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  • What is the point of blogging?

    by Sunny
    28th August, 2007 at 8:38 am    

    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.

    2) Campaigning
    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. It’s not just about blogging, it’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.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Culture,Media,Party politics

    14 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Mike Ion — on 28th August, 2007 at 10:51 am  

      Sunny - can I cally you Sunny? We have never met but one aspect of blogging is the informal nature of the medium, we build up a whole group of cyber-buddies (which can be both rewarding and a bit scary).

      I think that if you were to choose two words that people today use almost daily that they had never used or had even heard of five years ago, the words would probably be “iPod” and “blog”. Just a few years ago, blogs were relatively rare. Now there are millions. They’re devoted to every topic imaginable, from football to flower arranging, from Big Brother to Big Bands. There are some 37m blogs in the world, with a new blog created every second, yes, every second.

      Like the iPod, having your own blog is fast becoming a status symbol. It is therefore no surprise that politicians are getting wise to the potential of the blog as a means of engaging with the electorate in a fast and efficient manner. Modern politics and government are changing in a fundamental way. Politicians need to become more transparent, more open in their dealings with the electorate. The internet, and interactive tools like blogs, are ways of achieving the greater transparency and openness that the public not only wants but demands. People all over the world are embracing new technology and unless politicians do the same they risk losing a vital link with the people they are trying to reach.

      I think one of the main reasons that blogs have taken off is that they take the media out of the hands of the corporate world and put it into the hands of anyone with a computer and an internet connection. Yes - this is a good thing.

    2. Andrew Grant-Adamson — on 28th August, 2007 at 11:23 am  

      Great post and thanks for the link.
      You are absolutely right to treat money as a side issue. Things are changing and we have to live with that in the belief that ways of making money will come along. A rough ride though for those brought up in traditional media.

    3. Leon — on 28th August, 2007 at 12:08 pm  

      I think the real reason why newspaper columnists hate bloggers is because power is gradually shifting to the hands of the well-organised masses.

      In a nutshell that’s it.

      I think to focus on blogging is bit narrow; blogging is one aspect of social media. Wiki’s, user generated video, social networking, podcasting, blogging, these are the new tools for the 21st century agents of change.

    4. Billy — on 28th August, 2007 at 12:55 pm  

      Most bloggers aren’t well resourced enough to take on the whole of the media establishment. Opinion and comment columns in papers are fairer game though.

    5. devolute — on 28th August, 2007 at 3:30 pm  

      ….and some bloggers just love the sound of their own voice. I certainly do. I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m just more honest than everyone else ;)

      It’s not the be-all and end-all of journalism, but hurrah for blogging. Whatever the reason for it.

    6. Anonymous — on 28th August, 2007 at 5:23 pm  

      The point of blogging is to get your message across especially to people who have either very few chances or none at all meeting you face to face and talking. It is not just the media but everyone who is interested in the country that is if they are talking about politics.

    7. Nyrone — on 28th August, 2007 at 11:09 pm  

      This is quite a surprise.
      I would have thought this thread would have been spilling and over-flowing with comments, remarks and rants. It really speaks volumes that the question has been confronted with something of a cold silence, in comparison to the other popular questions about religion and politics, which usually elicit droves of individuals wishing to insert their opinions forward. Why the silence? In a way, I think people are embarrassed to admit the reason. It’s the same reason that a child can’t answer why he wants to play in the sand …it’s because it is fun and he just feels like doing it.

      I think it was Plato that said “Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain” and perhaps the logical progression implies that many blogs are an extension of that need to rant, complain and attempt to communicate to others what they are feeling inside.

      I feel unable to answer this question from an objective perspective of why do ‘People’ blog…that is hard and almost impossible, because there are thousands of sub-compartments of blogging, and thousands of reasons why different individuals feel like blogging by scribing their thoughts into a computer…
      Salam Pax blogged for different reasons than Mr Smith on the train, what’s the point quantifying or comparing them?…If we are to take each blog separately as it’s own entity, we could then examine the reasons and aims for individual blogs, rather than asking an all-encompassing question, which due to being drenched in generality, will most likely never be answered properly anyway, because there are far too many ways to answer it.

      I guess the cynic in me wants to say that I feel it’s largely an entertainment-based time-killing intellectual, textual exercise that sharpens an individual’s ability to write more clearly or fluidly, make statements, justify points, feel less lonely, feel more confident in oneself and also feel like part of an active community that is constantly evolving and ‘doing stuff’.

      I reckon the need for people to have their own personal thoughts validated by others is probably a big factor, as is the soap-opera style gang-siege tribal debates that take place and give each person a ‘side’ to be on with one group or the other. It’s like a sport for lazy people, in which you can hide behind a mask in the comfort of your living room and argue and disagree rather than work towards a collective solution. After all, the aim quickly becomes to win an argument, not find an answer, so this idealistic idea of a collective conversation in which people are helping each other find a common working ground is largely an illusion.

      Isn’t it obvious that people who write and create blogs would naturally feel a psychological need to defend their intentions, perhaps exaggerate and amplify the power and consequences of their blogs, when in reality…blogs are largely un-regulated (in a negative fact-check sense) and most people reading them understand that the author is usually not versed in 5 years of NUJ-Journalism and therefore perhaps not to write on a matter objectively or have the resources to do proper investigative reporting/work? Can we trust the individual, when he/she is obviously trying to increase the appeal of the article or post? With nobody to check the blogger, the blogger could go crazy with power.

      Anyway, I guess it is in a premature form right now and I believe it’s going to really take off in the future in terms of access, breaking stories, audience market share ETC, but I can’t help but feel that in this climate of everybody being too egotistical to admit that they don’t know the answers to all things or understand certain history, that we will end up with a movement of people that shout from the rooftops that they armed with facts, when this couldn’t be further from the truth. They will start campaigns and letter-writing from their bedrooms, but neglect the practical human social-interaction steps that are much more important than simply intellectualizing or ‘debating’ on a Sunday afternoon.

      And anyway isn’t blogging different to real-life? That’s what I would like to know. I dislike the way that everybody is an expert on all topics these days, everyone has their list of pre-prepared quotes and endless WebPages to defend their points and an arrogant, smug, self-righteous attitude about knowledge of information.

      So are we asking why do people read and write in Political Blogs? It’s a whole different affair, I would be willing to bet £1000 that people who do wish to engage in active, practical political action are not going to spend all day reading blogs, because blogs are filled with the political obsessives, who basically do nothing but play-fight ideological theoreticals in blog forums all day long, without really doing anything about it in real-life. These are the worst kinds of hypocrites, because they write so beautifully about what needs to be done, and then never do it.

      Or, perhaps I have misunderstood this entire question and we are having a collective discussion about MSM Vs the Bloggers, in which case the situation gets even more problematic….

    8. bikhair aka taqiyyah — on 29th August, 2007 at 12:44 am  

      You know, after having spent a considerable amount of time at Harry’s Place, I’ve never abadoned the belief that blogging is nothing more than an orgy where everyone is having sex with themselves.

    9. Nodn — on 29th August, 2007 at 7:39 pm  

      Sunny- sorry to go off topic. I read your article btw- good piece as always! But how do you get to contribute to CIF? Do they pay you?

    10. soru — on 29th August, 2007 at 8:25 pm  

      Why the silence?

      because every time I open up PP in internet explorer, I get some kind of warning about a time consuming Flash script, and then IE has to be restarted.

    11. Sunny — on 29th August, 2007 at 8:53 pm  

      Oh balls! I think its something to do with the video that is embedded. I had the same problem… will see what I can do.

    12. Nodn — on 30th August, 2007 at 2:17 am  

      No offence Sunny but could you please answer me?

    13. Sunny — on 30th August, 2007 at 2:35 am  

      whoops, sorry! They asked me to contribute to CIF and they pay me when they feel like it and if they think my article is good enough. That’s the truth, lol.

    14. Nodn — on 30th August, 2007 at 2:46 am  

      How did they get hold of you to ask?

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