News to make the rich richer

I wrote this comment in response to the following article by the World Association of Newspapers and Newspaper Publishers.

Thomson Reuters can hire all the new journalists it wants but won't change anything fundamental about its daily news file. Sorry about that.
The agency deserves its reputation as providing a service that helps rich people get richer - that's exactly what it does. Whatever its editorial cheerleaders might say about speed, accuracy and freedom from bias, they can't escape the reality that the vast bulk of their clients, by value, work in finance.
The rarely spoken truth about journalism is that the news you get from any media outlet turns on a handful of factors. They include income sources (banks/finance for Reuters), ownership (Reuters is controlled by a few very rich individuals), reporters' choice of news sources (overwhelmingly traders, banks, economists, governments and other institutions), editorial ideology (profoundly one of dergulated banks, markets, trade, status-quo institutions and free-market capitalism) and, finally, the organisation's response to real or feared "flak" or hostile elite criticism of its output (generally supine).
Despite serial financial crises around the world, various environmental ones looming, growing inequality across many countries and plummeting faith in conventional politics and politicians we get what from Reuters in response? Nothing sustained, nothing coherent and nothing journalistically credible - despite its mammoth editorial operation.
The only comfort for Reuters is that it's in good company with all the other major globe-spanning and national news organisations you might care to name. None serves ordinary people's interests or highlights the farce that representative democracy has become in the face of modern markets, finance and corporations.
It took me 11 years as a Reuters reporter (1994-2005) to realise the lock down on editorial thinking created by these different factors combined together. I was lucky to be able to grab a voluntary redundancy cheque and get out in search of alternatives.
So what did I find? The good news is that there are alternatives, the bad that they take time to build. They include doing journalism focused on governance and accountablity to citizens as its core role, illustrating the global and national from local perspectives. It means training others to do the same and to share the content for free to help improve our political and media literacy.
In essence, it's the sort of thing I dreamed Reuters could do before I got tired of banging my head against the wall trying to persuade my editors that that was what "freedom from bias" really meant.
I get into the whys and hows in far greater detail in my book Fraudcast News - How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies. It's free to download as a PDF via the link or to buy as an eBook or paperback.
And no, I'm not expecting a Pulitzer.

Ireland Yes, Ireland No - is that really the only option?

(Photo by the Blue-haired lawyer)

Irish voters have a chance to vote between paying more or less for their public debt today, according to their Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Put that way, I can imagine the temptation to vote "yes".

It's a pretty rubbish choice.

That Irish citizens have a formal right to express their opinion on EU issues is a great thing, in theory. There's no such option guaranteed in Britain. The reality, though, is that if Irish voters choose the option politicians don't want, like when they rejected the Lisbon Treaty, they get asked to vote again.

Ireland's experience is the clearest sign you could get that the EU project is a busted flush. Nice idea that different countries cooperate - awful implementation. We need root-and-branch reform of the European Union or the project's scrapping.

I say that as a former europhile, someone who spent five years as a reporter in Brussels following the twists and turns of policy as a freelance and then with Reuters. Having now studied more about what "democracy" is meant to mean, which is government by the people or by representatives of their interests, I can't help but conclude the EU is a democratic disaster. Our politicians do not represent our interests and we have no way to influence their day-to-day decisions. This is true at the national level and far more so in European policy.

The euro is the most pressing and obvious example of EU failure, there are plenty of others. We must understand these issues better or continue to suffer their fall out. Dismissing it all as too boring is total self-sabotage.

Chapter 2 of my book Fraudcast News tackles the issue with more specific examples. It explains how this issue has nothing to do with the "us and them" of different countries but much more the 1% and 99% of the Occupy movement, the few very rich versus the rest of us. It is one of five chapters that lay out the problems of how bad journalism supports our bogus democracies. You can download it for free or buy a paperback or eBook via the link above.

It has ideas and examples of positive solutions too, built upwards from the local level, meaning this is a work of optimism.

My advice for conflicted Irish voters today, for all my fellow EU citizens in fact, is not to despair or to get lost in anger, as understandable as that is. We need to get active. So grab a copy of the book to find how we can all start doing something about ordinary people's chronic lack of influence over politics and finance.

Packed out London rally calls for UK media reform

(Actor Hugh Grant tells a public rally for media reform how press problems go way beyond Murdoch. Photo by Patrick Chalmers)

The crimes and misdemeanours of large sections of the British media were aired by their various victims during a public rally for Media Reform at Westminster Central Hall in central London on Thursday evening. The question on people's lips was what will be their punishment and whether the ongoing Leveson Inquiry will be able to bring meaningful reforms either to British journalism or the political establishment it pretends to watch over.

Marc Barto and I elbowed our way through the crowds to land a series of video interviews with some of them, though Hugh Grant proved adept at dodging our efforts to engage him. No matter with the likes of former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames and others to give first-hand accounts of their thorough maulings by the media.

Rounding off the evening, Labour MP Tom Watson explained how grassroots pressure for reform will be critical once the inquiry reports later this year, when pressure on MPs to water down proposals is likely to be intense.

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