying and libel laws.
  • If you like the hacks and hackers idea, you need to read this book. Failing to understand real power, and how conventional journalism connives with it to keep us stupid, will leave us pushing digital ones and zeros from one computer server to the next.
  • If you’re sick of Churchill’s hackneyed joke, you need to read this book. It tells you where democracy came from and how it was hijacked through history and turned into something more like oligarchy, or rule by a powerful few.

What happens next?

  • Fraudcast News will be out next week as a paid-for eBook and soon after as a paperback. Given it’s about democracy you can have it for free if you like, to read online, download as a pdf or mash up in line with its Creative Commons Licence.
  • The next step is to create a template for local reporting nodes, a shareable manual on politics, reporting and technology that can be released to others.
  • We also need to get reporting, to start doing or curating the sort of content that illustrates the gaping holes in our governance structures and what could be done to reform or replace them. This is a project for us all.

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Fraudcast News – an elevator pitch

I have signed myself in for a two-minute presentation on Fraudcast News at January’s Hacks and Hackers London meetup group, part of my efforts to market what will be a free-to-variably priced book to the wider world.

My challenge is to flag the books imminent existence and throw forward its conclusions and proposals in a way that enthuses participants and encourages them to get involved.

The nub of future plans is to foster and create local groups of media producers who focus on governance issues – principally the political transparency and direct accountability of our governors – then networking them together into a global whole that includes story collaborations between different centres. The result would be something akin to a virtual, global, alternative news agency that champions directly accountable government at every level and mercilessly critiques our existing representative democracies.

In the meantime, I have various long-suffering friends and ex-colleagues poring over book proofs for any real howlers of grammar, syntax, fact and logic. This is the grittier side of DIY publishing. The result, I hope, will be a Lulu eBook out later this month followed by a print-on-demand paperback a few weeks later and a free-to-download PDF. Any suggestions for the pitch/offers of coffee greatly appreciated.

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