James Ball (journalist)

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James Ball
3 - James Ball, QED Con 2017.jpg
Alma materUniversity of Oxford, City, University of London
OccupationJournalist, author
Years active2008–present

James Ball is a British journalist and author. He has worked for The Guardian, WikiLeaks, BuzzFeed, The New European and The Washington Post and is the author of three books. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism and was a member of The Guardian team which won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism.[1]

Early life[edit]

Ball studied for a BA degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford and went on to enrol in the masters programme in journalism at City, University of London. After transferring to a diploma course for financial reasons,[2] he graduated from City in 2008 with a diploma in magazine journalism with a focus on investigative journalism.[3]

Personal life[edit]

James is gay.[4]


After leaving university he spent two years at The Grocer, rising from a junior reporter to chief reporter within 18 months, while honing his skills as a data journalist. Moving to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism Ball worked on the iraqwarlogs.com,[1][5] and was approached in November 2010 by Julian Assange and invited to work as the in-house journalist for WikiLeaks in the UK where he began working on the Iraq War documents leak. He described his days there as "long and erratic", complicated when a European Arrest Warrant was issued for Assange which lead to extradition proceedings known as the Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority.[6] Ball later expressed criticism of Assange and the Wikileaks organisation[7] and has stated that his journalistic duty of care was to the source, Chelsea Manning, rather than the organisation reporting on it.[8][9][6] Ball left WikiLeaks after three months when he became increasingly concerned by the organisation's attempts to censor staff,[10] his own worries regarding protecting the identity of vulnerable individuals in the leaked cables and Assange's attempts to secure WikiLeaks' funds for his own legal defence.[11] In 2012 he co-authored a book with Charlie Beckett documenting his experiences, WikiLeaks: News in the Networked Era.[12]

In 2011 Ball joined British newspaper The Guardian where he worked on several high-profile investigative stories and was given several awards as part of The Guardian team.[1] Whilst working for The Guardian, Ball collaborated on the "Offshore Leaks" project which won multiple awards from Investigative Reporters and Editors as well as the George Polk Award in 2014.[13][14] In 2013 he was appointed data editor and from around June 2013 he worked on the Edward Snowden leaked documents on British and US intelligence organisations Government Communications Headquarters and National Security Agency. In October 2013 it was announced that Ball had joined Guardian US, the American online section of the newspaper where he took up the newly created position of special projects editor.[1]

Prior to working for The Guardian, Ball worked on British investigative current affairs programmes Dispatches for Channel 4 and Panorama for BBC Television. Whilst with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism he also worked for Al Jazeera and ITN.[15]

James Ball, "Fact-checking in the Fake News Era" panel at QED2017

In September 2015 Ball joined the UK division of BuzzFeed as part of their investigative journalism team.[16] Since 2016 Ball has also written articles for The New European, a British pro-European magazine.

Ball is a judge for the Amnesty International UK Media Awards having been a recipient in 2010 with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.[17][18] Ball's work on the investigation into HSBC's money laundering was also shortlisted for The Orwell Prize for Journalism.[19]

Ball has been critical of the lack of fact-checking by journalists and news consumers, of using clickbait headlines and the culture of media being forced to rely on advertising revenue from 'clicks' and social media 'shares' and has said, "While we are demanding that the audience trust mainstream outlets and put us on a higher pedestal, our business models favour getting the clicks – if you'd had stopped and waited to verify and check, you'd have missed out on the traffic all-together and got no revenue, so we actually reward running this unchecked footage."[20] He has also been highly critical of Donald Trump's method of disseminating truth and/or fiction[20] on platforms such as Twitter, describing his statements as "rhetorical clusterbombs of nonsense 'facts' [and] unprovable allegations."[21] He concludes we all need to take responsibility for 'fake news' and clickbait as well as the social networks we ultimately decide to click and share it on, perpetuating the problem of truth in journalism.[22]

Awards in journalism[edit]

Ball has received several awards during his career for journalism and investigative journalism including,

Ball has been a member of investigative journalism teams which were awarded


WikiLeaks: News in the Networked Era, co-authored with Charlie Beckett, was published in 2012 by Polity Publishing and is a detailed record of the history of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and how this played out across journalistic media.

The Infographic History of the World, co-authored with Valentina D'Efilippo, was published 2013 by Collins. It is a representation of human history using infographics, or visual representations of data with text commentaries. The Economist praised its mostly "terrific charts" but stated some lacked "infographical discipline".[29]

Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World, published 2017 by Biteback Publishing,[30] discusses how truth has become devalued in the current socio-political climate, how the political left and right tend to exist in an "eco-system of bullshit: the combination of campaigns, media, technologies and more that come together to spread questionable information",[31] and examines whether this is a phenomenon post- Brexit and the Trump campaign. It has been described as "thorough and courageously even-handed" (The Times)[32] and expressing a "vivid analysis of how the business models and incentives currently prevailing in digital media render decent discourse all but inaudible" (Kazuo Ishiguro).[33]

Bluffocracy was co-authored with Andrew Greenway and published 2018 by Biteback Publishing. It looks at members of the British establishment and those in positions of influence, and the culture of lying and pretence in place of competency and real skill.[34]

'The System: Who Owns the Internet, and How It Owns Us' will be published on 20th August 2020. It documents the inner workings of the system and the real-life figures who power the internet.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "James Ball to Join Guardian's US Newsroom as Special Projects Editor". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  2. ^ "How I became a journalist". Medium. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Guardian's James Ball wins City University award for Snowden files data journalism". Press Gazette. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  4. ^ [https:https://twitter.com/jamesrbuk/status/1293933632466427904?s=20 "Twitter/James Ball"] Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  5. ^ "Homepage". Iraq War Logs. Archived from the original on 21 February 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  6. ^ a b Gunter, Joel. "'There was never an average day': James Ball on being WikiLeaks' in-house journalist". Journalism.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  7. ^ Ramos, Dante. "Julian Assange, horrible boss". Boston Globe. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  8. ^ Zetter, Kim; Poulson, Kevin. "U.S. Intelligence Analyst Arrested in Wikileaks Video Probe". Wired. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Collateral Murder". WikiLeaks. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  10. ^ Hall, Kat. "Assange offers job to sacked Google diversity manifestbro". The Register. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  11. ^ Ball, James. "Why I felt I had to turn my back on WikiLeaks". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  12. ^ Ottosen, Rune (2013). "WikiLeaks: news in the networked era". Digital Journalism. 1: 169–170. doi:10.1080/21670811.2012.740287.
  13. ^ Gray, William. "ICIJ's offshore secrets series wins George Polk Award". The Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  14. ^ "Offshore Leaks Honored with Top Investigative Reporting Prize". The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  15. ^ "James Ball, Britain". International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Archived from the original on 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  16. ^ Ponsford, Dominic. "Guardian's James Ball is latest national press staffer to join Buzzfeed's UK team". Press Gazette. Archived from the original on 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  17. ^ "Shortlist for Amnesty's Media Awards 2016 announced". Amnesty International. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Amnesty announces 2011 Media Awards winners". Amnesty International. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  19. ^ "The Orwell Prize for Journalism and the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain's Social Evils 2016: Longlists". The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  20. ^ a b Scott, Caroline. "How journalism business models are fuelling the misinformation ecosystem". Journalism.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  21. ^ Ball, James (May 2017). Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World. Biteback Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-78590-214-7.
  22. ^ Smith, Oliver. "James Ball: 'Bullshit's taken over the world, and you need to fight back'". The Memo. Archived from the original on 25 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  23. ^ "Society announces winners of RSS Statistical Excellence Awards". Royal Statistical Society. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  24. ^ Quinn, Ben. "Paul Foot award: Guardian wins special investigation prize for Snowden files". Guardian. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  25. ^ Micheli, Caroline. "Scripps Howard Awards honor best journalism in the nation in 2013". Scripps Howard Foundation. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  26. ^ Press Office. "Guardian US wins Roy W. Howard Award for Public Service Reporting". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  27. ^ "The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  28. ^ "British Journalism Awards hall of fame". Press Gazette. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  29. ^ "Infographics Winds of change". The Economist. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  30. ^ Onwuemezi, Natasha. "Investigation into post-truth to Biteback". The Bookseller. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  31. ^ Lloyd, John. "The truth about the post-truth age". Financial Times. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  32. ^ Davis, Clive. "Book of the week". The Times. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  33. ^ Ishiguro, Kazuo. "Best holiday reads 2017, picked by writers". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  34. ^ "Bluffocracy". Biteback Publishing. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  35. ^ [https:https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-system-9781526607249 "The System: Who Owns the Internet, and How It Owns Us"] Check |url= value (help). Bloomsbury. Retrieved 13 August 2020.

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