Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nick 'n Dale: What are bloggers for?

There has been a lot of discussion recently in the blogosphere about the role of bloggers in politics. Well I guess it proves that the media enjoys nothing better than talking about itself.

Amongst the highlights are Nick Robinson's counter-attack about those who claim the BBC should have run with a story sooner:

Robinson really is making a spectacle of himself
Incidentally, this is another example of some blogs trying to make the political weather. First, they demand to know why the mainstream media - and, in particular, the BBC - are not covering an alleged "scandal". Then they report unsubstantiated allegations which have been denied by those involved, which some newspapers then report as second hand news.

Let's be clear. This isn't because they are better journalists, free from censorship. They often have a political agenda. This is a political phenomenon copied from the United States where the Swift Boat Veterans were used to damage John Kerry.

Here's proof, from my old friend Iain Dale - a former Tory candidate and chief of staff in David Davis's leadership campaign who chivvied the mainstream media for not covering the story of Cherie Blair signing the Hutton report to raise funds at an auction. This entry on his blog is titled It's Up to the Blogs to Make it Hit the Fan.
Iain has countered with, amongst other posts, this on Comment is free: I may be a blogger but I'm not an attack dog:

Are blogs purely a conduit for unsubstantiated gossip? In some cases, of course - just as newspapers and various radio & TV programmes are. We all know that the Westminster village is a hive of political gossip, much of it either wishful thinking or vicious innuendo. The fact that some of it is repeated on blogs like Guido Fawkes and Recess Monkey is actually having the consequence of allowing the public into the sometimes closed world of Westminster. It's up to them to judge whether what they read is healthy or not.

But it is also true to say that Blogs are no different from newspaper diary columns. They both specialise in the same sort of tittle tattle and they are both subject to exactly the same libel laws. The only difference is that if Jon Henley gets sued for something he writes in his Guardian Diary column, The Guardian will pick up the tab. If I get sued, I don't have any big media organisation in the background to help me out. The consequence is that I am careful what I write. Guido Fawkes, it has to be said, is less careful and is more gung ho. He has actually invited the Labour MP he names on his site to sue him. So far she hasn't.
The row could run on and on...

Ultimately blogs are the 21st century incarnation of private newspapers, newsletters and the like that have spread information and political debate in a new form. They operate to a different scope than the "mainstream" media organisations - indeed they're threatening to undermine information monopolies. Yes many are written by avowed party members but as the Prescott affairs have shown there are critics across the political spectrum. Isn't it better that the authors are honest? And many a party member's blog dissents from the party line many times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some good points in an article from Paul Mason, a BBC newsnight journalist Here which tries to examine the relationship and differences between bloggers and the MSM


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