Rave review for ‘riveting’ 18 days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution


We knew it, but we’re pleased to hear that an impressive line-up of early readers have found Scott Bridges’ just-launched 18 days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution ‘riveting’, ‘beautifully written’, ‘fabulous’ and ‘fascinating’.

Mark Colvin and Scott Bridges

Mark Colvin and Scott Bridges at the Sydney launch of 18 days.

The managing director of Ronin Films Andrew Pike, OAM, sent this email to Scott last week:

Dear Scott,

I want to say that I found your book one of the most riveting I’ve read for a long time.  

It’s beautifully written and organised, and the story gives insight into so many issues – not least, the role of journalism in shaping events they are covering.  

It also provides extraordinary context for the current crisis with the AJE imprisonments in Egypt.

Congratulations on a fabulous book!


ABC Radio’s Mark Colvin had this to say as he launched the book in Sydney on Sunday:

In my journalistic lifetime, there has been an absolute revolution in immediacy and therefore in the power of what you can do. It’s had various side effects, good and bad, but this book of Scott’s is really the culmination, we don’t know how the story will end, but for now, it’s the culmination of that story. 

It is a story of how the media has changed and how it is changing the world, how it has become a much more difficult to control force, but how it, as we’ve seen in the last couple of years, and Charlotte mentioned Peter Greste, the attempts have not stopped to control it and probably never will stop.

On that basis, I commend you to read the book, because it’s a fascinating blow-by-blow account of really what happened in, as the title says, just 18 days. 18 days which really changed the Middle East and also helped to change journalism, because it was part of this process of changing journalism.

We’ll be publishing video from that launch as well as the Canberra and Sydney events in coming days. Meanwhile, pick up your copy of the book here (or from one of our partner retailers: Gleebooks, Readings, Paperchain, Dymocks Canberra and Electric Shadows).


Three city tour for launch of 18 Days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution

18days launchThree launches for 18 days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution? Why not, I say. Especially when the subject matter is so newsworthy, the venues are Paperchain in Manuka, Readings Carlton and Gleebooks in Glebe, and the launchers are Chris Kimball (presenter of ABC TV’s 7.30 ACT), Matthew Ricketson (University of Canberra Professor of Journalism) and Mark Colvin (presenter of ABC Radio’s PM) respectively.

Journalism lecturer and former Al Jazeera English director Scott Bridges is all set for his tour, the books have been printed and shipped to the venues, and the dates are locked in: Thursday, May 1 in Canberra (5.45pm); Monday, May 5 in Melbourne (6.30pm); and Sunday, May 18 (3.30pm) in Sydney.

It’s a shame the major publishers rarely contribute to the cost of book launches these days, because I reckon they are one of the most important parts of the publishing process.

The author, publisher and other contributors to the project get to celebrate the arrival of the print edition with friends, family and colleagues. Given the time and effort an author puts into creating a book, this is a non-negotiable in my view.

Attendees are keen to find out more about the book and its author, and the combination of an introduction, a Q&A and a short reading followed by a signing is the perfect way to do it. Especially when enjoyed over a glass of wine or two and a cracker with brie. Is quince paste too extravagant? We’d better check how many early bird copies we’ve sold via the website before we set the catering budget …

For more details about each event, including how to reserve your place, please see the Paperchain, Readings and Gleebooks event pages.

The official invitations are out for Canberra, with Melbourne and Sydney to follow shortly. See the Canberra invitation here.

 Charlotte Harper, Founder + Publisher, Editia

Behind the scenes at Al Jazeera English

18 daysIf you’re one of those media junkies who likes to be first with the news, you need to know that Scott Bridges’ 18 days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution is now available for pre-order from this very website. The official digital publication date is this Saturday, but the first pre-orders “shipped” this afternoon.

You’ll be keen to read it to get to know University of Canberra journalism lecturer and ex-Al Jazeera English director Bridges. He’s a media commentator and non-fiction author to watch. Here at Editia, we feel privileged to be publishing his first book.

If you haven’t already heard about 18 days, here’s the blurb:

“On February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule of Egypt came to an end after 18 days of massive and unprecedented street protests. In the course of those few days, a 24-hour news channel unlike any other, Al Jazeera English, emerged in a crowded global news market as the source for reporting on the Egyptian Revolution. 18 Days examines the Doha-based channel’s coming of age and discovers how a network known to many in the West as “Terror TV” was transformed almost overnight into a trusted and indispensable source of news.”

Sound like it has the makings of a cracker yarn? That’s because it is. Bridges has woven a fast-paced narrative around some of the most significant events of the Arab Spring.

We gain behind-the-scenes insights into the operations of a dedicated television news network both at HQ and on the ground. Forget CNN and BBC World: Al Jazeera is where it’s at, as the recent launch of Al Jazeera America attests.

Anyone who is considering a career in television news or as a foreign correspondent, or who has even a passing interest in the convergence between television and online, needs to read 18 days.

Personally, I’ve been living vicariously through the Al Jazeera English correspondents these past few weeks as they experienced the Egyptian Revolution in the pages of the book. I won’t say I wish I was there, but I am glad that they were, because it’s a story that needed to be told.

I’m looking forward to following future developments on Scott’s blog, too, as Al Jazeera extends its market into the US and beyond.

This is what I’d hoped it’d be all about here at Editia: longform journalism at its best.











The Walkleys, Al Jazeera and Editia’s latest author

Scott Bridges

18 Days author Scott Bridges.

In November last year, a few days after the birth of my second child and in something of a daze as a result, I spoke at the 2012 Walkley Media Conference as part of a panel on entrepreneurial journalism. I was hoping to inspire potential Editia authors in the audience: journalists who had already or would soon come up with narrative longform works that would fit in with our digital first non-fiction list.

On the eve of the 2013 Walkley Media Conference, I’m thrilled to report that that bleary afternoon session last year was absolutely worthwhile: one of the journalists who was in the audience that day has now signed a contract with Editia and we’ll be publishing his book later this year.

Scott Bridges is lecturer in journalism and communications at the University of Canberra. He’s also a former Al Jazeera English director who was on shift when Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed after the fall of Tripoli, and is in the early stages of research for his PhD looking at how Al Jazeera’s reach and influence is expanding in the non-Arabic speaking world.

Upon his return to Australia in 2011, Bridges started work on a book about his former employer. He has spent the past 18 months working on 18 Days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution, including two research trips back to Qatar.

“I was inspired to write 18 Days because the story behind AJE’s incredible coverage of the Egyptian Revolution needed to be told,” Bridges says. “Having heard some of the channel’s correspondents’ anecdotes first-hand, and experienced for myself how news and television is put together inside that dusty Doha studio, I thought I’d be able to give readers insight into AJE that other commentators couldn’t. And with the Al Jazeera Network’s current expansion in the USA and other non-Arabic-speaking markets, there is no better time to examine how this unique hybrid of Middle East and West works.”

The book is a fast-paced tale that provides an insider’s view of the Al Jazeera English newsroom pushed to its limits. It will appeal to readers with an interest in the media, current affairs and recent developments in the Middle East.

You can learn more about Scott Bridges and about the book at www.18daysaje.com. You can learn more about Al Jazeera English by watching its Managing Director, Al Anstey, give the keynote address at the 2013 Walkley Media Conference, Storyology, tomorrow (the session will be streamed live from 1.10pm to 2pm here). Follow the conversation via the #storyology hashtag on Twitter too.

Anstey has been a supporter of Bridges’ book from the start.

“Al made himself available for a couple of interviews, approved my access to AJE staff, and most crucially, placed absolutely no conditions on that access,” Bridges says. “Despite my focus on some controversial topics in interviews, Anstey put his case to me as a Managing Director but respected the process as a journalist.”
“His appearance at the Storyology conference gives journalists and media professionals in Australia a chance to hear directly from the head of one of the world’s most interesting news organisations.”

Here’s the official blurb about 18 Days:

This is the story of a plucky newsroom in the middle of an anonymous Middle Eastern desert city that through its coverage of one huge story changed the rules of 24-hour TV news.

On February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule of Egypt came to an end after 18 days of massive and unprecedented street protests. In the course of those few days, a 24-hour news channel unlike any other, Al Jazeera English, emerged in a crowded global news market as the source for reporting on the Egyptian Revolution. While established networks such as CNN and BBC World battled to provide comprehensive first-hand accounts of developments in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, news consumers across the world found superior coverage on Al Jazeera English. The New York Times said AJE “provided more exhaustive coverage than anyone else”; The Atlantic argued, “It is no exaggeration to say that Al Jazeera has been the eyes and ears of [the Arab Spring].”

18 Days examines the Doha-based channel’s coming of age and discovers how a network known to many in the West as “Terror TV” was transformed almost overnight into a trusted and indispensable source of news. Drawing on content analysis and interviews with key players inside the organisation, the book goes behind the cameras to tell stories of newsgathering ingenuity, hair-raising moments of danger, and internal tension. It examines the network’s relationship with its Qatari benefactors and charges of editorial bias, along with the legacy of Egypt for Al Jazeera English as the brand expands its footprint into the United States.




We have a winner: Carly Lorente’s ‘Minyma’

Carly Lorente

Editia Prize winner Carly Lorente spent nearly a year in Central Australia.

The winning entry in the inaugural Editia Prize is a 10,000-word snapshot into the lives of women in Central Australia, Minyma, by former social worker and freelance writer Carly Lorente.

While Lorente now lives on the north coast of NSW, the work is based on her experiences during a year spent working for an indigenous women’s council in Central Australia in 2010.

She says that working for indigenous bosses rather than for the Government gave her “a true picture of what was happening”.

The judges described Minyma as the standout entry.

“It was vivid, and very assured,” broadcaster and author Jane Caro said.

“She didn’t over-explain everything. She just gave you the scene and let you draw your own conclusions rather than point out the moral or tell you what to think.”

Former editor of The Australian Malcolm Schmidtke said Minyma was “by far the best written piece”.

“It held me for the full journey,” he said, adding that Lorente’s role as a participant rather than just an observer was integral to the strength of the work.

“She’s actually part of what’s going on all the time,” he said.

Like Caro, University of Canberra Professor of Journalism Matthew Ricketson appreciated the way Lorente showed and didn’t tell. “She saved that for the end, when she opened the shoulders and really said what she thought, but I thought that was quite effective,” he said.

“She feels almost as helpless and muddled as other people clearly do [about the problems women face in indigenous communities], but she also really brings it together in a very pithy and succinct way, how the ten months she’s spent in these communities has been both uplifting and frustrating. She pulls that together really nicely.”

Lorente was thrilled to hear she’d won the inaugural prize and is looking forward to working with an editor ahead of the book’s publication through Editia in coming months.

She knows exactly what she’s going to do with the $2500 advance on royalties she’ll receive as winner: buy a new computer to write on.

“My son broke my laptop two weeks ago … he ripped the back off,” she said, thrilled at the prospect of being able to replace it with a brand new one. “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to use it to go back to Central Australia!”

  • Read an extract from Minyma and more about Carly Lorente here.
  • Read about the other shortlisted entries, Beyond Biosphere and Ephemera Revisited,  here and here.
  • Read all about the Editia Prize here.




The last of the Editia Prize shortlist …

Today, we announce the third and final shortlisted piece in the 2013 Editia Prize: Ephemera Revisited by writer and academic Anna Soter. Keep an eye out for the announcement of the winner at around 3pm tomorrow!

The following passage is excerpted from Ephemera Revisited with the permission of the author …

The former residents of Wittenoom had all chosen to come to Australia, although they had had no idea when they chose to accept an assisted passage from Europe, that some of them would be transported to this remote region.  Their ship and others like it would drop off a percentage of these adventurers at Fremantle, the major port for Western Australia, and continue dropping off other percentages of these partially indentured migrants at Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney.  The men, women and children who disembarked at Fremantle were temporarily housed in migrant hostels primarily at Cunderdin until relocated to their final destinations. The men, however, left for those locations immediately, the women and children staying behind in the hostels until housing was available for them.  It was a rough start to a new destiny, but still an exciting one.

One contract was probably much the same as all the others for those who had received free passage in exchange for two years of work wherever that work was located. My father received his on October 25, 1950 from the Commonwealth Employment Office and was told to report to Australian Blue Asbestos in Wittenoom Gorge on October 30. Weekly wages for a regular shift as a labourer (his classification) were to be £9/1/6 out of which 3/- (shillings) were withdrawn for taxes and £2/6/- for board and lodging. As others, he had to make his way to “arrange movement by air to destination” after finding his way from Northam to Perth. The contract wording clearly indicates that my father and others who came in the same capacity were required to remain in Wittenoom for a minimum of two years as allowed under the authorization of the “Commonwealth Employment Service on behalf of the Minister for Immigration,” although it appears that leaving the employment at Wittenoom was possible with application to and approval by the District Employment Officer to do so.”

Had my father and others who were similarly dispatched to Wittenoom known what was already known by some by the time they signed the contract, namely of the devastating and deadly effects of exposure to asbestos fibres to which they would all be exposed at both the mine and mill, some would likely not have signed this contract even at the risk of remaining unemployed and without a clear alternative destination at the time.

It is this troubling question that, for me, is at the heart of the debate surrounding the closure of  Wittenoom. Furthermore, by the time the mines and the mill closed in 1966, significant damage was done, not only to the miners and millworkers but to the residents in the town through exposure to the fibres in the clothes and on the bodies of the men when they returned home, as well as through the spreading of milled, crushed rock (tailings) brought to the town from the mill to reduce dust storms that were common in the area because of large areas of exposed red soil throughout the entire region as well as in the town itself.   And yet, why would those who came during these early years as well as others fight so hard to remain there following the closure of the town?  

About the author

Born in Austria (Europe), Anna Soter grew up in the northwest Australian Pilbara region. She is Professor Emerita in English Education at The Ohio State University where she has taught since 1986.  She also taught high school English and History teacher in Perth and Sydney, between 1968 and 1982. Anna has a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MA in English from the University of Sydney, Australia, and a BA in English and History from the University of Western Australia. Her teaching, research and scholarship has focused on language and literacy, including the teaching of grammar for literate purposes; cross-cultural discourse, literary theory and its applications to young adult literature; small group discussions as a tool for critical thinking; poetry as a vehicle for linguistic sensitivity and personal growth. Anna continues to read as a featured poet in mid-Ohio venues, writes fiction and creative non-fiction, and creates and conducts workshops on language as energy, and writing and poetry for healing and personal growth. In 2011, she founded The Hospital Poets’ Reading Series, bringing poets to special event readings at different venues on the Ohio State University Medical Campus.

Here’s contender number two for the Editia Prize

The second of our shortlisted authors for the Editia Prize is freelance writer and former social worker Carly Lorente. Read on for an extract from her entry, Minyma, and a little more about Carly herself.

The following passage is excerpted from Minyma with the permission of the author …

She smiles bravely again, and the scar on her right cheek is emphasized, a result of her most recent beating, where he’d kicked her face repeatedly as he pulled her down from the noose she made. The day after the last court hearing. She couldn’t even kill herself without his permission.

“Rikina. You look nice.”

I’d never seen her out of basketball shorts; today she wore a long black and white floral skirt.

“Sorry business for my uncle. When the rain come he could make it stop,” she smiled, that pretty white toothed smile.

The day we sat under the bottlebrush tree, the ants at our bare feet on the beat-up couch at the Women’s Shelter, she hadn’t been smiling. As sad and battered women walked by, she told me how she’d nearly died as a baby from too much milk, how she’d nearly died again when her mum was hit by lightning as she breastfed her.

She told me how she was born in Port Augusta where her parents were drinking, and where she eventually went into foster care herself, but didn’t like the white family she lived with. Her mother lives in Adelaide now and still drinks.

When M—– was 15 years old, in the state’s care she followed her cousin to Mutitjulu and was given her first drink. Not long after that, when she was in the state’s care, she met N——– there and left school.

Whilst still in the state’s care, at 16 years old, she fell pregnant to him. Around this time he went to prison for sexually assaulting a tourist who had wandered off from her group at Uluru, to where he was swimming in a nearby waterhole whilst his three year-old nephew watched. He pleaded guilty.

She can’t remember the first time N—— hit her. I know her well enough now to know that she doesn’t’ want to know. The Gordon Inquiry found that Indigenous women are 45 times more likely to experience family violence than non-Indigenous women, and six times more likely to be sexually abused.

About the author

After trying her hand at naturopathy, fashion styling, and social work, Carly Lorente began a career as a freelance feature writer and photographer. She has been published in various local and international titles including The Sunday Telegraph SUNDAY magazine, Mindfood, Green, Wellbeing, Pacific longboarder and Summer Winter covering indigenous issues, culture, fashion, surfing and travel.

She is also a contributing author to the book Lines Of Wisdom (Affirm Press 2008).

Carly currently lives in Northern NSW with her French husband and their soon-to-be two year-old son, and 13 chickens.



Here’s the first Editia Prize contender

 Today, we announce that the first of three shortlisted authors in the running for the Editia Prize is Frankie Seymour of Queanbeyan NSW, with her essay Beyond Biosphere. Read on to learn more about Frankie, and read an excerpt from her shortlisted entry.

The judges, book publisher Charlotte Harper, University of Canberra Professor of Journalism Matthew Ricketson, former editor of The Australian Malcolm Schmidtke and broadcaster, author and social commentator Jane Caro, will convene at 2pm this Friday to choose between three works shortlisted for the award.

Tomorrow, we’ll bring you details on the second finalist, and on Thursday, the third … though we’re having some trouble tracking him down so fingers crossed he checks his Twitter messages, voicemail and/or email by then.

Congratulations to all the entrants, not just these final three. The judges have been variously intrigued, amused, entertained, moved and informed as they consumed tales about running with the bulls in Pamplona, dripping with sweat in Japanese business meetings, pioneering in the Whitsundays, exploring polar ice in an all-terrain and all-temperature vehicle, literary touring of Lebanon and the death of an asbestos town among many others. Every entry was worth a read, and many will find their way to publication in time, we’re sure.

The following passage is excerpted from Beyond Biosphere with the permission of the author …

When any new species is introduced to an established ecosystem, it can cause the local extinction of other, resident species – but normally this damage occurs only on a small scale, with minimal long-term impacts on ecological systems. Whenever a foreign species arrives or arises in a healthy, resilient environment, one of three things will happen: it will fail to survive at all; it will settle in with minimal impact; or it will kill off a few resident species while the rest adapt around it. If it survives, it will soon become “naturalised” and, ultimately, any short term loss of biodiversity caused by its arrival will be reversed as new genetic mutations find niches, and new species diversify to fill up the altered ecosystem.

However, this new primate, because of its ability to adapt to new climates and environments without waiting for new genetic mutations, did its damage very quickly, and on a planetary scale. The primate exterminated entire ecosystems to make way for crops and pastures, replaced wild animals, which were functioning components of ecosystems, with domesticated animals which are not. Its settlements monopolised all the best sea and lake shores and river banks, restricting access to the water supply and the best vegetation for any other animal.

More and more of the planet was changed so it no longer served the whole biosphere, but now serviced only the one species. At this point, the species’ genetic selfishness stopped benefitting the biosphere, and began eroding it.

The human primate had become a cancer. As with the cancer in the individual organism, the new species was gradually turning everything on the planet into an extension of itself.  By the Middle Ages, we were a creeping cancer. Nowadays we are a galloping cancer, totally out of control.

About the author

A lifelong human and animal rights advocate, Frankie Seymour studied history, sociology and English literature, with post-graduate studies in environmental science. She spent the first half of a 30-year public service career working for social justice in the (then) Department of Social Security, and the second half analysing and evaluating environmental data in the Department of the Environment. Now retired, she divides her time between animal rights activism and writing. She writes poetry, songs, plays, non-fiction and speculative fiction, and occasionally dabbles in the romance and mystery genres. In 1993, she published an autobiographical account of her voyages aboard the Sea Shepherd in 1981 (All Hearts on Deck). Her work has been commended in more than a score of literary awards and she has had many poems, stories and articles published in local and wider publications.

Think like a publisher: marketer

Daniel Oyston, owner of Content Grasshopper

Marketing guru Daniel Oyston, a fellow Canberra startup operator with his business Content Grasshopper, told my blogging students they needed to “think like a publisher” this week.

Oyston was giving a guest lecture at the Canberra Institute of Technology on content marketing, but he’s not the first person to note that while there are fewer and fewer jobs in journalism and publishing, the skills of journalists and publishers have never been more in demand outside their traditional spheres.

Businesses everywhere are looking to build brand awareness by publishing fresh, regular, valuable and unique content – exactly the sort of stuff that will raise profiles in Google searches.

Here are some of Oyston’s key points:

• Content we create should be valuable to its consumers. It should either entertain or inform them, without interrupting their lives as traditional advertising can do.

• It should be the kind of content they’d stumble upon late at night when searching for information on a future purchase online.

• While the content itself will not promote your product/brand directly, each page should feature a call to action like a “sign up for our enewsletter” option.

• Content marketing is cheap (though time consuming).

• Visitors will stay for two minutes longer on your site if you post video on a page. [This I can vouch for: I dropped by the Text Publishing page for The Rosie Project on Sunday and spent 40 minutes watching videos and taking quizzes].

• Consider sending content as a follow up after a meeting (instead of a “Don’t hesitate to call if you have any blah blah boring” message at the end of an email).

• Post-evaluation is critical, so pay attention to customers after they’ve spent up on your product, not just before. What after-sales service can you offer?

• News content is useful at the time, but evergreen content, like top ten hints/tips for content marketing, will solve problems, answer questions, offer how-tos/advice and/or provide knowledge to make their lives easier. It will be valuable now and in the future, and available to them 24 hours a day.

• Regular updates are important, but occasional marquee content, often based around events such as the Vinnies CEO Sleepout for St Vincent de Paul, is too.

Mark Thompson of Vinnies was also on hand and gave some great examples of content marketing successes for his organization, including a program under which jerseys signed by celebrities are hidden in Vinnies stores around the country to be sold at usual Vinnies prices to the lucky customers who find them, then post photos of themselves wearing them on social media.

The Sleepout event itself is a huge marketing success story. This simple, text-based tearjerker video helped raise awareness in 2011 and cost Vinnies nothing thanks to the generosity of the writers and producers, Screencraft and SilverSun Pictures respectively. It also made me cry. It’s worth a look:

Vinnies has also used Twitter to lobby our Federal leaders to commit to halving homelessness via the #halvehomelessness hashtag. Supporters posted photos of themselves holding Halve homelessness placards.

Both Thompson and Oyston recommend publishing the same content in different ways, so via slides, podcast, blog and video, for example. Presentations to gatherings that would previously only reach those in attendance can now become permanent content online. Oyston uses Listec’s PromptWare app on his iPad to read his tweaked blog posts to camera to produce simple videos, for example. He bought a lapel mike, simple tripods and clamps for his iGadgets for this purpose, and turns long audio into text by sending it to scribes in India (like CabbageTree Solutions).

You can sign up for Oyston’s enewsletter hereOr better yet, sign up for ours (it’s launching soon) hereSupport the Vinnies CEO Sleepout here.

From the editrix

Editia founder + publisher Charlotte Harper
Until recently I blogged about books, reading, writing, publishing, social media and gadgets at Booku.com and the Boomerang Books blog, but as of this week I’m free to publish that more general material here instead.

It’s been fun to work for a bookshop (I’d always wanted to so it was a dream fulfilled even if it was only in a virtual sense), and I wish the team there well, but I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with what will hopefully be a growing audience of Editia watchers.

Watch this space, then, for updates on Editia’s journey as well as those of its books and authors, but also my own thoughts about developments in the industry and, from time to time, matters entirely unrelated.

Charlotte Harper
Founder + publisher, Editia

Latest Tweets

Editia, Elsewhere

Find Editia at