Friday 26 February - Sunday 6 March

Tag Archive: Stefan Stern

  1. what will affect us next, Ahmed predicts, will be the move in China away from an investment and export-led economy to one powered by consumption, and the probability of the ‘sleeping giant’ of Africa awakening,

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    Kamal Ahmed and Stefan Stern

    Purely by chance, Kamal Ahmed, Economics Editor at the BBC, was in Paris on the day of the shooting by Islamic terrorists of 89 people in the Bataclan theatre, and others elsewhere in the French capital. Dining with friends in a restaurant about ten minutes away from the attack, Ahmed had no idea what was happening in Paris until friends in the UK started texting and calling.  A moment later, all the phone signals were blocked.  The restaurant manager stood up on a table to announce that there had been an incident before shuttering the restaurant to keep all the diners inside until 3am.

    “There was a weird feeling of shock and camaraderie,” says Ahmed. “But it gave the events a human context, which is important.  We shouldn’t look at such incidents purely through the prism of terrorism”.  Reporting daily on the events that shape and reflect our lives, Ahmed should certainly know.  As he sees it, the economic crisis of recent years has been succeeded by a period of anxiety over events in the Middle East, and the debate about security, immigration, and the reconfiguration of the idea of Europe grows ever more intense.

    The conversation between Ahmed, Stephan Stern, a management writer and visiting professor at the Cass Business School and the festival’s director Viv Groskop, lingers on the nature of news: in particular, the changes in how we all receive our information about domestic and global events; the pressures facing the print and more traditional forms of media, with their emphasis on analysis, verification of fact and the filtering of sources from the immediacy of Twitter, Buzzfeed, YouTube and their ilk.

    Ahmed cites the analogy that Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian gave to describe the profound shift: Once, journalism was a castle in which the journalists worked all day, with the drawbridge pulled up against the world beyond.  Each evening, they would throw the newspaper over the castle walls to the people waiting below.  Now, with the rise of social media, there is no longer a wall, but merely a picket fence between the journalists and the general public, where the latter can heckle the former, express their aggression and criticism, accuse them of bias.  Groskop is less optimistic: “I think the castle has been burned to the ground.”

    Key events of the past fifteen years – 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, the MPs’ expenses scandal – have led to a deep anxiety in the West. And what will affect us next, Ahmed predicts, will be the move in China away from an investment and export-led economy to one powered by consumption, and the probability of the ‘sleeping giant’ of Africa awakening, which will shift the global focus to the south.  Like never before, he says, the reading of significant events reflects a sense of existential threat to a way of life and taps into an underlying sense of insecurity.  So it is the job of the media not to overplay this notion of crisis constantly, nor to conflate issues to draw general conclusions.

    But, just as the future begins to look rather bleak, Stern offers a little light relief, quoting the words of the great baseball player, Yogi Berra: “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

    Claudia Pugh-Thomas

    The Independent Bath Literature Festival 26 Feb – 6 March 2016

  2. Latest News: Influencing Tomorrow Change to Line-up

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    Gavin Esler joins us to chair an unmissable debate about global affairs – with apologies from Douglas Alexander

    Monday 3 March, 6.15pm, Guildhall

    We are sorry to have to announce that Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has had to pull out of this event on foreign policy. We are thrilled, though, that BBC news presenter Gavin Esler will be joining us instead to chair this exciting debate about Britain’s global role and the challenges that British foreign policy faces.

    Being grilled by Gavin are:

    Stefan Stern, political columnist (Financial Times, The Guardian) and Visiting Professor at Cass Business School.

    Douglas Alexander’s co-author Dr Ian Kearns, Chief Executive of the European Leadership Network and former Deputy Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, to talk about Influencing Tomorrow: Future Challenges for British Foreign Policy (Guardian Books). ‘This title re-thinks the nature of 21st century diplomacy.’ – Daily Telegraph.


    Gavin Esler is an award-winning television and radio broadcaster. He is the author of five novels and a non-fiction book about leadership, Lessons from the Top: How Successful Leaders Tell Stories to Get Ahead and Stay There. Born in Glasgow, he was educated at Edinburgh University. After a stint as BBC’s Chief North America Correspondent, based in Washington and largely mis-spending his time at the Clinton White House, he went on to report from countries as diverse as China, Peru, Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Russia, Jordan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Over the past two decades Gavin Esler has interviewed world leaders ranging from Mrs Thatcher, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, John Major, King Abdullah of Jordan and President Chirac to President Clinton, President Carter, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, Ed Milliband and Israel’s Shimon Peres.

    Tickets for this event are still available here.