Tag Archives: europe

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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Dare Scots take heed of Lesley Riddoch?


I wrote this brief review of my chosen book for Green Left Weekly’s annual recommended books of 2013

I went forBlossom : What Scotland Needs To Flourish” by Lesley Riddoch, a gem of a book that had me both laughing and despairing as I raced through its insightful pages about my native land.

This was my review, one in a long list of great books chosen by GLW writers, contributors and others. I’ll be reading well into the new year at this rate.

Lesley Riddoch is the sort of life-long friend everyone needs – the one to warn you against making a total berk of yourself just as you thought you were looking pretty sharp. In Blossom : What Scotland Needs To Flourish, the lucky beneficiary of her advice isn’t a single person but an entire nation.

Riddoch chides her fellow Scots for their timorous beastiness in the face of what is a truly rare moment – the chance for a straight-out vote on regaining independence. Her book channels the Renton character in Trainspotting to tell potential voters they’ve more to fear from themselves than any supposed auld enemy to the South.

Her work stares straight into causes and effects of severe poverty and inequality in Scotland, not least the health statistics so truly awful they’ve earned infamy as “the Scottish effect”. Somehow she’s also truly funny.

Dare Scots pay heed?

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Comment faire face au fascisme?

Yannis Youlountas parle de son film “Ne vivons plus comme des esclaves” – un documentaire qui fait le tour des actions, des journaux alternatifs, des radios rebelles et lieux d’occupation et d’autogestion qui se multiplient dans une Grèce en crise.

Pourquoi une mise en ligne gratuite? Youlountas souhaite que l’accès gratuit au film participera à faire réfléchir les gens et contribue à étendre le débat sur la nécessité de rompre avec la marchandisation du monde et de l’humain.

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Crisis? What crisis? Yeah, right.

Franco-Greek film director and philospher Yannis Youlantas meets his audience
Franco-Greek film director and philospher Yannis Youlountas meets his audience

Franco-Greek film director and philospher Yannis Youlountas meets his audience

Yannis Youlountas talks about ‎Greece‬, the meaning of ‪‎crisis‬, ‪‎fascism‬ and people’s coping responses after a recent screening of “Ne vivons plus comme des esclaves” (Rough translation: ‘Let’s no longer live like slaves’).

The rights-free documentary is due for internet release on September 25th via http://nevivonspluscommedesesclaves.net/

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Fraudcast News reloaded, nearly

Picture 2

I am getting through the final stages of re-publishing Fraudcast News, a process that involves changing print-on-demand publishers (from Lulu to Lightning Source) to allow me a better distribution arrangement and greater flexibility in the cover design. That’s the idea anyway.

The first tangible evidence of the change arrived yesterday in the form of a printed copy in the new format and with the new cover. I am, of course, totally biased but it looks and feels much slicker.


Leafing through the pages, I am happy to say the book feels as relevant as ever, if not more so.

Once it’s done, I’ll be looking for all the help I can get in publicising the new edition and doing my best to get the thing read. All ideas and assistance would be hugely appreciated.


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Mimi Chakarova talks about making “The Price of Sex”

Documentary film-maker and photojournalist Mimi Chakarova talks about her film, the Price of Sex, which screened in London this week as part of the Human Rights Watch Festival 2012.

Chakarova describes how it took her four years to persuade some of the East European women who’d been sold into sex slavery to tell their stories on camera. They describe being duped by promises of well-paid jobs abroad into leaving their homes and lives in poor parts of Bulgaria and Moldova.

It’s a brutal tale about how poverty makes young women vulnerable to traffickers’ promises, leading them to become trapped inside the virtual cells of brothels and bars in Athens, Istanbul and Dubai.

“You don’t make a film unless you feel that there’s a possibility to change things,” says Chakarova, who branched into film-making having reached what she felt were the limits of photo journalism.

“It’s depressing subject matter but you have to turn it around,” she said, urging everyone to watch and learn from The Price of Sex. Though the film features only a few cities, she makes clears its stories play out every day on streets around the world.


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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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