Tag Archives: publishing

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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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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Wikileaks and Assange – complicated but compulsory reading

I’ve let my thinking about Julian Assange and Wikileaks swing one way and then the other in the last 10 days – and make no apologies for what you might call being quick to change position but I’d rather say is being open minded. The work done by Wikileaks and its founder is so important that it bears time and attention to work out what’s going on as best we can.

Assange’s publisher Colin Robinson added some excellent perspective today in the Guardian, following on from what was a lengthy but revealing and insightful recent piece by would-be Assange ghost writer Andrew O’Hagan. It prompted me to write the following comment in response to the Guardian piece.

Great to have this counter point to O’Hagan’s piece – this is valuable material.

I disagree with you on this bit, the second sentence:

O’Hagan’s LRB piece is no part of an organised dirty tricks campaign. But by focusing as it does on Assange’s character defects, it ends up serving much the same purpose.

O’Hagan’s piece is essential to understanding where all the confusion arises from in all things Assange.

I read it as a huge admirer of what Assange has achieved. I concluded it thinking that Wikileaks and/or its founder were done – too difficult to work with to the point of taking themselves out of the equation on these issues.

Your piece has re-opened my thoughts on this – so I’m grateful for that.

Must get my copy of Cypherpunks.

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Fraudcast News reloaded, nearly

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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.

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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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UK book price – fixed or variable?

I’m busy setting up a print-on-demand publishing agreement for Fraudcast News with Lightning Source, part of my ongoing and rather haphazard marketing and promotion efforts for the book.

I’ve been told Lightning Source will be a better bet than Lulu, my existing choice, for distribution and trade catalogue services, amongst other things. The idea is that that will help get Fraudcast News into bookshops and elsewhere. I’ll only know for sure once I’ve tried. I failed to tick some box or other when I got started on Lulu which meant that up until now, the book has not shown up via conventional retail channels.

The process is a tedious, time-consuming one, not least because I have to get a new ISBN to identify the book. What would cost me £126 for a block of 10 in the UK is a free service in France, where I live. Amazing that the UK charges so much money for the right to exclusive use of a few digits to identify your publication. Total rip off, if you ask me.

I then used a free online service to convert the new ISBN into a bar code, throwing up the question of what the sequence of digits actually means. I now know that the subsidiary line of code 90000 tells a computer a book has no suggested retail price.

Given that Fraudcast News is free to download as a PDF, it all gets a bit complicated. All the more so given the possibilities of people buying via different retail channels in physical bookshops, online via retailers or direct from Lightning Source itself.

While trying to find out if I had to set a price via the bar code or not, an answer that still escapes me, I came across this interesting piece about national fixed-price book rules versus a free-for-all. It includes the following:

Recently three French economists produced a study comparing 12 European countries, some with fixed price laws and some without, and concluded, “Over the past decade, the growth rate of book prices is weaker in countries with fixed prices than in countries with free prices” and “the increase of new titles is stronger in the countries which have a fixed price.”

At the same time, I’ve also been lucky to get some help from the good people at Positive Money with a re-design of the book cover, a much needed improvement to my own DIY effort.

The result is the following image, which I like a whole lot better.

Fraudcast News cover art

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Setting The People Free – a meeting with the author

I was delighted to spend a couple of hours today talking democracy with John Dunn, emeritus Professor of Political Theory at King’s College, Cambridge.

Professor Dunn wrote the excellent Setting the People Free“, a book that helped me nail down my thinking on the evolution of “democracy” since the Ancient Greeks coined a term for government by the people. That learning process was an essential step for me to take in fleshing out the arguments and observations I make in Democracy Now?, the fifth and final chapter in Fraudcast News.

We talked about what he’s planning as a follow-up to the book – a text due out next year in which he intends to lay out the book’s political implications, not least for the United States.

The meeting was a great way to prepare for a Fraudcast News reading and Q+A I’m due to deliver later on Sunday in CB1 cafe in Cambridge.

For a potted take on Dunn’s thinking, this Russia Today interview from a couple years ago does a good job. That should only be as warm up to the full works presented in Setting the People Free, which I can’t recommend enough for anyone interested in the way their lives are governed.

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Fraudcast News – the flyer

 

 

This is the draft publicty flyer for Fraudcast News, trying to squeeze the essence of 68,000 words or so into 300ish.

All/any feedback gratefully received.

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