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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Mark Day trashes blogs « Previous | |Next »
September 11, 2008

In defending the watchdog for democracy role for journalism in an op-ed in The Australian Mark Day takes a swipe at blogs. He says:

There was a time a few years ago when blogging was seen by some as the magic potion to sustain journalism. It was said to be the ultimate in publishing democracy: a means by which everybody could have their say, everybody could contribute to the great community debates, and we would all become citizen journalists. Well, it hasn’t happened, and it’s not likely to.I was taken by an expression used in an editorial in The Australian a month or so ago that observed that blogging had all the intellectual value of graffiti on a toilet door.

Now Day does qualify this by acknowledging that some blogs have value and potency—he mentions the Baghdad blogger Salam Pax during the early days of the Iraq war; but he adds that he cannot see how blogging does much other than add a forum for discussion to newspaper sites. No argument is offered for that reduction of blogs to newspaper bogs.

Presumably the majority of independent blogs are assumed to be equivalent to graffiti on a toilet door. Again there is no argument. Day then says:

I have used blogging as a convenient channel for readers to comment on or respond to this column. It has, in the way that letters to the editor did in an earlier age, led to some interesting points of view being aired, but a disturbingly high proportion has consisted of abuse, ridicule or allegations of bias or irrelevancy directed at me or others who post comments.

That ignores the existence of independent blogs and weblogs offering a forum for discussion of public issues in liberal democracy. These, however, are not Day's concern. His concern is newspapers:
Rather than wasting our efforts on blogging, I think editors should focus on creating news: revealing information about the communities in which they work, setting agendas for discussion, reporting events figuratively over the back fence, and using this to add value to the essentially free flow of breaking news and information accessible virtually anywhere....It makes sense to me that more newspapers will follow the lead of The Philadelphia Inquirer by reverting to a model where the news stories it breaks appear first in print. Why, if there is value attached to revealing these stories, should they be given away first on the net?

Fair enough. However, breaking news is not the same as journalism playing a watchdog role in democracy. That role requires investigation (in depth analysis) and interpretation---or commentary--which is what the better independent blogs offer.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:45 AM | | Comments (7)


Ignorance is bliss. Send him a copy of Antony Loewenstein's "The Blogging Revolution' or better still suggest he buy one.

I see that the ABC is positioning itself as providing the information about public affairs with its proposed C-SPAN. In his National Press Club address Mark Scott, the ABC's managing director says that:

an unfiltered, unedited demonstration of democracy in action that would not generate large audiences but would be a great free public service. If achieved, such a service would certainly be a threat to Sky News Australia, a 24-hour news channel that requires a subscription to access.

The challenge of providing information so that the Australian democratic process is more meaningful grows greater each day.. I am a fan of what Sky News has achieved in recent years, but the ABC has a different role to play. We must provide an independent news service -- developed by our reporters in the field -- and deliver it into every Australian home, free of charge...."A public affairs channel would be reinforced by the ABC's outstanding news and current affairs service, allowing updates around the clock and the ability to go live on major breaking news events....Again, this is something that should be available free in every Australian home -- access to our democracy in action."

Scott said the channel would run parliament from Canberra and the state chambers; press conferences and parliamentary hearings; major forums such as the annual ABARE conference; key annual general meetings; and public addresses at places such as the Lowy Institute, the Melbourne Press Club and the Centre for Independent Studies.

Sounds good, doesn't it. It's a dream of what could be. Who is going to fund this? The Murdoch Press is already carrying on about the ABC taking the begging bowl to Canberra.

The Brian McCarthy/Rural Press model is low-cost, local focus news that worked for tabloid country newspapers. Big international issues like Iraq are boring, you see.

It looks as if McCarthy is applying the model to the Fairfax broadsheets---SMH and The Age --with all the recent cost cutting----and then disguising the deterioration of the flagship newspapers.

Day is right about one thing - if journos and columnists don't want to blog they shouldn't have to. Most of the time there's no point, since so many of them are so bad at it. It would be wonderful if they stopped.

If real journalists were left alone to do what they're ideally supposed to do, and opinion columnists who can't blog were replaced with others who can, you'd have something like a win-win situation. As it stands the MSM has settled for doing everything badly with a couple of rare exceptions.

Yeah, this reflects a case of the idiots tarnishing things for the rest.

Day is basing his comments on many of the bloggers and blog participants who simply sit behind a screen and stoke their ego's by pinking fights and 'taking sides' simply for the sake of it... those who add to the noise rather than the analysis.

Ken Parish at Club Troppo says that:

It’s difficult not to conclude that wilful ignorance about the blogosphere on the part of journos like Day flows in part from an irrational and rather short-sighted feeling that blogs and Web 2.0 pose an existential threat to the media world as they know it, a threat they fail to understand because they haven’t taken the time to explore the blogosphere and acquire some understanding of what it involves.

Parish points out that like many MSM journalists, Day seems to have little understanding of what a blog actually is or who bloggers are.
He seems to think that “bloggers” are the mostly thick-headed commenters at News Ltd “blogs”. Presumably this flows in part from the practice of most Murdoch hacks-turned-”bloggers” of referring to their readers as “bloggers”. Fellas, “bloggers” are the people who write blog posts, not the readers who occasionally add comments at the end of them.

Parssh is pretty right on this.

Ken Parish is right. Mark Day does conflate bloggers (the people who write blogs) with blog commenters (the people who make comments on blogs). So do many of his readers. They do not seem to realize that the two are not the same!