Osbourne: “Everybody is becoming an editor…”

Watchman raised a point today about the scarcity of talent in political parties. It is something that affects all of them, and not just those in Northern Ireland. The single senior Tory who impressed above all others in Bournemouth this year was George Osbourne. I this speech he explains why the net is important to politicians. It is something that every politico reading this blog piece should read and inwardly digest.

I think most of us -in politics and in the traditional media – have been slow to recognise the profound change which the latest revolution is bringing about in our society.

We see it as merely another communication medium.

As well as issuing press releases we also post them on the party website. As well as doing a TV interview we record a podcast. As well as printing our newspapers on paper we put them on-line.

But the internet revolution is much more than that. It is bringing about a decisive shift in the balance of power.

The printing press, the radio station and the television studio are all essentially what you might call ‘one to many’ technologies: I the newspaper editor or the programme editor decide what you are going to consume.

Of course, you are entitled to switch channel or buy another newspaper – but then you are simply putting another editor in charge.

The difference with the internet revolution is that it is a ‘many to many’ technology: everyone is becoming an editor.

In politics and in the media we’ve both assumed that we do the talking and the people listen. Now the people are talking back.

It’s exciting, liberating, challenging and frightening too.

This last is highly relevant. At the recent Irish Blogger Con I heard of one TD who had been advised that blogs were too dangerous to touch for instance. Although in Irish terms, the Republic’s politician bloggerati have clearly ‘got it’ in numbers long before those of Northern Ireland – check out Eammon Ryan’s blog from Nairobi. Ian Parsley, and the Young Unionists being the exception which proves the rule. And there are more than a few in the media who still don’t get the challenge either.

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

  • Blogging is a great thing. But many bloggers are sooooooo arrogant. They think they are journalists – even Mick Fealty makes this mistake (posting the rubbish about a top Provo being arrested for blowing Conor Weldon’s leg off within 24-hours of the attack when his sources are shit).
    Bloggers are not journos, they are not even in the same ball park as the worst hack. They offer opinion and gossip, most of the time using a convenient alias. At least when reporters offer the above they put a name to it.
    I wish bloggers would realise this and quit with the self-importance. That said, continue the comment, just limit the self-indulgent rubbish.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ll take the ‘even Mick Fealty’ as a compliment. I don’t claim that all blogging is journalism. But the clue above is in the title. We are all editors now: just get yourself a feed reader, never mind a blog, and you begin to feel the disaggregating effect!

    That story you mentioned is worth going back to read too, since it was not written quite in the way you are portraying it. That’s another feature of blogging that is largely missing in the mainstream: the effects are long term, and (provided the blogger is not playing silly buggers) transparent.

    Some bloggers are journalists. Some are cops, firemen, nurses, students, wives, professors, lawyers, mothers, politicians or lovers. The point is that they are (mostly) sentient and connected, and are both utilising and bypassing mainstream news outlets. And it’s endlessly disruptive: classic news management, for instance, is virtual impossible.

    I’ll be segmenting Osbourne’s speech over the next day or two into shorter sections. But you will find if you scroll further down that he (albeit breifly) addresses this problem. His answer is simple: engagement! The truth douses rumour quicker than anything on the net.

  • I think Paul makes the mistake of assuming bloggers are seeking to compete with news journalists, which most certainly aren’t whatever about the wishful thinking of a few.

    But in an age when a lot of journalism is bought and paid for by special interests, it’s pretty useful to be able to access the opinions of professionals. As someone with a little legal training, for example, it’s pretty shocking to see the complete dearth of understanding of what has gone on in court before many journalists’ eyes.

    Often, they are happy to have a corporate PR take them aside and tell them what they’ve just seen. The resemblance this bears to legal/political reality is somewhat questionable.

    Self-importance is an unattractive quality in anyone, not least those members of a professional community who like to spout a lot of self-serving drivel about their indispensibility to democracy by holding the Establishment’s feet over the coals. I agree that we desperately need a professional, paid for body of men and women to perform this function, and bloggers are not necessarily going to be it. Unfortunately, in Ireland at any rate, most journalists work for publishers who deploy them not to inform public debate but to manipulate it.

    I doubt I’m the only ABC1 who no longer buys an Irish newspaper from week to week. And, as broadband rolls irresistibly out, I doubt I’ll be the last one to stop.