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…