For the past few years, and particularly during the US Presidential election last year, the media have been trying to set up an adversarial debate between blogging and journalism. The idea has propagated that blogging might be ‘the new journalism’ and once they’ve established such a concept, traditional media have then sought to undermine this strawman blogging. As many have commented, if current affairs blogging has an analogue in the traditional media it’s probably the comments page, not the headlines. Occasionally bloggers break a story, but the only real threat to the traditional journalist’s investigative role is the abject failure of many of them to exercise it.
Where blogging has had a particular strength is in providing media commentary. The latest post from Fred Clark at Slacktivist is another example of the essential critique that the world of blogs is at last giving voice to. With increasing consolidation of media ownership, a public forum for such critique was desperately needed. When communities form around such critique changes can start to happen.
This week has seen the launch of two new news services. Now Public asserts that “the news is now public” and provides a news pool for grassroots journalists and bloggers. It seems to be positioning itself as an open-source news agency. In that sense, it’s not dissimilar from this week’s other launch: ourmedia “the global home for grassroots media”. Ourmedia’s focus is less explicitly on “the news.” And of course WikiNews has been around for a while now. These sites demonstrate that for many, the critique that has dominated to date is not enough. From good critique, new concepts grow. And a new concept is definitely needed.
On the other side of the coin, we continue to see some media organisations moving towards more transparency. I’ve mentioned BBC NewsWatch here before, and the new Observer Blog is another good example of a site that gives us an insight into the personalities behind the reporting we receive. It’s not that objectivity has died, it was an elaborate fraud all along, and the sooner media organisations own up to that the better. I am hoping that the sites emerging at the moment serve as more than a wake-up call for mainstream media and really do revitalise investigative journalism.