We can agenda it for you wholesale

The tiresome discourse of old/current media telling bloggers they are not going to replace them is back again and again it’s been excellently taken to task by Jeff Jarvis. Steven Johnson also made some more succint points. It’s a bit like “certain people in Ireland are saying blah blah and I’m here to say this is not true.” Certain people where? These sky is falling media types keep saying that all us bloggers want to storm their castle and take their thrones. Keep em. We’re not interested in Kingdoms, or rather most of us aren’t.

I’m going to quote a good chunk of what Steven Johnson said:

1. Mainstream, top-down, professional journalism will continue to play a vital role in covering news events, and in shaping our interpretation of those events, as it should.

2. Bloggers will grow increasingly adept at covering certain kinds of news events, but not all. They will play an increasingly important role in the interpretation of all kinds of news.

3. The majority of bloggers won’t be concerned with traditional news at all.

4. Professional, edited journalism will have a much higher signal-to-noise ratio than blogging; examples of sloppy, offensive, factually incorrect, or tedious writing will be abundant in the blogosphere. But diamonds in that rough will be abundant as well.

5. Blogs — like all modes of contemporary media — are not historically unique; they draw upon and resemble a number of past traditions and forms, depending on their focus.

So here’s my proposal: if you’re writing an article or a blog post about this issue, and your argument revolves around one or more of these points — and doesn’t add anything else of substance — STOP WRITING. Pick a new topic. Move on. There’s nothing to see here.

He’s right. Stop obsessing on something we are not saying.

Also Jay Rosen added in the comments of Steven’s piece:

The “replace” discussion is conducted by journalists for journalists who have read other articles about bloggers by journalists who were themselves writing for other journalists.

I really hope that history doesn’t repeat itself here. I’d hate to see this crapola happening here in two years time. Only now is blogging being talked about in the press and I think the press can actually shape the future of blogging maybe even more so than us bloggers.

Us blogger types talk about Digg and Slashdot and Technorati but a Hitwise study shows that while the usage of Digg is exploding, the NY Times leaves it for dead. The NY Times, although forcing you to register (for free) to use their site also allows bloggers to link directly to stories. You can do this via the NY Times Link Generator.

Given that if you look at IrishBlogs.ie or planet.journals.ie you’ll see many of the stories have been kicked off by articles in the Examiner, Irish Times or Irish Independent, it isn’t a surprise that the old media is in effect dictating what a large proportion of bloggers are discussing. It is this behaviour that they should exploit. Cynically or otherwise.

Make it easy to link to their pages for bloggers. Provide RSS feeds for everything. Make it easy for Joe Public to get to those pages without registering. Welcome the search engine traffic. Realise there’s money to be made in not being a final destination but the initial one. Be the morning springboard. This is what BoingBoing is and they’re doing ok for themselves.

Imagine going to Ireland.com and getting all the content for free and when you log in you have access to a free bloglines like feedreader? I’m sure it would be good to suggest feeds but also see what the reading habits of your readers are (through their feed subscriptions) so you can give them more of what they want.

I’d also love to see those registered to the sites being allowed to leave comments and also interact with journalists on a scratch pad – A section where a story can be drafted and researched. Where journalists can ask questions they way they ask us in private “Know anything about diamond mining in x?” “Any clue who can comment on telecoms issues?”. Some questions need to be asked in private but I’m sure many more can be asked in public and the loyal audience there can be your 7 thousand dwarves hi-hoing around the net to find you information. Done right, that army of commentors can find you new information and tip you off if they interact with your journalists on the website.

I wouldn’t just stop there. (Though but I’m sure what I’ve already discussed is too big a leap for papers.) The papers should actively take part in things like the Blogger Academy and come along to specific workshops on how to write journalistic style stories, how to research, how to ensure balance and share editing tips. More than likely the next generation of reporters and journalists are going to come from blogs and it might bring more variety than the very incestuous bedhopping between the main daily papers that happens every year. We need a football academy for journalists AND bloggers.

Now, getting back to my main point. There’s an opportunity right now to set the agenda of bloggers to go with what you feed them or if not they will start to move away and find alternate news sources which will grow bigger and stronger with the constant linking and attention from them. We’re already starting to see that out of this small community, a few of us are in papers or on the radio a few times a week, it’s not a rarity anymore. How short a time ago was it when we all marveled that X was in the Indo? How long before it’s daily? It’ll be a long while before the majority of those in the media are bloggers but I do forsee the numbers growing more and more and it would be of immense benefit to see this trend and use it. Newspapers are here to stay, but so are bloggers.

(With a nod to Philip K. Dick for bastardising a story title of his for the title of this.)

4 Responses to “We can agenda it for you wholesale”

  1. Simon says:

    you can get some of the Irish times stories off the news section of eircom.net. A handy trick I picked up. But you don’t get the columns

  2. John says:

    Having read both the articles listed at the top I’m surprised at the level of aggression by professional journalists.

    A couple of items sprang to mind when considering why this might be so.

    Firstly is the assumption that all journalists are professional and excellent at their job. Certainly many are but a huge number aren’t. Is it a case of these lesser journalists looking around and discovering that they are being surpassed by so called citizen journalists?

    Good quality accurate unbiased journalism is hard work, requiring talented and dedicated individuals to consistently churn out story after story day after day. It’s a job. Some people are naturally talented at it, some get there through hard work. But it is a tough profession and as such it isn’t something most people could do.

    Bloggers have much more latitude in their scribbling. No deadlines, if they post a story today and don’t for another month, who cares. They (by and large) aren’t relying on blogging as their primary source of income. Their only editor is either themselves or their readership.

    This is the equivalent of me complaining about users being able to fix their own machines and networks because MS has made life easier for the average punter. Boo Hoo. More of it I say. Let me get on with doing the really heavy work while users attend to the niggly stuff. Journalist could use this as an opportunity to get away from the folksy pieces, human interest pieces and get stuck into bigger wider issues.

    Or is that the problem? That some journalists can only do fluff pieces, and the thought of doing bigger deeper analysis is frightening some people in the industry?


  3. Curly K says:

    Lovely piece Damien, certainly adds substance to the debate. But I agree with you, you’d think the journalist vs blogger debate should be well over already.

  4. Julian says:

    Interesting from our perspective in the not-for-investment wine business. Because views on wine are so subjective and so much to do with the people involved, from grower to drinker, preaching from on high has never been the right approach. I think most wine drinkers want word of mouth recommendations from people who appear to share their tastes in things generally, whether journalists or friends. It’s much easier to gain that broad empathy through the discursiveness of a blog, probably the fluffier the better if we’re going to help dissolve the wineknowledgefear and get folk to trust their own judgement.