Much has already been written in rebuttal of Mark Lawson’s half-hearted side-swipe at Britain’s nascent political blogging scene which appears in Saturday’s Grauniad - you can read Chicken Yogurt’s take on Lawson’s article, which also links to several responses from other bloggers, here.
I have to admit that my initial reaction to Lawson’s comments was ‘Who is he’? - I’m, admittedly, not good with names at the best of times and it was only after bit of memory dredging that I managed to fit a face to the name.
- Ah, yes. Now I remember. The fat bloke who sits next the Germaine Greer on Newsnight Review - that’s who he is.
Others have picked up, already, on the more obvious flaws in Lawson’s argument, not least the matter of his apparently rather shallow dip into the ‘blogosphere’ - horrible geeky word - before putting fingers to keyboard. What struck me most forcefully about his comments, however, was not the obvious lack of rigour with which he had pursued his enquiries but the sense I was left with that, when it came to blogging, he really hadn’t understood the point of it at all.
Lawson’s overall perception of bloggers seem predicated on the assumption that we’re all, somehow, a bunch of ‘wannabe’ political journos and media commentators and in deriding bloggers for everything from their choice of online psudeonym though the absence of editorial oversight to the tendency of some to ‘free associate’ while composing their latest missive his ‘message’ - if indeed there is one - seems to resolve itself down to little more than an exercise in professional vanity.
- Take it from me. I’m a pro and you just don’t have what it takes…
Now I’m no spring chicken when it comes to the realms of online discourse. I may be a relatively late entrant in to the world of personal blogging but in terms of haunting the ’spittle flecked hellholes’ of online debate I’ve been around in a variety of guises for quite a while, initially on Usenet and in more recent times on a range of independent and sometimes-not-so-independent web-based discussion forums - long enough to have accumulated one or two nom-de-plumes I have no intention of owning up to by reason of of their reputation for possessing an overly robust debating style.
And what I can say, with a considerable degree of certainty, is that since putting a bit of time and effort into blogging, my ‘media habits’ have changed considerably from what they once were.
I am a self-confessed news junkie, a sometimes debilitating condition for which a stint at the Priory is, unfortunately, not a viable recovery option. There, I’ve said it. I’m an addict.
I’ve been mainlining news for years. It all started innocently with John Craven’s Newsround and the ‘Red Top’ tabloids but it wasn’t long before I started to get in the ‘hard stuff’. First it was the broadsheets, then Radio 4 until, finally, I discovered the news junkie’s nirvana, Television. The instant fix. The media equivialent of crack cocaine.
I’ve got it bad. Some people pay through the nose for a top of the line cable TV package so they can get the full range of movie channels. Or sports channels. Or even just so then can get to see the latest episode of ER a few days earlier than their colleagues at work. Not me.
You want to sell me on digital TV then just give me news - and lots of it - 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
I’ve got them all, News 24, Sky News, the ITV news channel, CNN - if it’s late and there’s nothing else on I’ll even watch the bloody Parliament channel, especially if there’s a decent select committee in session.
Over the last few years, however, my addiction has become much less fulfilling than it used to be. I think it started back when Diana had her car crash.
The whole thing started well enough. Diana dies in car crash - now that is news. But after the first couple of hours, once the detail of the story was out, well then things just started to go off the boil. The news programmes went on… and on… and on… all fucking day, in fact. But after a while it became apparent that the media had used up all the actual news and all I was getting was a constant stream of the same faces saying the same things over and over again. then there must have been a shift changes and we started getting different faces… still saying the same things that the first bunch of faces had been saying earlier.
The news just wasn’t as satisfying as it used to be and no amount of channel hopping was going to bring back the buzz I usd to get from a good, really fresh, new story.
Politics got to be even worse. So bad that I eventually found myself looking forward to seeing Portillo on the BBC’s ‘This Week’ and then only because his political career had, by that point, gone into such a terminal decline that he no longer gave a shit about the official line from Tory Central Office and started, instead, to develop a few opinions of his own.
Question Time, on of my main weekly fixes, got to be exactly the same - an endless procession of mass produced minor politicos who’s sole objective was to stay firmly ‘on message’ - however anodyne and uninteresting that message turned out to be - hey look at me Tony, I’m one of the good guys, one of your loyal troops… now about that promotion during the next reshuffle…
I even started to get selective about if and when I’d tune in. I’d check the TV listings to see was going to be on the programme as a panelist - Oh fuck, its some identikit junior minister this week. Fuck it, I think I’ll give it a miss.
It was then that it hit me and I began to understand the problem I was having. Way back when I started getting into news in a big way the kind of people you saw in the news had ‘opinions’.
That was it! That was where it all went wrong. Whatever happened to all the people who had fucking opinions..?
And that - for me - is the whole point of blogging.
Since starting to write my own blog I’ve cut back, massively, on the time I spend as a consumer of prepackaged, low-carbohydrate, mass produced news. I catch, maybe one main bulletin a day, tune in to Question Time if it looks like there’s someone on who might have something to say that’s worth listening to and occasionally, just occasionally, treat myself to a bit of Panorama.
Quick note to the Conmtroller of BBC 1. If you can put Doctor Who back on in its proper place on Saturday evenings then you can fucking well move Panorama back to its proper slot after the main news on Monday nights - oh, and while I’m on, you can tell those bastards at ITV to bring back World in Action as well…
The reason I’ve got my own blog and am writing this now is simply because I have opinions and figure that somewhere out there someone might just find those opinions interesting enough to spend a few precious minutes of their time on reading them.
These days, I get most of my daily news/politics fix online.
I go to the Beeb to keep up with what’s happening in the world, I visit a number of mainstream sources including the Guardian, Times and Independent - to name but three - for a mix of news and professional commentary, and I get my opinion and debate from hitting the blogs - in fact I probably spend more of the online time I have where I’m not writing, visiting a wide range of blogs and taking in a multitude of different views and opinions from across the whole political spectrum - real views and real opinions which come directly from real people…
… and if some of those people are more - or less - articulate or informed or knowledgeable than others then so fucking what, its their opinion and they’re entitled not only to voice it but to let others in on it as well, if they’re interested.
It’s their choice.
Blogging has given me a much better balanced and satisfying news diet than I’ve been getting from the mainstream media alone and I feel all the better for it, thank you very much Mark.
Now do you understand?