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Power, propaganda and press

Mon, 3 Dec 2012

Award-winning journalist Heather Brooke - whose investigation helped to expose the MPs' expenses scandal - will discuss the issues surrounding propaganda and the press at a University of East Anglia (UEA) lecture this week.

‘The Age of Misinformation: Power, Propaganda and the Press’ is the first of a series of lectures taking place in London organised by Ms Brooke (pictured) and UEA’s ThoughtOut Project.

Ms Brooke’s investigation and legal action against Parliament for disclosure of MPs’ expenses was the catalyst of the expenses scandal of 2009. The following year, she obtained the full batch of 251,287 US diplomatic cables from a Wikileaks insider and worked with The Guardian on a month-long exposé of global diplomatic relations.

The lecture is the first in a new public series from the ThoughtOut Project at UEA on the importance of critical thinking in the digital age. Ms Brooke will be talking about the quality of information circulated by the media and, increasingly, social media.

“Everybody feels deluged with data on a daily basis and most people aren’t equipped to wade through all this information, test it and choose what to use,” she said. “With the rise of social media it is becoming more and more important for the public to think critically about the information they are presented with and to know how to judge it for quality. If we don’t educate people about this issue the danger is that we become more susceptible to propaganda. Just because we have more information available to us doesn’t mean that it is true or has any quality above rumour.

Ms Brooke added: “In light of the Leveson report and people’s concerns about the press, it is more timely than ever that they understand the interaction between the press, public and power.”

As well as being a freelance journalist and Freedom of Information campaigner, Ms Brooke is a visiting lecturer in contemporary history at UEA and a professor of journalism at City University, London. In 2010, BBC Four showed a dramatised account of her campaign for disclosure of MPs' expenses, titled On Expenses.

The ThoughtOut project aims to encourage academics to share their expertise in the arts and humanities in a way that will engage with a wider audience. ThoughtOut provides an online forum - www.thoughtoutproject.com - where academics and other specialists can blog their research, and communicate and debate ideas with the public. It also sponsors public lectures and seminars that bring academics and experts together.

Ms Brooke will be joined on the night by Prof Sarah Churchwell from UEA’s Faculty of Humanities and the director of the ThoughtOut Project.

Prof Churchwell said: “I am delighted that Heather has agreed to put together this new series of lectures, which promises to be topical, thought provoking and challenging in terms of the issues it will address and the debates we hope it will encourage.”

Ms Brooke is the author of Your Right to Know (Pluto Press 2004, 2006), The Silent State (Heinemann 2010) and The Revolution Will Be Digitised (Heinemann, 2011). She has won numerous awards including the Judges’ Prize at the 2010 British Press Awards, the FOI Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), and a Freedom of Expression Award from Index on Censorship. Before moving to Britain, she worked as a political and crime reporter in the United States.

The ThoughtOut lecture takes place at 6.30pm on Wednesday December 5, at UEA London, 102 Middlesex Street, London, E1 7EZ.

Tickets are free, but reservations are essential. To reserve tickets email s.hoffman-heap@uea.ac.uk or register at www.thoughtoutproject.com/events.  

(Photo by Rick Morris Pushinksy)
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