From the Leveson inquiry this week:

(Tony) Blair complains about the crossover of comment and news in newspapers.

He says that this “stops being journalism. It’s then an instrument of propaganda or political power”

What exemptions should there be for propaganda? more…


Davos 2012

January 31, 2012

I attended a Civil Society event where I spoke with representatives from human rights organizations, the union/labor movement, and NGOs working to address some of the hardest problems in society. I had a lunch with a university president talking about the role of technology in higher ed. I had dinner with an esteemed physicist, an author I admire, and a network scientist where we talked about how to engender and support creativity. I gave advice to a group of women trying to combat the societal valuation of consumption. I brainstormed with a group of young attendees who had done amazing work in the education sector around the globe. I attended a dinner with complexity analysts, newspaper executives, and brain scientists where we talked about how fear functions in society. more…


Making sense of Davos

January 9, 2012

When the World Economic Forum publishes a well-researched report on global gender gaps, sustainable consumption, water security or competitiveness, it fuels global debate. When it gathers its Members from the business world with others from a broad swathe of society (academics, artists, politicians, human rights campaigners, trade unionists, environmentalists and more), it becomes either the sinister architect of a global conspiracy or the convener of a pointless gabfest: Weltverschwörung or waffle.

So what is the Forum? I can’t pretend to give you the definitive answer, but I can tell you how I make sense of it, having spent my working life in television news and higher education. It might be helpful to start by saying what it isn’t.



When Jeremy Paxman engages, he is an excellent presenter. When he is bored…not so much. The clip below shows what happens when Newsnight attempts to recreate the kind of boorish conversation that would not have passed for debate in ye olde English pub of thirty years ago.

By using controversialists like Oborne, and an ex-journalist Lambert, as a proxy for opinion, the programme does no one a service.

Instead of being edgy and informative, Oborne is allowed to simply hijack the studio floor.

A properly briefed Paxman could have taken on a real official forensically – and actually “held someone to account”. Isn’t that what Newsnight was supposed to do?

Instead Paxman is asked to ringmaster a largely powerless array of opinion peddlers. Meanwhile, if you’ve never seen a snake charmer bitten by a cobra…