Greensdale on the blogosphere

Incidentally, I found some of the links in the previous piece via Roy Greensdale’s blog. He has a comment piece in the Guardian today about delving into the world of the blogosphere. I might as well quote the whole piece, it’s worth it. I’ve added emphasis for good quotes.

I am at the bottom of a learning curve, a neophyte blogger nervously trying find my way around in a new world where everyone else who has been there for the past couple of years seems so at ease. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that I feel again like the trainee journalist of some 42 summers ago, continually worried about whether I am doing the right thing. Then again, I’m just as determined as I was then to learn, and to succeed.

Succeed? In a very real sense, that aim is no longer relevant, at least in the old sense. I realise that the meaning of “success” has changed, because one of the truly refreshing differences between the old journalism and the new is its democratic spirit.

Personal success in the old leisurely top-down form of journalism was, by its nature, individualistic. Success in the blogosphere, in the bottom-up form of journalism, is altogether more egalitarian.

It demands that we “professional journalists” understand that, whatever our knowledge, whatever our skills, we can no longer rest on our laurels. We must step down from the pulpit and move among the congregation. We can go on preaching, but we must accept that everyone else is a preacher too.

We have to admit to ourselves that we don’t know everything. We never did, of course, but we affected to do so. After all, we enjoyed the luxury of speaking through our daily megaphone and rarely, if ever, bothered to listen to the voices in the audience. Indeed, we were only faintly aware that there were other voices, and surely there were none worth hearing.

A characteristic all journalists seem to share is an overweening sense of certainty, a belief that we understand every problem (and usually know every solution). Now, in only my second week of blogging, which includes an intense reading of other peoples’ blogs, I can see the flaws in that autocratic attitude.

Perhaps my greatest insight is the realisation that technology – the form – does have a profound effect on content. It should have been obvious. Every previous development of communications, from print to telegraph, from telephone to radio and television, has had a dramatic effect on content.

So what change has the net wrought? Most obviously, it transforms journalism from a largely didactic activity, in both the selection of material and the manner of its transmission, into a conversation. The immediacy and the intimacy of the internet allows everyone to have a say.

I know that it’s easy to abuse the freedom by insulting, swearing, ranting and libelling. But my experience thus far has been altogether more positive. I have been challenged to explain myself better. My assumptions have been questioned. I have been forced to accept that my supposed expertise in journalism is not universally respected. Oh yes, and one particular discovery (doh!): there is no liberal consensus after all.

None of the people who have contributed their thoughts to my blog has been abusive, though doubtless by saying this I am offering a hostage to fortune. That’s freedom, folks, and I accept that there are downsides. Overall, however, I am buoyed by the tone and content of the conversations.

Talking is only one aspect of my blog. Its focus is to act as a kind of noticeboard, pointing people towards journalistic events and developments across the world (in net jargon, it’s called aggregation). Just as importantly, I want to publicise what’s happening across Britain, an ambition not yet realised.

Whenever I attend conferences involving regional newspapers I am told, often with great passion, that national newspaper journalists remain unaware of the fact that good and responsible journalism is alive and well in Britain’s cities, towns and villages. Fair enough. Come on then, regional and local editors, tell me about your campaigns, crusades and scoops.