Saturday 12 August 2006

The MSM and the bloggers

In today's Scotsman (but behind the subscription wall), Joyce McMillan makes a plaintive call for "real journalism". She starts off with an easy target:
The News of the World, for example, has been a byword for filthy and intrusive stories about bishops, actresses and divorces for 150 years
But this is a mere lead-in to what's really bugging Ms McMillan:
...society as a whole should end its foolish flirtation with the idea that professional journalism is somehow dead, now that every citizen can generate his or her own news stories and images, and write them up in his or her own blog. No-one on the planet has a hope in hell of understanding what is going on, in this chaotic universe of digitised disinformation, unless someone, somewhere, continues to undertake the job of information-gathering, agenda-setting, contextualising, editing and analysis that has been the role of serious journalists down the ages, regardless of the medium through which their work is presented.
Now, hold on. I'm not aware of any serious blogger who claims to "undertake the job of information-gathering" in the same way as can a newspaper or broadcasting company with hundreds or thousands of employees. It's when we get on to "agenda-setting, contextualising, editing and analysis" that the problem arises. And the problem I'm alluding to is that mainstream journalists all too often bitterly resent any suggestion that they are anything other than "objective".

Now, I can accept that a journalist covering, say, the physical sciences, may be objective, but when we are dealing with questions of politics and economics it's clear that there is no consensus. The mainstream media (especially the taxpayer-funded BBC) is full of journalists who portray themselves as "objective" when they are nothing of the sort. All successful political bloggers of the sort maligned by Ms McMillan openly declare their ideological starting-point and are increasingly becoming the "serious journalists" of our time. The relentless and instant feedback of the web together with expert knowledge is making many bloggers far more reliable than so-called professional journalists.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Mr Eugenides
Even scientific correspondents often "take sides" on the big controversies of the day - those in the business would probably read view many science pieces in the MSM as small-p "political" in that sense - but I take your point. 
Journalists are consistently trying to knock down a straw man with these attacks on bloggers. No blogger, as you say, claims to be a news-gathering service - even "news aggregators" like Instapundit only pick out a relatively tiny number of stories to present to their readers - and very few would claim that they often generate news - even the Guidos of this world are, beyond the rhetoric, merely disseminating gossip. But there is quality writing out there which is far better than much of the twaddle being spouted by highly-paid commentators, and news stories are now being subjected to a level of analysis and scrutiny from the army of Davids that the MSM can only aspire to (witness last week's Reuters photo controversy). This is a direct result of the blogging explosion. 
There will always be a place for good journalism, backed up by money, support systems, professional factchecking and the like. The problem is that a lot of the bad journalism is beginning to get noticed and debunked. No wonder some people are getting nervous.

14 August 2006, 11:21:34 GMT+01:00
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Bill (Scotland)
No doubt the MSM will always exist in one form or other, but the days when it could monopolise agenda-setting are over. Just as vinyl gave way to magnetic tape then CD and convnetional telephony is currently being axed by VOIP, MSM will have to accommodate the blogging community or wither. Murdoch, not my favourite creature on the planet, revolutionised print journalism in this country and the wittering on about blogging by the MSM is just whistling in the wind - only those who adapt will survive.

12 August 2006, 17:27:35 GMT+01:00