"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
September 11, 2007

Paxman On Blogging And Journalism

I’ve been slowly making my way through Jeremy Paxman’s recent MacTaggart Lecture, trying to take seriously the question of what Television is for and by implication what other journalistic media are for as well. About two thirds of the way through the lecture, Paxman makes this comment about blogging and the current anxieties that face […]

I’ve been slowly making my way through Jeremy Paxman’s recent MacTaggart Lecture, trying to take seriously the question of what Television is for and by implication what other journalistic media are for as well. About two thirds of the way through the lecture, Paxman makes this comment about blogging and the current anxieties that face journalism and broadcasting.

“There is a clear anxiety that both parliament AND television are sliding into irrelevance, disappearing into the mists of history like the quill pen and the coffee house. The Web, we‚Äôre told, makes expensive, professional broadcasting a thing of the past. But the problem with blogs is the same as their strength: they don‚Äôt operate by conventional journalistic rules about checking facts, and they‚Äôre unencumbered by any thought that there might be more than one side to a story. The blogosphere is a place where everyone can scream and no-one needs to listen. Rather than making an attempt at fairness irrelevant, it seems to me it actually makes it more necessary.”

The blogosphere is a place where everyone can scream and no-one needs to listen. What a stunning summary of the malaise blogging currently finds itself in. We have a medium where everyone can publish and if you are anything like me you have to wonder, who is really processing all this stuff, who is really listening deeply, analysing, doing something with it. What’s it all for?

Brodie recently asked if a lot of blogging is little more than unreflective punditry (or maybe even literary busking). I don’t see it so much as a question about the individual qualities of bloggers as writers, thinkers or journalists, but more about where this game is taking us – in what direction is the blogride heading? Consider another quote from Paxman and whether it might also apply to blogging?

“In this press of events there often isn‚Äôt the time to get out and find things out: you rely upon second-hand information ‚Äì quotes from powerful vested interests, assessments from organisations which do the work we don‚Äôt have time for, even, god help us, press releases from public relations agencies. The consequence is that what follows isn‚Äôt analysis. It‚Äôs simply comment, because analysis takes time, and comment is free.

In news, as much as anywhere else in the industry, the question is no longer ‚Äòwhat can we do?‚Äô It‚Äôs ‚Äòwhat can we afford?‚Äô Finding things out takes time and money. Easier to stay in the warm fug of what everyone agrees is news. Which is, of course, why we behave as a herd of not-very- clever animals. It‚Äôs less risky than thinking for ourselves.”

Leaving aside the little dig at The Guardian newspaper, the distinction between comment and analysis is an important one – and let’s be honest, many blogs don’t even reach the level of comment.

Of course, there is comfort in the herd mentality – in feeling like we “belong” to something by blogging. I’m not one to be cynical of that, since for a couple of years blogging was a spiritual and intellectual lifeline for me. That said, that concept of community is not enough to either sustain me in blogging or blog-reading. I’m increasingly getting the impression that may be true for others as well.

Perhaps with the advent of social networking we are seeing a transition in blogging. It certainly seems that sites like Facebook could allow people to do the relational and quotidian things that have attracted some bloggers in less demanding and more regulated ways. Almost certainly this will mean fewer bloggers and quite possibly a smaller blog-readership. Or, maybe it will mean that the herds will gather around groups and regulated discussion away from the public gaze.

A benefit may be that we are left with a higher concentration of bloggers who are commitment to, at the least comment, if not to analysis. But, could it also mean such blog become harder to find? Could social networking sites like Facebook actually close off the serendipitous and slightly anarchic linkeage that has driven the blogosphere to date.

There’s a lot to consider here – far more than can be covered in one blogpost. In fact, this question of what blogging is for seems to come up regularly on the desk, as evidenced by these previous posts,

Towards An Ethic Of Blogging, Blogging: This Thing We Do, What Do I Mean By Theology And Why Do I Bother To Blog About It, On Not Blogging About Bad Preaching, A Small Trend In Blogging, Journalist Paints Bleak Picture For Media In Zimbabwe, Blogging Away Your Inhibitions?, Being Missional About The Internet, Blogs And Diaries, Is this a Hong Kong Blog?, A Good Question, Blogging?, Trying To Resist The Urge…, What Is Blogging I, What Is Blogging II РIs Blogging Journalism?.

Maybe I should plog or papercast this stuff – or maybe I just have to admit that there is something residual French tendency at work in this infatuation?

[tags] Journalism, Jeremy Paxman [/tags]

Responses
Paul 15 years ago

Thoughtful post Fernando, thank you. Whilst blogging does provide a therapeutic place to scream where people may or may not listen, I think it does provide more than that as well. Especially when the listening/conversing part does work rather than having people screaming at each other – of course maybe that would work better in a social networking site – but the beauty of blogging is for me the fairness of access, comment etc. That has its downsides as we’ve talked before about annonmous bloggers hiding themselves or consuming others thinking and writing. It seems to me there is a trade off that has to be made it whatever sphere we use to communicate/think in.

What these thoughts trigger in me is the need to evaluate blog reading more critically, to assess what is comment and what is analysis and where does that analysis lead/mean? Where and what are the blindspots as well as the helpful constructive, instructive thinking/writing…

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