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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Still in denial

Many in the mainstream press still deny the legitimacy of blogging. Sad, really. As John Naughton writes in today's UK Observer:

"Large swathes of the journalistic profession...are still in denial about blogging. In that sense, they resemble music industry executives circa 1999, denying the significance of online file- sharing. But the claim that blogging is a threat to journalism - that inside every blogger is a 'journalist-wannabe' trying to escape - is just daft."

We're here to stay.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love how the watchdogs put blogging down and glorify journalism. It's only slightly ironic that the watchdogs constantly criticise journalism for its failings; many of these failings are overcome in the blogosphere.

Sunday, May 29, 2005 2:21:00 pm  
Anonymous michael said...

When the internet was first starting to become widely accessible there was a media groupthink attitude that online information was inherently untrustworthy.

That seems to have dispelled now.

Maybe because its all of the mainstream media and their usual sources are now online too, but I suspect its mainly because so many people now know the claim to be a furphy that journos have given up on it.

Now the media disinformation campaign is focused on blogs.

I got an interesting illustration of the new groupthink at last year's 'Public Right to Know' conference put on by ACIJ.

Susan Forde gave a talk during which she highlighted the decline of mainstream media - including independent examples like 'The Eye' - and the rise in online and community based news distribution.

Her talk was billed as promoting discussion of ways to encourage non-mainstream publications - e.g. as with the Swedish model of government subsidy to small outlets - but with the help of all the professional journos, media academics and journalism students there it soon turned into a 'sky is falling' lament over the collapse of commercial media.

Forde had pointed out that fewer people were now getting their current affairs info from commercial press and that was behind the decline in circulation and the lack of financial viability of even small publications based on the old media business model.

When I asked her what the problem was with the collapse of the old, failed, compromised, centralised means of producing journalism she replied that most people relied on them for news.

So the problem with fewer people relying on big media for news was that most people relied on big media for news. Right.

Of course the elephant in the room was that nearly everyone there had based their hopes for a career future on the businesses which were so threatened by the new media diversity. There are no new business models emerging which will provide even slightly secure employment or regular incomes for journalism graduates and there is no reason to believe that there ever will be again.

But I think the other problem, even further below the surface, was that part of a journalism education is inculcation into a culture of what is an acceptable source, what 'balance' is, what cannot be said, etc. To an insider, that is how responsible journalism is done. To an outsider it often seems biased, corrupt and hopelessly compromised by the structures that feed it information and income.

So I think that a lot of the mainstream media hostility to blogs comes from the fact that journos know that they are watching the death of their career prospects. But it is also sincerely based on a real inability to comprehend and credit means on delivering news and information that doesn't comply with the rules mainstream journos picked up while they learned their trade.

BTW, Dru Oja Jay has a good summary of the recent St Louis conference on media reform that includes his vision of the emerging revolution that will destroy the mainstream press. But Oliphant puts it more concisely.

Sunday, May 29, 2005 3:59:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I suspect many journos do indeed know that the old way of news reporting is dying, the top down approach.
But I also know that many journos have no bloody idea about blogs, online info etc. You'd be amazing, the level of igorance around Fairfax when I was working there. The world is a pretty small place for many people...

Sunday, May 29, 2005 6:25:00 pm  
Anonymous michael said...

"I suspect many journos do indeed know that the old way of news reporting is dying, the top down approach."

Mmm. Keep in mind that ACIJ is probably one of the most progressive mainstream journalism organisations in the country. Most of the people I know there approve of anything that challenges top-down, centralised, corporate journalism.

But what they're still not ready for is the fact that there will be very few paying full time journalism jobs in the future (and therefore, fewer jobs for those training full time journos).

Their vision for the future was one of a lot of small, high quality, indie publications that would provide steady jobs for competent journos. You can see the same attitude in the last para of John Naughton's article.

But it will be even more decentralised and diverse than even the progressive journos were expecting. The 'skills and resources' that Naughton invokes to try to reassure himself won't be terribly relevant in a world where there are almost always numerous potential journos on the scene of any news event and the only resources needed to publish are access to an internet connection.

Ironically, the hacks who are prepared to prostitute themselves to government and corporate PR are the ones most likely to prosper, as they don't rely on their readership for legitimacy anyway.

Ironically, because there will be so much room for 'quality' journalism in the media of the future, there will be little job security for 'quality' journos. Because, the fact is, lots of people can do it as well or better than the pros, and now they have the chance to prove it.

Sunday, May 29, 2005 7:14:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

All great for journalism and truth, not so good for my future bank balance...

Sunday, May 29, 2005 7:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's interesting is the number of journos who are also bloggers -- Tim Blair comes to mind (pace, Ant) -- and the new Investigate magazine also has a fair number of bloggers writing for it.

Monday, May 30, 2005 10:13:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Investigate magazine? Er, yes.
If people want to read the fascinating inner thoughts of free market fundamentalists, they've come to the right place.

Monday, May 30, 2005 1:32:00 pm  

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