February 03, 2007

The benefits of Blogging

Polly Toynbee is a recipient of a lot of hatred on the web from a lot of people- she lectured about the blogosphere and the press gazette reported on her lecture this week. Iain Dale has written a cogent article criticising her piece and being relatively positive about some of her comments. His agreement with her that its worth considering how difficult political choices are and be tolerant of politicians is something that I agree with. I want to discuss one point that she raises which I think illustrates something rather interesting about the blogosphere as opposed to the traditional media.

In the traditional media, as people often point out there is a choice of very few options- you have the Guardian, the Sun, the Times etc- who all appoint people of the same kind of experience. Most of those who write about politics in the mainstream media are people who hang around Westminster and talk a lot to politicians- many of them write pieces of incredible insight based upon these contacts they make at Westminster and Toynbee is right to say that that is an incredibly good way of thinking and writing about politics:

here is a skill in crafting a column with a beginning, a middle and an end, a coherent argument and at least three facts readers don't know, preferably information gleaned from talking to the leading players in the case.

She is right that this is one approach but as later in the speech she confessed her experience as BBC social affairs correspendent struggling to get her views in instead of the Westminster lads on the politics of social affairs that isn't the only perspective. One element of this can be seen in the rather difficult analysis of Islam that is produced often in the papers- some commentators seem not to understand at all that a religion is not a timeless thing or a regionless thing but varies- statements like Islam is peaceful or warlike are nonsense- some Muslims are peaceful, some aren't. The majority at the moment live in peace.

What the blogosphere does offer is a place where people can write who know more about specific issues and take a more academic attitude. There are virtues to being away from Westminster and being a consumer of articles, books, manuscripts and a professional in some other way of life. I'm always intrigued by policeman's blogs, nurses blogs and academic blogs. There are blogs like Iain Dale's which are more like the journalist's but most of them are out there talking about their author's knowledge of some area. Indeed the majority of blogs aren't actually political but they may deal tangentially with political issues.

Personally that's where my interest in blogs lies- its that kind of supplement to the media that I think they can provide- say with Juan Cole's blog about the Middle East being a prime example- that I am really concerned. In that way the blogs can actually improve output by providing another perspective- not supplanting the media but just providing a different way of looking at the world.


Political Umpire said...

Funnily enough I agree with Polly Pot about what makes a good column, but it's a shame her's don't often measure up ...

Actually I have had a few swipes at her on my blog and indeed in personal correspondence (won't be egotistical enough to put the links in, but I reproduced it all in the blog).

There are some sites, such as this one, which provide more of an intellectual insight that the churners on the payroll of the broadsheets, not to say tabloids. Of course a good many blogs do not, but they're easily avoided.

Good to see you still posting Gracchi, I hope the personal issues are sorting themselves out.

Gracchi said...

I agree with much of what you say Umpire.

No the personal stuff isn't sorted out and won't be for some time- I don't want to broadcast it over the net but if you send me an email as a friend I'll tell you about it but it isn't likely to be sorted out soon- I'm going to keep trying to write stuff though because its a good way to keep the mind off things.

james higham said...

Yes, it is a supplement to the MSM when it is political but when it is just social rant, it touches on that the MSM hardly ever do.

The Tin Drummer said...

Can't bear Toynbee - but I agree with you that specialist blogs, like yours, are a pleasure that you don't get often in the MSM. I have learned more about history and philosophy following debates on blogs than I thought possible as a jaded old man.

CityUnslicker said...

Blogs are teh future, she is the past.

I think she summed this up quite well.

Your blog is one of the best.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Gracchi. I can't stand PT but that's an aversion I've had for many years. But I agree with you on blogs. They are a chance for people whose views would previously have been filed away in university libraries or else forever in their heads to make their views and knowledge available to the world. I've learnt such a lot from reading blogs.

Ellee said...

I don't know if Polly grasps the difference between writing a column and writing a blog. The whole point about blogging is showing your true character and persona and being interactive, I don't believe she feels comfortable with this approach.

Gracchi said...

Yes and the knowledge that she talks about based on access is not knowledge that you can critique as well- what I write say about history is something that is open for you to argue about if you've got the time, but very few of us can get the access to politicians that she says is the mainspring of her journalism. And the Guardian journalists aren't very good at responding on CIF having said that some of teh comments wouldn't make me eager to respond.