“Grandma, tell me about the Great Cyber War. What was it like?”
“Well, dear, on top of hill were the well-armed, but rapidly depleting mainstream media corps defending their turf to the death, or at least until deadline.
“Assaulting the outskirts of parliament were we brave bloggers, dressed only in our pyjamas, fuelled on skim lattes and clicking on petitions until our index fingers blistered. It was ugly, dear.”
After a week of pitched battles in “cyberspace”, it was interesting to see the esteemed host of Media Watch, Jonathon Holmes, bifurcate the debate over coverage of the Prime Minister’s speech into the old journalist-versus-blogger meme.
Essentially, Jonathon’s point was that social media is dominated by left-leaning, cultural intelligentsia who are just as out of touch with the “ordinary people” and just as unrepresentative of the general voting population as the press gallery they rush to condemn.
Well, yes, but who is arguing that? My reading of fellow blogger Tim Dunlop’s original piece in The Drum was that now anyone can watch news break in real time from raw sources, the role of journalist as gatekeeper is becoming redundant. (Note, this does NOT mean journalists are becoming redundant, but that their roles are changing).
Social media tools like Twitter, Blogger, WordPress and Facebook allow anyone – from boiler-suited vegan student to snarly libertarian to spotty Young Liberal fogy – to publish their own analysis of political events in real time.
Yes, much of this – probably 99 per cent of it – is shallow, self-serving and poorly written. But the idea that there is some uniformity of view in the blogosphere is as misguided and clichéd as the commonly heard complaint that the ABC, say, is a nest of lefties.
As an aside, the assumption in Holmes’ analysis – common in defences of legacy media – is that this is about the mainstream professional versus the social amateur or that bloggers live under the illusion that they can replace full-time journalists, a point dealt with by US journalism professor Jay Rosen.
“Ask bloggers why they blog and they might say ‘because big media sucks!’, Rosen wrote last year. “But they will almost never say: ‘I am your replacement’. This fantasy of replacement comes almost exclusively from the journalist’s side, typically connected to fears for a lost business model.”
Back to this week’s events …