The Dangers of Blogging

As trainee journalists we keep being told about how everything is changing, supposedly for the better, and how blogging enjoys massive benefits over printed material. As you can tell from previous blogs, part of me is convinced. But after the lecture by Shane Richmond I decided the time has come to have an argument with myself because I’ve yet to rid of the ‘beware of the blog’ mentality I started this course with.

Maybe I am just a traditionalist. Maybe I’ll always read a newspaper over online content. But maybe my instinct is right. Maybe blogging isn’t what it is cracked up to be.

This is not my attempt at doing a 180 degree turn in where my blogs have been heading but its time to bring the newspaper back to prominence. They have been around for decades. Surely they aren’t going to be knocked off their pedestal just yet? Technology is forever changing and updating, yet newspapers are still around today. Why are they necessarily in danger now?

What better way to start my argument against blogging than with this very blog which, however strange, is a blog against blogging. Seems strange for someone to show their disdain of blogs, through blogging, but nevertheless, it provides a funny read.

I mentioned in my last blog how the names of Baby P parents were named. Bloggers just do not have the same depth of media law knowledge that is needed to publish news content. Professional journalists do. People can say some really unpleasant things on blogs and as long as it is not illegal there is nothing that can be done. Blogging gives people a platform to vent rage and frustration, to be nasty and hurtful…just not illegal. Phew!

Freedom to speak in a pub with your mates is a great thing. Freedom to write content that can be seen by every single person worldwide is not necessarily so great. Why should people have their reputations damaged for the sake of allowing unprofessional people to publish their opinions on the internet? It is true that readers can judge for themselves what is good quality news and what is not. The only problem is that with the internet the bad news flows so fast.

There is the fear that those who do publish content just do so because the technology is available to them. They may have no knowledge of its power. Just its existence.

I do not even feel that the argument about readers expecting blogs and internet content is a viable one. The actual amount of people who embrace UGC is minimal. Looking at a debate on the BBC’s news site, Neil Thurman found that one of the most popular discussions on the Have Your Say section typically attracted contributions from only 0.05% of the site user’s in one day.

Clarence Mitchell said that blogs are nothing but trouble when it comes to the McCanns case. Blogs and forums referred to by Mr Mitchell as “hostile and negative” meant that the backlash towards the McCanns had reached the online world. He said: “The latter day lynch mob has gone digital.” 

Another famous documented examples of Web vandalism occurred on Wikipedia in the biographical article about John Seigenthaler, Sr

Blogs take ages to build up their readership yet newspapers already have that loyalty with their readers. A lot of people have their favourite newspaper; most will go into a newsagent or supermarket knowing that their hand is going to automatically reach for The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, whatever it may be.

Shane Richmond said: “You can remain under the illusion that journalists are on a pedestal handing out their wisdom if you want, but that has gone already.” It might be hanging by a tiny thread but I am not sure that such dominance has completely faded.

So where does my argument stand now? For or against blogging and UGC? Guess you’ll have to tune in next week to find out…

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