The leader writers at the FT have had a bit of a go at blogging today:
"Readers can, if they so wish, live within a bubble where they are presented only with streams of evidence that support their prejudices. This is a particular problem in political blogging, where the effects of this tendency are intensified by writers’ habit of linking mainly to like-minded sites..."
"Tribalism, groupthink and outright deceit form a large part of online political debate..."
"Complaints from the fringes now carry further, and so politicians must placate their parties’ outer edges, who expect constant barrages on their opponents and uncompromising language..."
Here are seven quick defences of political blogging:
- It's true that some people who use the internet only read blogs/ sites that reinforce their views but I now read The Guardian, Independent, FT and a whole range of left-wing new media when in the pre-internet age I only really read one or two (right-of-centre) newspapers each day.
- All opinions are represented in the blogosphere. All barriers to entry have been blown away. Take ConHome's Platform blog. Voices never heard before are now heard by the leadership of the Conservative Party and beyond. Power has been transferred from a small Westminster class to 'a wiser crowd' and the transfer has only just begun (and will accelerate as the mainstream media retreats behind payment walls).
- The mainstream media is held to account. This is one of the blogosphere's most important functions. Shoddy or biased journalism is now exposed instantly. Cosy relations between certain journalists and titles meant a lack of scrutiny between old media organs. Pre-blogosphere people had to wait days in the hope that their letter might be published in a newspaper that had misled or misrepresented. The right to reply was often never given and very often never in full. Fisking is one of the blogosphere's great innovations.
- Blogs also hold other blogs to account. It's true that a lot of blogs write a lot of rubbish but plenty of other bloggers exist to point this out whenever it happens.
- Not all blogs are same. Yes, some are tribal and deceitful. Some newspapers can also be described in those terms. Blogs are at least as different from each other as the FT is from the Daily Star. Guido Fawkes, Iain Dale and ConHome are invariably lumped together but they are very different products.
- Blogs are often more specialist and, in a good way, more obsessive than anything in the mainstream media. PoliticalBetting and UKPollingReport on polling, Defence of the Realm on military issues, John Redwood on economic policy and Burning Our Money on government waste are stand out examples of this.
- The blogosphere is often attacked for passing instant judgment but it also can debate topics for longer and in more detail than any traditional newspaper. ConHome's sustained examination of the next generation of Conservative MPs and Harry Phibbs' scrutiny of Tory councils, for example, are unmatched by traditional newspapers (who are replacing political coverage with more and more lifestyle journalism).