Admittedly, I couldn’t pay attention to the whole talk at Westminster Skeptics as I was too busy flitting and flirting my way around the room as always, and ended up hanging out with a couple of mates making rude jokes and sniggering quietly at the back. One thing I will say was that the outcome of the debate was pretty much decided from the get-go. Does political blogging make a difference? Yes, or at least yes we bloggers would all like to think so.
Nick Cohen argued that blogging can not and will never replace classic journalism, and journalism demonstrably influences public opinion, before he stuck his two fingers up at the audience of bloggers and shouted “Ner ner ni ner NER!”*. On the question of blogging vs journalism, I’m not so sure. My blog is primarily for entertainment, I’m not using it to change the world, but there are many other blogs around who are dedicated to research or informed opinion (Jack Of Kent, NHS Blog Doctor, Ben’s Prison Blog, The Quackometer, Dr Petra) – these blogs are useful as well as entertaining and informative – perhaps they will change the world. My other gripe with this point is that it takes a binary approach to the subject. Why should blogging and journalism be at loggerheads? In my time, I’ve met plenty of journalists who also blog. Blogging seems like a great way to publish all the stuff your editor doesn’t want to go to print. Okay, it might not be seen by the same number of people, but it’s getting published, and hopefully read.
Likewise, many bloggers have crossed over into the mainstream media (I’m not abbreviating this to MSM, because in my neck of the woods it means something different). Martin Robbins of http://www.layscience.net frequently has articles published in The Guardian and the Times, just the other day he was in the Independent. Jack of Kent, David Colquhoun, Simon Perry, I could go on – they have all had their say in the printed press, be it local or national.
Sunny Hundal gave loads of examples of times when blogs have influenced mainstream journalism. Remember the “Muslim extremist” who claimed he was targeting prominent British Jews like Alan Sugar, Amy Winehouse and Jon Ronson? The likes of Richard Wilson (of Don’t Get Fooled Again fame, who was far too grown up to take part in our rude-joke-a-thon) regularly posts stuff uncovering some of the heinous acts of the rich and powerful. The 10:23 Campaign I was involved in started out as a bunch of Northern bloggers thinking “enough is enough” and putting together an international protest that was widely covered in the mainstream press. There was a photo of me in the Daily Mail and Sunday Telegraph next to Dave Gorman. My granddad was so proud!
I believe it was Robin Ince who said “The internet is not a library. It is an infinite public toilet attached to a library” – Bloggers, moderators, commenters and blog readers are democratic voters too. Many mainstream media outlets have a blog section these days, the printed press needs to move on or move out.
*That didn’t actually happen