September 28, 2006

Citizen Journalists!

Soon to be launched and coming to the whole of the UK with a broadband connection, with a target audience of around a couple of thousand in its first months, is a new internet tv station run by the leading bloggers iain dale and Tim Montgomery, a leading contributer to conservative home . Both men are sizeable figures in the blogosphere- both contributing incisive and interesting political gossip alongside generally rightwing political commentary.

Both have however seized upon what they see as leftwing bias within the British media at present. This is particularly evident in Tim Montgomery's interview with channel 4 news. Montgomery offers the idea not that the channel will be impartial but that it will represent people who aren't at present included within the political process- especially within the right. The interesting thing about Montgomery is not that this ressembles Fox News- this is actually a station for the political elite- that will represent the kind of people who subscribe to Conservative Home and Iain Dale and other blogs. But what is interesting is what it says about the change in the status of the media in these news saturated days and how it reflects the way that Print Media is changing.

If you take for example the Guardian, the venerable paper of the English Left- what has happened to the Guardian over the last few years has been extraordinary- from a paper that sought to be paper of record, the biggest expanding section of the Guardian is now online and is a series of columns written by many who agree with the Guardian's line but might not be journalists. In a society filled with news the Guardian has moved away from the provision of news, to the provision of comment. What it has further not moved to is the provision of analysis, informed thinking by specialists, but rather comment, generalists extending their political principles to situations they know little of. 18Doughty Street is similar- its an extension of that principle challenging the old fiefdoms of the news by providing comment- it won't probably have apart from at Westminster the resources to compete say on foreign news but people will watch it for its interesting take on the world's events and for how its commenters, who will become celebrities extend their views on to other lines- you will come home and wonder how Iain Dale will reflect on a scandal about David Cameron say given his public support for Cameron.

Dale, Montgomery and others are moving towards the US model of being much more critical of the information that arrives through the Mainstream Media (MSM)- in Britain this has been a rightwing phenomenon, despite the Guardian and sites like labourhome but in America its been a mainly leftwing phenomenen, witness the huge liberal site dailykos . What they are relying upon is services like News 24 which provide rolling headlines, especially services on the internet like memri which provide news headlines and transalations for commenters to rely upon. What Dale and Montgomery and others do in their blogs is package comment- much like J.J. Huntsecker does in a newspaper in the Sweet Smell of Success. Dale and Montgomery are importing this attitude to Television- the idea is that they will surf the net for their readers and find information for them and filter it through a particular ideological mindset. What Dale and Montgomery have though is trust, their readers and listeners trust them to understand their point of view and interpret the world through that point of view, in a sense the idea of Bloggers as 'citizen journalists' comes now to its ultimate exposition- Dale and Montgomery share the ideas of most conservative voters, but have the time to go off and find the facts to support their arguments (that people working don't have) consequently conservatives turn to them for those facts.