Tag Archives: creative commons

Fraudcast News – lifting lid on media’s “subtle and pervasive bias”

Fraudcast review shotI was delighted to meet Ian Fraser the other day, an award-winning journalist and author of Shredded: Inside RBS, The Bank That Broke Britain. We compared our respective wounds received as journalists kicking outside of the usual confines of our chosen professional activity – an all-too-rare breath of fresh air for me.

We did one another the favour of paying cash for our respective books accompanied with promises to read and review the other’s output.

Ian came good, way ahead of me, doing me the following review on Amazon.

I am delighted by his enthusiasm for the book while also being cheered by his references to the likes of the ex-Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne as proof of the ongoing relevance of its arguments about democracy and journalism.

If I could be so ungrateful, my sole, additional wish would be to encourage anyone who is moved to buy a hard copy to do so via the more independently minded book retailer Hive.co.uk rather than adding to the tax-phobic coffers of Bezos and co.

There’s also the PDF version that you can download for free from here.

Whatever you do, this is the review – many thanks again Ian.

Patrick Chalmers has written an important and timely book. Building on his experience as a Reuters correspondent in London, Brussels and Kuala Lumpur, he lifts the lid on the subtle and pervasive bias of our mainstream media.

He outlines how this bias can include self-censorship, journalists allowing themselves to be “co-opted” by the rich and powerful, the cozying up of media to major advertisers (as we saw with Peter Oborne’s recent revelations that the Daily Telegraph either removed, toned down or failed altogether to cover negative stories about major advertiser HSBC) and the “spiking” of stories that undermine media proprietors’ prevailing pro-globalisation, neo-liberal agenda.

The chapters on the frustrations he felt as a Reuters correspondent trying to provide balanced coverage of the European Union, of dusty corners of the financial markets and of the attempts of Malaysian prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad to resist the “Washington Consensus” are particularly good.

Patrick argues that the mainstream media in the West, as well as global news outfits such as Reuters and Bloomberg (whose journalism is largely funded by the leasing of data terminals to the finance sector), now see their role as being to buttress a failed economic ideology and to pander to an often corrupt elite. As such, he says they have become a pernicious influence that’s obstructing understanding and democracy. The lack of scepticism that most journalists display for international trade treaties like TTIP and unaccountable EU decision-making processes are just two of the areas of media failure covered in the book. Readers, listeners and viewers are being badly let down, writes Chalmers, adding that by amplifying ‘spin’, the media has unleashed a dangerous tide of misinformation that threatens to engulf our democracies.

The media failures outlined in Fraudcast News are also giving rise to a phenomenon that the writer and journalist Tariq Ali has separately described as the rise of the “extreme centre”. Prefiguring his recently published book The Extreme Centre: A Warning, Ali wrote: “What is the point of elections? The result is always the same: a victory for the extreme centre. Since 1989, politics has become a contest to see who can best serve the needs of the market, a competition now fringed by unstable populist movements. The same catastrophe has taken place in the US, Britain, Continental Europe and Australia.”

Chalmers ends on a positive note. In his conclusion, he examines how as a result of, among other things, the rise of social media and the internet, it has never been easier for civil society and public-interest journalists to develop a more ethical, balanced and responsible approach to covering the news. He provides examples of the rise of alternative channels of communication that bypass the mainstream media, arguing that these are much more capable of challenging our dangerously flawed governance structures than the media we grew up with.

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Fraudcast News reading in Vienna

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22 January at 19:30–21:00

Shakespeare and Co, Sterngasse 2, 1010, Vienna

Find all the details here

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The bloody realities of self publishing

Self-publishing is a grind. Don’t kid yourself that you can just kiss off that bestseller, throw it up on line as an eBook or paperback then lay back and count the royalty cheques as they roll in, particularly if you forgot to put in the teen vampires chapter.

Here in the grunt room at Fraudcast News, I’ve got to the stage of promoting my book beyond the immediate circle of family and both of my friends. Time for a brief run through what got me here.

There’s quite a skillset to build up or borrow just to get this far, the first being to have the idea for a book.

The ones behind Fraudcast News  began germinating 15 years ago, when I first wondered about the realities of political power in the European Union. No really, it’s sad but true, that’s the sort of thing that bothers my head in idle moments, I can’t help it.

As a Reuters reporter in Brussels, I witnessed political decisions being taken over the heads of European environment ministers – by finance ministers, heads of governments and even European Commission civil servants. It made me think about where power truly lay, who had it and what I as a journalist should be doing to write about that. My immediate concern was why so little ever got done to resolve environmental issues such as climate change. As I now know, the problem goes far wider.

My questions about power and how journalism should cover it mushroomed out over the years, eventually forcing me out of Reuters. They spread down to national and local levels of government and up to the global level. It took ages for me to work them into the broader critique of representative democracy and journalism, and possible remedies, that is Fraudcast News. It’s complicated but not impossible stuff.

The work required me to write and re-write the text, getting various clever friends to read through each version for coherence, content and so on. With a complete first draft in hand by last May, I re-wrote it all again in the subsequent months on the back of people’s comments, positive and negative. Many times over the years, I considered jacking it all in as a bad job. The project survived, emerging complete at the start of 2012.

That took me to lulu.com, one of several self-publishing sites. My first goal was to publish an eBook, which took a few days to work through their system.

My Word document needed juggling about to strip out unnecessary formatting and to make its chapters suitable for the table of contents generator Lulu uses to turn a document into EPUB format. There were all the usual annoying glitches you get with any formatting process but I got there in the end, this being the result. I used one of their off-the-shelf covers to get me going. Once it was done, I read the ebook from start to finish, picking up quite a few grammar howlers, spelling mistakes or wooly sentences as I went. Strange how a changed format threw up errors I’d missed in the previous one.

Next was the paperback, which was more straightforward. I created a PDF from the Word document, played around with fonts, headers and footers and the extra pages at the front. I appealed to the world for help designing a cover before eventually doing one myself and market testing it with my Facebook friends. They were great – I got tonnes of helpful and useful advice.

The process was faster than it would have been with a conventional publisher, once I’d worked the text through to its first complete draft. I’d tried but failed to get a conventional publisher a few years back and decided this time around to do it myself.

Would I recommend that others do the same and bypass the old-style route?

It depends, though probably yes. I’ve learnt a lot having to do all this stuff myself, to say nothing of the experimenting I’ve been doing with Facebook, Twitter and the rest.

You certainly need friends who are willing and able to help and plenty of time that you don’t have to spend on other things, with or without full-time, paid work.

No conventional publisher would have accepted me doing a Creative Commons book or giving away free PDFs, so I was probably always destined to do it this way. Technology set me free then made me work my backside off.

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