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26.3.04

Harry Hatchett hits the nail on the head with his latest thoughts on the relationship between paid-for, professional journalism and the world of blogging.

He writes: "What is most positive about blogs - the fact that they are different from what is already out there and that they are open to all."

That's exactly it - blogging has allowed people who wouldn't be seen dead in a newspaper office - or would have been ejected if they tried to set foot inside one - to get and hold a readership.
The parallel to someone of my generation is with the world of post-punk fanzine writing. Except there's no hassles with printers, no messing about with Letraset, no tedious need to convince people to part with money in return for your half-thought ramblings.
It's lowered the barrier to entering publishing to a level where the only things that matter seem to be talent, a little marketing savvy and a willingness to invest time.
But there's another enormous difference, it seems to me, and that is that there is precious little reporting going on in blogland.
What I mean is the finding-out of new facts, things people didn't know about before, and then writing them down in a way that will interest readers.
The best of way of doing this is the old fashioned-way - leaving the office and actually talking to real people.
Maybe that's why it doesn't appeal to bloggers. These are people who by their very nature, I would guess, can derive satisfaction through a relationship with a computer screen. It also takes time which means money. And blogs don't pay.
That's not to say that there are no stories in blogland. I know many hacks who've picked up on various memes via blogs and converted them into stories.
But blogging seems currently to rely on recycling and, particularly, comment rather than news.
There are exceptions of course - and they are exceptions that prove for certain that blogging emphatically can be a way of presenting reportage.
Think of the Iranian bloggers, of Salam Pax etc
Maybe the reliance on comment is why the blogging phenomenon has had much more impact and garnered more prestige in the US than the UK.
Here, facts are sacred(ish) while comment is cheap. News sells and opinion doesn't. On many papers, leader writers are often callow youths straight down from university who are looked down upon by the macho sorts on news desks. The cult of the op-ed writer simply doesn't exist in the same way.
But that's another post.....



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