I went to the London School of Economics’ Media Group event about blogging and “The Fall and Fall of Journalism”.
The speakers were LSE Professor of new media Robin Mansell; Leslie Bunder, editor of journalistic.co.uk, John Lloyd, editor of the FT Magazine; and blogger Suw Charman of Corante and Chocolate and Vodka. Not on the panel, but getting a few words in during the Q&A, was Jackie Danicki of the Big Blog Company and Gastroblog.
Some of the strongest stuff came from FT Magazine editor John Lloyd, who made the case that it was not all bloggers who are cutting down journalists, but only “bloggers of a certain kind: the awakened and extremely proactive American right”. These bloggers, he argued were not going after journalists “in the Platonic spirit of seeking truth”. Blogging, he said, is ideologically, not technologically driven.
Lloyd, no fan of what he calls the media commentariat, fears that bloggers are fashioning themselves after these cynical pundits, holding a knee-jerk anti-government position that is “irresponsible, often ignorant, but certainly in your face”. He cited an essay by Robert Kaplan of the Atlantic Monthly that compares the attitude of such commentators to holier-than-thou medieval religion.
Prof. Robin Mansell rejected the notion of the self-regulating blogsphere. She also called for some evidence-based thinking about the true scope of the blogosphere, noting that LiveJournal counts just 168,000 blogs in the UK, and that there is no emperical evidence for how many are actively producing posts and seeking an audience. One LSE research student (and blogger), David Brake, is seeking to correct that.
Mansell also noted that what little emperical data is available about blogger demographics pointed to a population skewed toward the well-off and well-educated. The assumption that all participation in discussion is a good thing comes under question if only a small part of the population is actually participating, she said.
Mansell also noted that we need to remember that participation in a discussion is not the same thing as authoritative decision-making. Since blogging is not affecting what happens in the corridors of power, Mansell said, we need to ask ourselves “does any of this matter?”
Right — Too tired for more details. But here are some more links to topics that were discussed. Lloyd mentioned Nicholas Lemann’s New Yorker article asking why everyone is so made at the mainstream media, and Suw Charman pointed out NowPublic, a service allowing people to link their own photographs to news stories. Both look interesting and worth a look.