Archive for November, 2008
Blogging has had a hard time in the last fortnight. A couple of weeks ago the BBC reported on the death of blogging – picking up on an article in Wired magazine suggesting it had been superseded by other communication like Twitter.
Then earlier this week Hazel Blears (in a much trailed speech) said blogging was fuelling ‘a culture of cynicism and despair’ and accused particular bloggers (she cited Guido Fawkes) of ‘vicious nihilism’ (it’s worth reading Fawkes’ response to this accusation).
Yet missing amongst these attacks from big media and politicians is the real story about blogging – its shift from minority to mainstream.
Blogging has changed, but rather than dying it has been enhanced and its audience enormously enlarged through its adoption by the mainstream.
Where did people look for the most up-to-date information about the financial crisis in the UK? Robert Peston’s blog. What do Nick Robinson, Benedict Brogan or Adam Boulton do when they have inside information about Westminster? Blog about it.
What Wired was really picking up on was the acceptance of the blog by major media organisations. The professionalisation of an activity that was previously deliberately amateur – and which often liked to define itself in opposition to big media. But that’s what the establishment does – when radicals start to become powerful the establishment embraces the radicals.
There are now only five or six political blogs with a substantial audience (including Guido Fawkes, Iain Dale’s Diary, Conservative Home, Political Betting). Most of those who edit and write for them now have formal or informal links with mainstream media organisations (Fawkes, to my knowledge, excepted).
All major news outlets have professional blogs. The Times even has a widget you can download which has instant access to its latest blogs.
More interesting than reporting on the death of blogging or accusing most political blogs of having ‘a disdain for the political system and politicians’, is thinking about how to stop professional blogs predominating. How to support and promote independent blogs that don’t necessarily have a big audience but represent otherwise unrepresented voices. The sort of blogs Jean Seaton talked about on Woman’s Hour (and referenced this blog – much appreciated).
Which is one of the reasons why we’re going to spend the next couple of months looking for good political blogs (political in the broadest sense, not just Westminster gossip) and getting them to enter this years special Orwell Prize for political blogging (that the Media Standards Trust runs along with Political Quarterly).
Only two years ago, the BBC called bloggers “sad, joyless people in their underwear who sit in front of their computers all day.” Now, because there’s lots more people blogging, and some of them wear suits and are employed by media organisations, it is suggesting blogging is all over. It isn’t. It’s just moved into a new phase.
I wrote an extended version of my ‘sense of perspective‘ blog for Comment is Free, that you can read here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/oct/31/television-russell-brand