When ghost writers go off piste

acting-t-thank-the-academy-logo-cafe-pressAnd the winner is…….

“I’d like to thank the Academy. I’d like to thank my agent, obviously. I’d like to thank the director, the producer, the girl who made the tea and her lovely assistant who made the really great bacon sandwiches which I ate with lashings of Acme Tomato Ketchup. I’d also like to thank the PR guy who wrote this speech and added that bit about the ketchup because Acme said they’d pay me ten big ones to mention them. Continue reading

Switzerland’s immigration worries

Last year in Geneva I was approached by a political activitist and asked to put my name to a petition. I politely declined – and my reply elicited a shocking response.

I should explain, Swiss democracy works in a quirky way. Initiatives that attract more than 100,000 signatures (all are checked to ensure they’re bona fide Swiss voters) can be used to demand an amendment to the Federal Constitution. Continue reading

9 out of 10 statistics are bunkum

Journalists like to use them on quiet news days, but they’re not doing their readers much of a service by reprinting them.

I’m talking about self-serving press releases with phoney statistics. You know the type, “50% of Europeans not saving enough for retirement” (by retirement savings company); “Debt consolidation used by 40% of people” (by debt consolidation company); “60% of Britons don’t know their history, don’t visit enough sites of historical interest” (by a hotel chain). It’s the latter that’s proved a problem for British education secretary Michael Gove. Continue reading

The dangers of crowdsourcing

Investigations by US authorities into the bomb attacks on the Boston marathon have relied heavily on ‘crowdsourcing’, with pleas issued to the world  for help in solving the crime.

Harnessing the power of the internet in this way is not new. But the scale of it in this case is unprecedented. And much of the resulting activity has been grossly uninformed and downright speculative. Continue reading