Is the blog the new column?

So asks Conall Devitt. He comes to the tentative conclusion that the Irish blogosphere is still too small to be of sufficient grind to seriously knock formerly illustrious columnists in the way that they regularly do in Britain. Do they influence decision makers? My own view is that that is hard to track, not least because no serious research has yet been done on the subject. I’d only say that if decision makers are choosing to read Irish blogs (and they are) on a daily and at times even an hourly basis, they are certainly being influenced.

  • brendan,belfast

    Mick – did you deliberately spell Conall’s name incorrectly ‘cos he did it to you first?

  • Mick Fealty

    No, it’s something I do naturally. I got Toby Harnden’s name wrong yesterday too.

  • Mick
    On a related point, in your summary in Iain Dale’s book, you stated that, apart from a couple of big players (Slugger included of course), the Irish political blog scene hasn’t really taken off as it has in both the UK and the US. There are many varied reasons for that of course (a much smaller online politically aware population being an obvious one), but I was thinking that when you link into one of the smaller blogs (like you’ve done with Beano’s above) maybe you could close the comments section on your post here in order that people post their comments on the topic actually on the blog in question?

    That way you’d be directing even more traffic from your hub towards the periphery and the “decison makers” and ordinary punters would be more tempted to widen their reading choice.

  • Sorry Mick and thanks for eagle eyes Brendan.

    Corrected now.


  • Mick Fealty


    I have to hold my hand up and say that we could/should do more to press our traffic outwards. I’m reluctant to close off the possiblity of people commenting here, because the discussion is an important part of the mix. Plus, people are often reluctant to commit themselves to a new space.

    All I’d say is that even if some of our commenters don’t follow the links, you can be sure opinion formers will, if there is sufficient ‘pull’ in the story.

  • It all depends what you mean by …

    Navel-gazing aside, is there real certainty that the O’Tooles, the Dales and the Fawkeses of this e-world knock formerly illustrious columnists in any part of the UK? Even in the US, to what extent (with the rarest exception, as with a certain stained dress) do the Drudges or Huffingtons fix a game-plan?

    Surely that is still done by the “heavier” print media. Today’s Spectator has a series of articles, almost a symposium, on “The War for the World”. That is more likely to set the agenda than any twittering on line. Test-case: does Michael Gove have more clout as an Opposition MP, as a Times columnist, or as an on-line contributor? For me, Jon Wiener’s piece in The Nation, that Hillary has only 19% support among Democratic men is more telling than anything on

    So what is the rôle of the internet chat-room?

    First it is a collection, frequently a very small coterie, of like minds: to that extent each site is no more influential than any other kaffeeklatsch, and far less so than, say, your typical Westminster pub.

    Second, it is a lightning-conductor. It tells us where the Jovian wrath of a particular vocal community is aimed.

    Third, it may, just may, provide those great minds of the Press with an odd notion: certainly, I’ve been surprised how a remark I have blogged seems to have a curious parallel after-life elsewhere, a day or two later. Always without any attribution, of course (though that might be the way I, too, used it).

    Anent all this, I have just re-discovered Walter Lippman’s 1920 essay, Liberty and the News. Now, Lippmann has a very curious definition of journalistic “liberty”: it is not the right to do or say whatever, it is the duty to (and to be allowed to) report truthfully that others may form judgments. This from a man who was editorial director of the New York Times and a syndicated columnist for decades.

    That approach seems to me to provide a definition of the internet comment site. It is our duty to influence in the sense of keeping the paid journos honest. Example: I, like many, assumed that, behind the “dodgy dossier” and similar exculpations, Bush and his ilk had some knowledge not available to common-folk like me. Those journos who went off to be “embedded” seemed generally to share the same assumption. When it all went belly-up, it was the e-world that saw it first. And shrieked. And was right.

    I suspect, too, that the Slugger threads on Seymour, Junior, and the Causeway (while not providing any particular revelation) were also contributory to restoring a balance in wider news-sense.

  • All

    We appear to have started an interesting discussion here. I’m inclined to look into the experience on this island in more detail. Malcolm’s points are strong and others contributions have merit. Maybe someone at one of the universities might like to collaborate on a piece of research?


  • Mick Fealty

    I have a research proposal gathering dust that I must get back out again. I’ll bounce it on to a few people and see what the reaction is.

  • Two points, first about the BloggerSphere influencing leading Irish politicians, the problem with these useless souls is they rarely read the papers, they simply get their gofers to put a round up of the days news that they feel will interest their master the PM, Minister, leader of opposition etc.

    As to the Irish BloggerSphere being a small pond, yes and it is true bloggers like myself have to choose what we specialize in. For example it is difficult to get a sizable readership if you stick with the north alone these days. But if you cover the island as a whole those down south become disinterested when you post articles about Stormont etc. What I have decided to do is cover the stories that interest me know matter where they are centered, whether it be Ireland the UK, where-ever.

    The fact is if the Irish nation or its Bloggersphere is to become a major player then the island must be reunited politically. Otherwise it becomes two halves of very little as far as generating mass interest is concerned. Slugger is an exception, it does not prove the rule.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Happy new year Conall

  • Jo

    I have made this point before: your allegiance to to other bloggers (where they express scoially unacceptable views) gives you no credence whatsosver.

    You fail to realise that other bloggers indulge their prejudices here without realsing or recognising that that expression might have an effect elsewhere.

  • Jo

    I DO doubt that regarding David Vance as a friend and colleague will contribute much to you being a rational supporter of Unionism. He is someone who has expresed views advocating extreme violence.

  • Re. Mick Hall – I’m sure many of us write about both Irish jurisdictions without feeling we have to wait for a united Ireland to achieve maximum impact! Personally, like Mick, I blog about what interests me, sometimes politics, sometimes not, and writing it down helps me to focus my thoughts. If other people read it, that’s a bonus. Unlike work, if I don’t feel like blogging, then I don’t do it. And that’s the beauty of being an amateur.

  • DC

    The one thing about being able or allowed to post on a blog is that it encourages interaction and buy-in with the blogger / poster re the position taken.

    These interactions, if favourable, which they mainly are, tend to secure more sway from a bloggers perspective when trying to encourage thought in a particular direction or to focusing on certain concerns in, or with, the media.

    Paper columnists may not get this same level of personal buy-in and may suffer in the battle for influencing opinion as a result. And those journos offering comments to pieces online may just allow comments with no personal steer, or lack the dedicated time to run it appropriately.

    Just a thought.

  • Jenny

    I agree, one of the most important things about being a blogger is you have no one to answer to but your own conscience.

    This is not the case when you write for a publication, indeed often your work is not your own as it is edited out of all meaning. [although in my case I welcome the spell checking and punctuation’s etc as do my readers Im sure 😉


    some good points

  • Mick


    I support rational debate. End of. I don’t make judgements on the content, just on the integrity (so far time and resources allow) of the ‘process’ of debate.