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February 13, 2006

Another egocentric blog?

Well, well, well, according to some research carried out for a German newspaper, bloggers are not responsible for the decline in journalistic standards in the wider media. At least, that is the message you get if you read the original German dialogue and not the abridged translations. Apparently we may be simply egocentric hackers with no training in journalistic skills, but we are still doing better than the journalists who fail to observe even the most elementary of "Journalistic Standards". Now I wonder which ones those would be? Balanced reporting? Sell more papers through sensational headlines? Push our particular (or the publishers) political agenda? To hell with facts, get a good story?

I picked up the original debate and the first source from another blogger, called David's Medienkritik in his rather well put together piece entitled SPIEGEL ONLINE Interview: "Bloggers are often Narcissistic Egocentrists". The researcher is obviously serious in his assertion that the majority of bloggers are simply attention seekers who do not give a fig for the facts on any given subject but simply want to make a noise. In some senses he may well be right on some issues, but there are many of us who do try to get it right, even though, strictly speaking, we have no "professional" obligation to do so. Still, I guess he's entitled to his opinion, and probably has the data to support it, but I have to say that I agree with David when I look at the examples of reporting in Der Spiegel on US politics and policy. I would hardly call it balanced, and even some of the facts are not quite accurate - close, but not accurate.

So, does the good Dr Lief have a case? He most certainly does when he charges the journalists with failing to do more than simply "google" their researches and copy anything they find on the internet. Interestingly, a lot of what was being said in blogs supportive of the Democratic Party campaign in the US, was repeated as "fact" in some European news media - including Der Speigel - leaving one wondering about the sources the reporter used!

Does he have a case in accusing bloggers of being egocentric? Well, perhaps, since there must be an element of attention seeking in keeping a blog. Who among us is really happy knowing that no one out there is really interested in what we think or say? I know I'm enough of an egotist to hope that a few people at least think about some of my ramblings, but does it really matter to me whether its thousands or tens? Probably not in the longer run, but then, I'm not trying to make a living out of peddling my thoughts on any given subject, I do this more as a way of expressing myself and my opinions and sharing these with friends whom I probably see very infrequently. Occassionally I will feel strongly enough to make a more public noise, and usually I will at least try to ensure my facts are straight. This piece is a case in point - my first source gave a distinctly tilted view, it being a precis of a translation. Thanks to my second source, I got access to the full German version, and it becomes clear that the attack is on lazy journalists, not on bloggers!

So, are bloggers responsible for the decline in journalistic standards? Contrary to the impression created in the original precis, Dr Lief is attacking lazy journalism, and I think that this spin on his aside on blogging is more a desperate attempt to find a scape goat for the mass media's realisation that we are onto them. They have also realised that people have woken up to their attempts to control our thinking and to mould it to their world view. They do have to realise that many of us now have access to sources which allow us to check on the accuracy and bias of the news media. The BBC is at last waking up to the fact that we no longer accept their "party line" as being unbiased and are striving to be more even. Perhaps the message for the author of this study and for the publishers of magazines and newspapers should be - start giving a full, informative and accurate report, and perhaps then, you will see a decrease in attacks from the blogosphere!

In the meantime I will keep blogging, and reading other peoples blogs whenever I have a chance. There can be no better way to form a balanced opinion than to read other peoples takes on a range of issues and then weigh up the facts for yourself. That is the key difference between reporting for the media and blogging - I can voice my opinion and my slant on the facts, a journalist should be reporting the facts, not his or her opinion of what the facts should be.

Am I an ego-centric blogger? I'll leave the jury to decide that one, but I suppose I should plead guilty and be done with it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at February 13, 2006 11:43 AM

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Thanks for this post. Although it's clear that many bloggers simply parrot political propaganda or just want a place to write profanity, I think it will eventually be accepted as a form of journalism. There is really no excuse for the de facto classification of blogging as inferior to traditional journalism. Traditional journalism started out, some 300-400 years ago, much like bloggers have today: It was a mix of polemics, observations, gossip, advertising, personal experiences, and fiction. Modern journalists have become arrogant and myopic about their craft.

Posted by: David at February 15, 2006 06:21 PM