Published on October 25, 2010
Got something to say?
Share your comments with other journalists
The national newspaper editor turned blogger. The vice-president of the NUJ. The once-anonymous former call girl. These aren’t characters in a bad sitcom, but some of the panellists for last Friday’s “What’s the blogging story?”, a debate on the relationship between blogging and the media at Bristol’s Watershed Centre.
With Will Gore from the UK Press Complaints Commission (PCC) on the secondary panel, much of the discussion revolved around accountability for newspapers and blogs. Roy Greenslade, who edited the Daily Mirror in the early 1990s and now blogs on the media for the Guardian, said that the media criticism enabled by the internet was “wonderful”.
“What we most need is a plural media in which the truth or some semblance of the truth comes out because we police each other. What we’ve done with the net is increase the number of media policemen. That is important because it means that every single story is open to analysis.”
He added that while blogs such as Tabloid Watch were “invaluable”, the mainstream media also took advantage of the chance to police each other much quicker.
The accountability issue
But Kevin Arscott, who blogs on the media at Angry Mob, challenged the claim that the industry regulated itself.
“The media has several important narratives it likes to promote, but one of the most successful is that the media regulates itself,” he said. “When was the last time a tabloid newspaper even remotely attacked another tabloid newspaper?
“If newspapers did have any form of regulation blogs like mine wouldn’t need to exist.”
Will Gore suggested that blogging, the law, readers’ editors on newspapers, and the PCC all had roles to play in holding the media to account, but that no one system had a monopoly.
It was also pointed out that some social media campaigns had forced media to hold themselves to account, such as the outcry over a column by actor Danny Dyer in Zoo magazine that advocated cutting an ex’s face so no-one would be attracted to her. Dyer’s column was dropped after the incident.
Accountability for blogs was another issue discussed, with the possibility of a voluntary blogging code of conduct brought up. Enemies of Reason blogger Anton Vowl said that a code of conduct could be “very useful” as it would give “a level of integrity to blogging”.
However Brooke Magnanti, the blogger behind Diary of a London Call Girl who was forced to identify herself after media interest, dismissed the suggestion that some form of kitemark would be useful for blogs.
“There is an internal ethics to blogging,” she said. “People who knew who I was did not tell the papers who I was. That’s an example of an internal code of ethics that bloggers held themselves to willingly. They wouldn’t have done it for any amount of money.”
Magnanti also said that much criticism of anonymity in blogging was misplaced.
“There seems to be this belief that there’s true anonymity on the web – I’m living proof that there isn’t. Anyone who is anonymous has to be prepared to lose it at any point because of prurient interest.”
She added that the greatest anonymity was for journalists named only as ‘staff writer’ in newspapers.
One audience member suggested that anonymity was particularly important for bloggers writing from repressive regimes, and that an international right of anonymity within blogging should be considered.
“Words of pleasure in the West might be words of death in a place like Kenya,” he said.
The often divisive question of the distinction between blogging and journalism was largely left out of the debate, although freelance journalist and blogger Sarah Ditum argued that a more useful distinction was between people using blogs to do journalistic work and people using them for what she called “dark arts” work.
A tool for press freedom
Roy Greenslade also pointed out that in countries with little or no press freedom, there was no real difference between blogging and journalism. He said that international journalistic organisations like Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists had “put our arms around” bloggers arrested for exercising freedom of speech and expression.
Iqbal Tamimi, a Palestinian blogger, said that blogging could do things journalists couldn’t in the presence of restrictions on press freedom. She said: “While working in the mainstream media I was never given the chance to say how I feel because everything is filtered and censored.
“I [started blogging because I] wanted to get my message across to other people, especially Jewish women. We never meet face-to-face; the media always manipulate us.”
But Sunny Hundal, who runs political websites Liberal Conspiracy and Pickled Politics, cautioned about the “danger” of reducing conversations about blogging and journalism to simply “pitting journalists against bloggers ... I’m just worried that every discussion about blogging inevitably gets into a mainstream media versus blogging paradigm, but there’s a lot more to it”.
There were no firm conclusions from the debate, and several important questions remained up in the air at the end. But Andrew Marr’s comments about bloggers being “socially inadequate, pimpled and single”, which were played at the start of the night, seemed even more out-of-touch than they had originally. In this meeting of old and new media, the new more than held its own.
Mike Jempson, a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of the West of England, chaired the discussion, which was part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas. It was run in association with the NUJ Bristol branch, the University of the West of England MediaAct project and MediaWise, as part of a study on the impact of the blogosphere.
Tags: blog, blogger, bloggers, blogging, industry, journalism, journalists, media, press, press freedom, self-regulation,
- GEN News Summit 2013: HACK THE NEWSROOM! Event
- DocumentCloud: Analyse, Annotate, Publish.
- Applications open for health journalism contest offering a US study tour
- Emergency Journalism Toolkit
- Watch out CNN: New Twitter search capabilities will rule breaking news
- Don’t Be Fooled: Use the SMELL Test To Separate Fact from Fiction Online
- Something Wiki This Way Comes
- Six Ways The World Can Learn From Ghana About Press Freedom
- The Baltics: Making Sense of the Journalism Next Door
- In Norway, a Slow Road Toward Subsidies for Digital Media
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter
Call for Writers
We’re looking for journalists from around the world to report on journalism and media trends and issues. Bring us original insights into innovations or challenges related to print, online, television, copyright, video and mobile journalism. Queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- A hacker considers one Saudi Arabia telecom’s surveillance pitch
- Last of the hot metal men
- Will Japan’s Fallen New Media Playboy Make a Comeback?
- Journalists Shrug Off President’s Inaugural Insults
- In the Netherlands, Subscribers Pay Per Journalist
- Instagramming the EU
- Dutch App Enables Context Curation
- Something Wiki This Way Comes
- Pope Francis, Shine the Light of Transparency on the Holy See
- After Tsunami, Japanese Media Swept up in Wave of Distrust
- Really, simple syndication
- Wikileaks report reveals corruption in Lithuanian newspapers
- Japan earthquake shakes Italian media
- Books that journalists should read: Edwin Black
- Blogskeptics ponder regulation in Europe
- Seven simple writing tips for social news
- Magazine layouts gain popularity with blogs
- New media and social change in the Arab and Muslim world
- Separating journalism and the media
- The public broadcasting license fee and public value