In the indispensable media section of yesterday’s Observer Rafael Behr notes that there is a tendency amongst some mainstream journalists to want bloggers to shut up believing that professional journalism alone is the only legitimate watchdog of power. The failed LA Times wikitorial experiment in last week was simply the latest skirmish in the cold war between big US journalism and its blogosphere. The description will be familiar to regular readers of the comments here at Slugger:
What would happen if a newspaper invited readers to an editorial conference down the pub? First to arrive would be fans of the paper, keen to get involved. Next would be curious bystanders, drawn by the heat of debate. Last would be the drunken idiots, ranting and swearing incoherently until they were escorted from the premises. At closing time the newspaper would be left with no editorial – and a lot of spilt beer to wipe up.
That is pretty much what happened when the LA Times last week opened up its editorial comment on Iraq to public amendment online. It was called a wikitorial, from ‘wiki’ – originally Hawaiian for ‘quickly’, now internetese for a page that can be edited by allcomers. It is one of the many innovations that old media see happening, know is important, but don’t know why.
In France however, there is a much greater consonance between bloggers and journalism:
‘Au blog, citoyens’, screamed the front page of leftwing daily Libération, echoing the call to arms in the ‘Marseillaise’. Inside, the newspaper devoted a double-page spread to the story of Christophe Grébert, a blogger from the small town of Puteaux who used his site, monputeaux.com, to report on the politics of the local town hall. He is being pursued by the mayor for defamation, a development that guarantees him worldwide internet martyrdom.
Along with a celebration of citizen blogs around the country, Libération hinted its support for Grébert in an editorial comment. ‘The law should certainly punish malevolent rumour, defamation and intimidation,’ the newspaper said. ‘But it is more important still that the law is not subverted by those who want to limit the field of free speech and fair comment. Blogs can be a powerful tool in the service of democracy.’
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty