2005 Blogged hits the bookshops today. The Tim Worstall-edited tome is a retrospective of 2005 seen through the eyes of those “rising stars of online journalism”, the British bloggers. I haven’t received my copy yet, but rumour has it one of my more infamous posts is in there somewhere. Since the publishers have been, um, pretty stingy on the royalties front, do me a favour and buy
several dozen copies a copy through my Amazon associates link.
All of this follows yesterday’s cover story in the Guardian’s G2 section, profiling some of the key members of Britain’s new blogger commentariat. The key quote in that story comes from Samizdata’s Perry de Havilland, who understands the relationship between bloggers and journalists better than most:
“We’re not competing with newspapers,” De Havilland interrupts … “But I tell you who we are in competition with, 100% direct competition, and that’s your op-ed writers. We don’t have a reporter in Kandahar, and you might, it’s true — although in time we might have a blogger in Kandahar. But for the moment, sure: if your guy in Kandahar says X blew up Y, then X blew up Y. But when your editorial guy says, ‘This is what it means,’ that’s when we say, ‘Excuse me! You’re completely wrong!’”
That’s more or less how I see blogs, too. And as a consequence, I think Oliver Kamm draws the more logical conclusion about what this means than De Havilland:</blockquote>
Britain’s bloggers are divided not just by ideology, it turns out, but by their perception of their own importance: while Samizdata proclaims that blogs are the future, for example, Oliver Kamm insists they are an essentially parasitic medium, that can only exist insofar as it feasts on the output of traditional media.</blockquote>
Bloggers are inevitably parasites on traditional news organisations’s reporting. As an organic network of isolated commentators rather than a rationally-constructed network of correspondents, bloggers cannot replicate the systematic information-gathering function of traditional news organisations.
But bloggers can compete on some of the other functions that traditional news organisations have in the past used to add value to information: ascribing political meaning to their reporting and making subjective connections between data that are already available in the public sphere.
In the past, only well-financed news organisations with vast, well-organised cuttings libraries or (more recently) access to expensive subscription-based database tools like Lexis-Nexis could quickly research all the previously-reported information about a subject. Google has made a basic verion of this capability available to everybody.