Archive for the ‘politics’ tag

Reports of the death of blogging have been greatly exaggerated

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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weeks ago the BBC reported on the death of blogging – picking up on an article in Wired magazine suggesting it had been superseded by other communication like Twitter.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.

Written by Martin Moore

November 6th, 2008 at 11:34 am

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Why don’t we have more analysis of media coverage of politics?

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Whatever you saw, read, or heard about Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention you can be sure of one thing. The coverage will be covered.

Media Matters for America, the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Factcheck.org, the Pew Centre for People & Press, Columbia Journalism Review, TechPresident, lots of university media media centres, and many many blogs will all, in different ways, analyse the media coverage.

Some of these organisations are politically partisan. Media Matters is overtly pro-Democrat and searches for any signs of media bias: ‘ABC reports that Republicans are mocking Democrats’ columned stage, not that 2004 GOP convention stage also had columns’ was one of Thursday’s headlines.

Others are explicitly non-partisan, such as The Pew Centre for Press and People that conducts opinion polls and, with the PEJ, measures media coverage (e.g see ‘Obama rumours get more press‘).

And some focus on new media. Tech President, for example, looks at who is blogging about the campaign, who is watching Obama or McCain on YouTube or supporting the candidate on Facebook, as well as discussion and comment.

This doesn’t include, of course, the analyses by mainstream media. Howard Kurtz on media for the Washington Post. Fox News telling its viewers that the liberal media slavishly compare Obama’s rhetoric with Kennedy’s. Or Jon Stewart ribbing Fox News on the Daily Show.

So what does the UK have by comparison?

Well… Channel 4 makes a valiant effort to run FactCheck UK. There are some good bloggers discussing media, like Adrian Monck and Roy Greenslade (though certainly not restricted to politics). But not much more.

Why isn’t there more analysis of media coverage of politics in the UK? Given how important the media has become to politicians – “a vast aspect of our jobs today…” Tony Blair said last year “is coping with the media, its sheer scale, weight and constant hyperactivity” – you would have thought someone, somewhere, would be keeping a closer record.

Of course there are significant differences in the political process. We know when American elections are going to happen and the build up starts over a year before election day. This means US organisations have both time to prepare and plenty to analyse. In the UK the Prime Minister only has to give the electorate six weeks notice. So though most of us figure the next election will be in 2010, it’s difficult to justify starting election analysis now.

There’s also a lot more riding on the US election. Much as the UK might continue to swing its weight about in the world (hat tip to Mr David Miliband), the US remains the leading global power.

But these differences should only account for a difference in scale and approach. They don’t explain the vacuum of analysis here.

It’s time we had a centre for political media analysis. It’s time for a UK Pew / Project for Excellence in Journalism / TechPresident. Any volunteers?

Written by Martin Moore

August 29th, 2008 at 5:48 am

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Has the Left stopped thinking?

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Since thumping the next election into the nether regions of 2010, Gordon Brown has yet to outline new New Labour’s big ‘vision’. Is it there struggling to get out, or has the well of new Left ideas dried up?

We’ve organised a debate, in association with Reuters, to find out.

“Has the Left stopped thinking” will be held at Reuters next Wednesday (26th) from 6/6.30-8pm (see www.theorwellprize.co.uk).

Denis MacShane MP, Will Hutton (Work Foundation, The Observer), Matthew Parris (The Times), Peter Hitchens (The Mail on Sunday) and Jean Seaton (Westminster University) will argue it out, chaired by Sean Maguire (Editor, Political & General News, Reuters).

Following the debate Jean Seaton, the chair of the Orwell Prize, will announce this year’s shortlists – for the author and for the journalist who have most successfully achieved Orwell’s aim of making political writing into an art.

There is limited seating but if you’d like to come you’re welcome to email me at martin.moore@mediastandardstrust.org and, if there are any places left, I’ll put your name down.

Written by Martin Moore

March 20th, 2008 at 3:15 pm

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Launching the Orwell Prize 2008

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Heading off shortly to help launch the Orwell Prize 2008.

As of this evening the Media Standards Trust is partnering with the Orwell Trust and Political Quarterly to run the Orwell Prize for political writing and journalism.
It’s an honour to be associated both with such a prestigious prize and, via the prize, to the memory of Orwell himself. We’ve been beavering away getting a website ready (it hasn’t had one to date) at www.theorwellprize.co.uk, which will go live at 7pm tonight.
To mark the opening of this year’s prize we’ve also helped organise a panel debate on ‘Orwell, ID Cards, the Citizen and the State’ – with David Goodhart (editor, Prospect), Jenni Russell (Guardian), Heather Brooke (author, ‘Right to Know’) and Nick Cohen (Observer), chaired by Jean Seaton (University of Westminster).
What would Orwell have made of ID cards? Are his warnings about Big Brother still relevant in our contemporary information society? What would a modern day George Orwell write about?
The event is at the Frontline Club from 7-9pm. If you’d like to come along you’re welcome to email me at martin.moore@mediastandardstrust.org.

Written by Martin Moore

November 30th, 2007 at 2:33 pm

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