BARRY GRAHAM, Scottish author, journalist, Zen monk in U.S. Books include THE BOOK OF MAN (an American Library Association best book of the year), THE WRONG THING (finalist for SPINETINGLER MAGAZINE best novel of the year), WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST (a MYSTERY PEOPLE best book of the year) and KILL YOUR SELF: LIFE AFTER EGO, an Amazon Kindle bestseller in the Zen category.

Disguises I Have Worn: Why Subterfuge Is Necessary for Investigative Journalism

Great Eastern Hotel, Glasgow

I’ve been following The Guardian’s coverage of the News International phone-hacking scandal. While I think hacking a person’s phone is criminal and should be treated as such, I disagree with The Guardian's apparent position that subterfuge should never be committed by journalists.

I’ve misrepresented myself several times: I dressed in rags and pretended to be homeless in order to get admitted to the Great Eastern Hotel in Glasgow, because I wanted to examine the conditions there. When I heard that a nursing home was neglecting its residents, I pretended that I had an elderly relative I wanted to find a place for.  I’ve gone on ride-along with cops who didn’t know I was a journalist, because I wanted to report what they actually said when they didn’t expect consequences. When Sheriff Joe Arpaio was acting as a “celebrity waiter” at a charity event, I went to the restaurant for dinner, pretending to be a tourist from Scotland, and asked him whether he was going to run for governor. There have been other such deceptions - these are only the ones that spring to mind right now - and the sad fact is that they are often necessary in matters of public interest. It should be exceptional, and a last resort, but as long as the privacy of individuals is not being violated, I see no ethical problem with it.

Just Published: Why I Watch People Die

"Graham has a visual style and writerly voice that are all his own: timely, urban and powerful."
- Booklist

Barry Graham’s nonfiction is a unique hybrid of hard reporting and harsh autobiography. Since 1995, his home base has been Phoenix, Arizona, a sprawling desert metropolis where development, corruption and violence have grown together, aided and abetted by a dysfunctional media.

Since moving to the U.S. from his native Scotland, Graham has staked out the Southwest as his territory, and written about it in a way that no one else has. His is not the Southwest of scenic natural wonders, petroglyphs and ancient Indian civilizations juxtaposed with modern spiritual seekers. His is the Southwest as gritty emblem of 21st Century America, of urban blight and the dispossessed, of the people left behind.
Graham writes with corrosive honesty, giving no quarter to anyone, especially himself. This book contains his award-winning story of the two executions he has witnessed, along with other pieces that form a beautiful and terrifying portrait of a civilization in the process of collapse.

No Freedom of Speech for Journalists

The Associated Press has warned its journalists not to express any opinions on social networks. In a memo to staff, managing editor Tom Kent wrote:

In at least two recent cases, we have seen a few postings on social networks by AP staffers expressing personal opinions on issues in the news.
This has happened on the New York Senate vote on gay marriage and on the Casey Anthony trial. These posts undermine the credibility of our colleagues who have been working so hard to assure balanced and unbiased coverage of these issues.
AP’s News Values and Principles state that anyone who works for AP must be mindful that opinions they express may damage the AP’s reputation as an unbiased source of news. This point is contained in our social network guidelines as well.
Failure to abide by these rules can lead to disciplinary action.
The vast majority of our tweets on these stories — and on other issues in the news — have been completely in line with our guidelines. They pose no problem at all, and are consistent with the importance of AP staffers being active on social networks.

But social networks, however we may configure our accounts or select our friends, should be considered a public forum. AP staffers should not make postings there that amount to personal opinions on contentious public issues.
Please let your supervisor or me know if you have any questions on this. And thanks.

It’s not just the A.P. The New York Times does the same thing, as do most mainstream newspapers, in a bizarre and dishonest attempt to pretend that reporters have no opinions about the news they cover. Here’s something I wrote about my own experience writing for the Arizona Republic.

Watch the Men Dying

Like an angel of the gutter, he writes. He writes about sadistic sheriffs and death row inmates. He writes about executions, official killings to which he has been invited – by the prisoners heading to the death chamber. He writes fiction about Mexican American drug dealers so convincing that he’s been asked if the work is autobiographical. Barry Graham is Scottish by birth, and he does not deal drugs.
- Larry Fondation

Now that Regarde Les Hommes Mourir is published, a few people have asked me what’s in the book.

It contains French translations of the best work I’ve had published so far: The Wrong Thing (under the title I originally gave it, All the Little Kids are Dressed in Dreams), How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy? and "Why I Watch People Die." The latter is a nonfiction account of the two executions I’ve witnessed and how I came to do it. Each of the three sections is accompanied by art by Vince Larue. The book also has an essay on my work by Larry Fondation, from which the quote above is taken.

American News: The Information-Free Zone

Passive news reporting that doesn’t attempt to resolve factual disputes in politics may have detrimental effects on readers, new research suggests.

How could it not?

The study found that people are more likely to doubt their own ability to determine the truth in politics after reading an article that simply lists competing claims without offering any idea of which side is right.

Last year, I wrote about the fact-free formula most U.S. journalists are forced to follow, a formula that pretends to provide news in the same way that McDonald’s pretends to provide food.