Tuesday, 14 April 2009

McBride, the Press, and the Bloggers

"When the fallout settles [from the McBride affair]," Raenwald asks, who will have won and who will have lost?"

His list of winners includes the UK Blogosphere: ". . . the blogosphere will be increasingly important in the run up to the general election. As TV and print media are losing more professional journalists the boundaries are being blurred as the MSM is increasingly taking the tip from the web as to the current news agenda."

The truth is that people are turning increasingly to the bloggers to find out what is happening in the world. Even though the BBC, Sky, and all the daily newspapers are available online, some of us spend more time reading blogs. "Ah, but how reliable are blogs?" some will ask.

There is a parallel situation in the world of education. Pupils are increasingly doing their research using the internet rather than books, and the comment is made that they repeat things in their essays that they have read online, but which may be of doubtful accuracy. Quite so.

But the fact that words are written on a printed page is no guarantee of their accuracy. And this is particularly the case with regard to mainstream professional journalism. Newspapers are littered with inaccuracies, not to mention selective reporting, leading one to suspect that journalists simply don't care about the accuracy of their stories. A couple of months ago Tom Paine wrote (over at The Last Ditch) "I have long known that journalism (even specialised journalism) about my own field of expertise is always so utterly wrong that mere ignorance on the part of the journalists scarcely suffices to explain it. So why do I assume that there is any merit in their effusions about the subjects I know less well?" The comments to his post indicated that other people had the same experience.

The McBride affair has shown that blogs often have the news before the press. But, more worryingly for professional journalists, blogs may be a more accurate source of information.


Renegage Parent said...

Hi, I completely agree with you. In my opinion, the growth of specialised online information (whether in politics, education, whatever) will make people *more* rigorous about considering their sources, not less so. Because nothing comes with a 100% guarantee. I wrote about the very thing you describe here a little while ago: http://tinyurl.com/czcuk9 - it seems that only journalists (and traditional educationalists/academics) are still proclaiming that they know better than everyone else!

Young Mr. Brown said...

Thanks for the link to your site. It's good to know that several people are saying this (and saying it more eloquently than me!)

When Nick Cohen wrote "The best reason for wanting my colleagues to survive is that serious reporters and broadcasters offer a guarantee that what they say is true," my immediate reaction was "OK - so how many serious reporters and broadcasters are there in Britain - and how do I know who they are?"

Longrider said...

My background is railway signalling. I watched the reporting of the Paddington crash in all its wild assertions and blatant inaccuracies (not least because the full information was not available at the time and wasn't for some while afterwards) and came to the same conclusion as Tom - if they are so wrong about this, then what about everything else?