I have read two excellent pieces on blogging by Mike Smithson and Tim Montgomerie on the mainstream media's attack on blogging, including a particularly deluded piece in the Financial Times. Tim in particular laid out a brilliant 7 point defence of blogs and bloggers :-
1. It's true that some people who use the internet only read blogs/ sites that reinforce their views but I now read The Guardian, Independent, FT and a whole range of left-wing new media when in the pre-internet age I only really read one or two (right-of-centre) newspapers each day.
2. All opinions are represented in the blogosphere. All barriers to entry have been blown away. Take ConHome's Platform blog. Voices never heard before are now heard by the leadership of the Conservative Party and beyond. Power has been transferred from a small Westminster class to 'a wiser crowd' and the transfer has only just begun (and will accelerate as the mainstream media retreats behind payment walls).
3. The mainstream media is held to account. This is one of the blogosphere's most important functions. Shoddy or biased journalism is now exposed instantly. Cosy relations between certain journalists and titles meant a lack of scrutiny between old media organs. Pre-blogosphere people had to wait days in the hope that their letter might be published in a newspaper that had misled or misrepresented. The right to reply was often never given and very often never in full. Fisking is one of the blogosphere's great innovations.
4. Blogs also hold other blogs to account. It's true that a lot of blogs write a lot of rubbish but plenty of other bloggers exist to point this out whenever it happens.
5. Not all blogs are same. Yes, some are tribal and deceitful. Some newspapers can also be described in those terms. Blogs are at least as different from each other as the FT is from the Daily Star. Guido Fawkes, Iain Dale and ConHome are invariably lumped together but they are very different products.
6. Blogs are often more specialist and, in a good way, more obsessive than anything in the mainstream media. PoliticalBetting and UKPollingReport on polling, Defence of the Realm on military issues, John Redwood on economic policy and Burning Our Money on government waste are stand out examples of this.
7. The blogosphere is often attacked for passing instant judgment but it also can debate topics for longer and in more detail than any traditional newspaper. ConHome's sustained examination of the next generation of Conservative MPs and Harry Phibbs' scrutiny of Tory councils, for example, are unmatched by traditional newspapers (who are replacing political coverage with more and more lifestyle journalism).
I shall now add my own take on it too.
I'm a blogger, I don't think of myself as an investigative journalist. I have no desire to be the next Woodward or Bernstein. I am merely a voice. An opinion. The news on my blog is largely secondhand. I state my views and invite others to leave their comments and set out their own opinions, which is nice and democratic. I link to other bloggers (See my links toolbar on the righthand side of this page) so that others views can be heard too. I don't just link to bloggers who always share my viewpoint, there are others there who would often disagree with my views but I still would recommend reading. Like other bloggers I am an important act of balance, because quite often the MSM either are mistaken, or are being deliberately deceitful about a piece of news. For I am not beholden to the SpAds and spackers of government for my news. I search for it myself and with access to the internet am easily able to check the printed statements of journalist with actual facts. The MSM are going after bloggers for two simple reasons :-
1.> We don't charge, we give our opinions freely and don't care how many people read it (Though all donations gratefully accepted!).
2.> We have shown up many mainstream journalists for their failures and acts of incompetence.
At the end of the day, this country needs a strong blogging community. We are the last bastion against spin and the manipulation of public opinion. They may try to distort what we say, run us down, marginalise and ultimately break us...but they will fail. For we are bloggers, we are un-bloody-breakable!
NB, I admit to nicking that last bit from Gene Hunt but I think the gentle act of plagiarism was worth it!