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
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