Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Riposte to Andrew Marr

What the BBC's Andrew Marr said about bloggers at the Cheltenham Literary Festival - "A lot of bloggers appear to be socially inadequate, sitting in their mother's basement ranting...spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night" - could have come out of Private Eye's Street of Shame.

Socially inadequate Lunchtime O'Booze spewing and ranting late at night outside the Lamb and Flag...no wonder the late, lamented Jeffrey Bernard was so often unwell.

Andrew Marr should know from John Simpson's book Unreliable Sources how badly the public has been misled by the MSM in its reporting of wars and political upheavals, particularly from foreign parts.

He should also know from Andrew Neil's well-visited political blog that MSM journalism is not incompatible with informative, serious blogging. Therefore to Marr all bloggers with the same tarry brush is as ill-considered as talking about Lunchtime O'Boozers in the same breath as Christopher Booker, Andrew Rawnsley and Jeremy Paxman.

As a mainstream media hack of long-standing and a blogger since April 2008, I know the strengths and weaknesses of blogger-rhythms and journalism.

Journalism is neither objective nor impartial. Items collated by news editors for news pages are selected. News, like time, is man-made; unlike the quality of mercy it droppeth not from the sky like gentle rain. Often news stories are angled, sometimes to reflect an argument or point of view, but more often to get the thing going. Journalists are constrained by deadlines, space and the success or failure of their ability to assimilate at speed disparate pieces of information. The quality of the questions they ask depends on that. Journalists have to interview people they do not like. But good or bad, a journalist has to stand by what is published under his by-line, even if it has been messed up by indifferent subbing. Occasionally he'll be praised. More often he'll be damned - especially when least expecting it.

Bloggers don't have to suffer personal ridicule or death threats, as I have. They can publish more or less what they like without disclosing their identity. They can pick and choose their subjects whereas journalists are asked to chase a story in which they may have no interest. They do not have to interview or question people they do not like. There is nobody subbing their copy or reminding them of C P Scott's dictum: Comments is free but facts are sacred. Within the laws of defamation they are free to be as vituperative or unfair as they like: balance is not a prerequisite as it usually is, certainly in regional journalism.

Andrew Marr should know that our privately-owned MSM, with its self-proclaimed credo to educate, entertain and enlighten, historically evolved from squibs, pasquinades, courants and samizdat pamplets such as the one penned by Jonathan Swift in 1729 - A Modest Proposal for the Preventing of Poor People in Ireland, From being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them beneficial to the Publick. These represented a form of blogging, if you will, in that debunking, damning and mocking often appeared anonymously or under a false name.

Some bloggers are raging nocturnal ranters. But nutters aside - and there are just as many green ink letter-writers to newspapers - there are plenty of others, digging into matters of controversy the MSM is too timid to mine. Irascible buggers such as Richard North - in another life an 18th century pamphleteer - challenge conventional wisdom and accepted opinion on man-made global warming and other scare stories, the European Union and the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These bloggers offer an uncompromising alternative to official policy, editorial bias, MSM ignorance, the cult of celebrity and blandness.

What a pity the celebrated Andrew marred his case the way he did. Meanwhile, the world waits for the appearance of the 33 Chilean miners, buried alive for more than two months. What place will this story get on the news list of Mr Marr's next Sunday morning television show, I wonder.


Brett Gerry said...

Marr's comments reflect a fear not only of new technologies, but also of the erosion of privileges they encourage: http://bit.ly/bkYMd2

thespecialone said...

This is an honest article. Im afraid that Marr may just be worried that his taxpayer funded salary is being threatened.

It is not just political bloggers that are causing waves. Take Inspector Gadget's blog about the madness of police authority and bureaucracy. There are many others that are well-informed and gives Gadget and others, especially in the public sector a chance to let the world know what is really happening.

Anonymous said...

They cover each other to make sure no one gets damned.

That is why they are all going down together in the same Scientific Consensus Titanic...

Anoneumouse said...

I have always had a problem with men who send their women out to werk under a 'sue doe name'

I am even more suspicions of women who werk for the Guardian under those conditions,it's all a sort of pseudo 'Jermyn Street'.

Did the Dubliners ever sing about six in a bed in dear old Glasgow Town

Anonymous said...

Balance in Regional journalism - do me a favour, over 300 regional newspapers are owned by Johnston Press of Glasgow, why?

Alfred the Ordinary said...

So well said, thanks. He should have known better than to rant like this. However, his rant has achieved one thing. It has put one more nail in the coffin of the establishment media