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Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media Paperback – 1 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780099512684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099512684
  • ASIN: 0099512688
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Important, vital, urgent" (Financial Times)

"Meticulous, fair-minded and utterly gripping" (Sam Leith Daily Telegraph)

"If you read newspapers, you MUST read this book" (John Humphrys)

"A must-read for anyone worried about journalism - which, on this analysis, should be everyone" (Ian Hislop)

"Powerful and timely...his analysis is fair, meticulously researched and fascinating" (Observer)


`an idealistic search for truth that needs defending'

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 114 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on 2 April 2008
Format: Hardcover
Author and journalist Nick Davies has written one of the best exposés of the media. The book started when he saw that the government's lies about Iraqi WMD became widely accepted as true because too many in his profession spread them uncritically. As he writes, journalism without checking is like a body without an immune system.

Commercial forces are the main obstacle to truth-telling journalism. The owners cut costs by cutting staff and local news suppliers, by running cheap stories, choosing safe facts and ideas, avoiding upsetting the powerful, giving both sides of the story (unless it's the official story), giving the readers what they want to believe, and going with moral panics.

He cites a Cardiff University study of four quality papers which found that 60% of their home news stories were wholly from wire agencies, mainly the Press Association, or PR material, 20% partially so, 8% from unknown sources, and just 12% generated by reporters. The Press Association reports only what is said, it has no time to check whether it is true. There are now more PR people, 47,800, than journalists, 45,000.

News websites run by media firms recycle 50% of their stories from the two international wire agencies, Associated Press and Reuters; those run by internet firms recycle 85% of their stories from those two. On a typical day, Google News offered `14,000' stories - actually retelling just 24 events.

The government has 1,500 press officers, issues 20,000 press releases a year, and also spends millions more of our money on PR firms. The Foreign Office spends £600 million a year on `public diplomacy'. The CIA spent $265 million on `information operations' in 1978 alone, more than the world's three biggest news agencies together.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By MD Healey on 25 April 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Do you remember a Y2K bug? When the world's computer systems were to melt down in an Armageddon of vital services failure and possible nuclear accidents?

The Y2K panic is a great example of flat-Earth news: something that gets passed on in the media chain from those unsure to those who might have a vested interest in maintaining it as fact to those who are completely ignorant, and in the process gets bigger and bigger and - almost accidentally - assumes a status of orthodox, accepted truth.

Such developments, though, although commonplace in science and technology news and frequently behind moral and health panics, are only the beginning of the story.

Nick Davies is less interested in how such stories originate and why they are believed and more in asking "why nobody checked?".

This book explores the reasons for the decline of investigative journalism and paints the resulting media landscape that is more than ever full of distortion, imbalance and plain fabrication.

It's a well organised account, combining academic research, opinions and experiences of numerous journalists and several case stories (themselves examples of investigative journalism).

Modern journalism is more often than not "churnalism": endless recycling - without performing any checks - of stories run by wire agencies and press releases from business and government PR departments.

However tempting is to see a propaganda conspiracy at work, Davies has a simpler, and in a way more worrying and more sinister mechanism: that of commercial, money-making priorities.
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137 of 142 people found the following review helpful By Mr. N. T. Baxter VINE VOICE on 20 May 2008
Format: Hardcover
Nick Davies must be a brave man... He has launched a devastating attack on not only the state of modern journalism, but also on the basic integrity of many of those involved in the profession. And this from a major paper journalist who must now have made a lot of enemies within his industry.

I'm sure you have noticed how very similar versions of the same stories are posted online by apparently independent and well funded news organisations - especially in America for news outside the US. This book explains why, and how the facts of these clone stories are often unchecked by the trusted organisations putting them into the public domain.

The book also covers the pernicious effects and influence of PR and also, perhaps most depressingly, the outright lying of major newspapers who are left barely challenged by the Press Complaints Commission and whom average people cannot afford to defend themselves against.

All of it seems to root back to money. Selling more papers through sensationalism, pandering to racism and lying; cost cutting exercises that have reduced the number of journalists available to cover an ever increasing number of stories, leaving them without the time to check their sources properly.

Very depressing, but a fantastic inoculation against the effects of this 'disease'. The book will help you take a more critical view of what you read, see and hear and understand the motivations that lie behind much of the news we are fed. The final summary provides some ideas about where good journalism can still be found - basically it exists where advertising does not - or where reporting is guided (or protected) by highly ethical 'old school' editorial policies.
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