First published on comment is free this morning.
Why do we blog? Does it serve any purpose? Is it “killing our culture” as some say, is it a “parasitic” medium as others do, or is it the promised land? It is the latter of course; allow me to explain why.
On his journalism blog, Andrew Grant-Adamson points to the eruption of an online row in America over this article in the LA Times. Michael Skube’s point in the LA Times can be summarised as: bloggers don’t do original reporting, so they’re rubbish. In response an American journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote this DailyKos post and a reply in the LA Times pointing to several examples where bloggers did original reporting or broke stories.
So far so good? Not really. I think this misses the beauty of blogging.
I remember when I started AIM magazine over 4 years ago, I met an editor from Hindustan Times in London and told her about my project. She asked what credentials I had in starting an online magazine and competing with them given she had been doing her job for decades and I was an Economics graduate. I pointed out that one of their top stories about a British Asian film was factually wrong because they’d failed to do any digging behind the press release they had been sent, and she could find the real story on my site. Suffice to say she didn’t want to help much after that.
I think blogs like Firedoglake who do original reporting (it had unparalleled coverage of the Scooter Libby trial) are to be admired and I’ve half-done some reporting myself *cough*. But generally I think we can leave that to the paid professionals.
Where blogging can play an important role is two-fold.
1) Partisan political commentary.
I have absolutely no problems with biased political bloggers doing their best to pick at the opposite side and expose their stupidity. Honestly, I think it’s great for democracy and free speech, even if I think most conservative bloggers, especially in the US, are mad (I’m only half-joking). Because they are biased and want to score ideological points, bloggers are more likely to keep the paid professionals on their toes and get their readers to think beyond the inane (and sometimes misinformed) political commentary of the pros.
In other words I’m completely for bloggers organising themselves to pick holes at the arguments of others and the mass media because there will always be slip-ups or hidden agendas and we are here to try and expose them.
More importantly, we are also here to develop ideas and arguments in a biased way that the national media cannot or does not do.
Robert Sharp calls it Open Source Campaigning, but the point is the same. The web, and more specifically blogs, allows us to campaign for initiatives such as the plight of Iraqi Employees and get MPs to do something about it. Without this platform I’d be complaining over my morning muesli and hoping one of the papers started it. And what if they didn’t?
There is a great deal of navel-gazing in the media world over blogs because: everyone is losing audiences to the web; media companies haven’t figured out how to make money online; because bloggers can be frequently get quite angry at journalists (and of course politicians).
I believe money is a side issue here because eventually some commercially viable models will appear on the web and companies will earn serious money from content production. I think the real reason why newspaper columnists hate bloggers is because power is gradually shifting to the hands of the well-organised masses.
While newspapers have always been about talking to readers, blogs have been about talking with readers. Comment is free is the hybrid of course but too many writers on that still don’t get it.
Blogging is a different culture.
You have to ask yourself why critics are wary of blogging. Itâ€™s not just about blogging, itâ€™s about a change in the organizational culture of newspapers. If you understand that a newspaper is not a lecturing instrument, but rather an engagement with an opinionated audience, you understand blogging right away.
The beauty of the two functions above is that they engage people in a way that the national media can never really do. And for our political culture and democracy, that can only be a good thing. No? Well, let’s hear your opinion then.
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Filed in: Culture,Media,Party politics