Brassneck: 10th most influential blog in Britain…

So says a recent poll by Editorial Intelligence. For those of you who have not yet tumbled, Brassneck is a blog I have been writing for the Daily Telegraph for the last six months or so. The poll was amongst ‘a self selecting group of individuals from politics, business, media, public life, and academia’ and is detailed within a report jointly commissioned by the Reuters’ Institute and Editorial Intelligence. The report, written by John Lloyd and Julia Hobsbawm is well worth reading, and is available here. Sadly I missed the launch event for unavoidable reasons, but Guido was scathing about the comments aimed at bloggers by some on the platform.

  • kensei

    I bloody hope not, seeing as how you share the blog with one of the most odious Tories I’ve ever had the mispleasure of reading. This http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/politics/brassneck/may2008/the-fabians-could-learn-from-ferris-bueller.htm only the latest in reminding me why I am going to be sorely disappointed in seeing Conservatives win the next election.

    Moreover the comments field is somewhat homogeneous ; much too much “Yes, Labour is the worst thing ever and the whole country has went to the dogs”. Some interesting articles occasionally, but very rarely a decent place for debate.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    The blogging platform is shifting next month, that should be more condusive in getting a wider mix.

    In truth, there are not many places were you find the heterogeneity you commonly find on Slugger. But that’s been worked at over nearly six years.

    The team is expanding over the next few weeks to bring some more voices, left, right and centre.

  • Well done Mick

  • kensei

    Mick

    In truth, there are not many places were you find the heterogeneity you commonly find on Slugger. But that’s been worked at over nearly six years.

    Well… I don’t buy accusations of bias, but in terms of actual blog posts there has been a shortage of Nationalist orientated posts recently. And Alliance types, now I think about it.

  • Debbie

    Look forward to it mick- should be interesting.

  • paul kielty

    The ‘Daily TORYgraph’??? I wonder if the likes of Tony Benn etc…, would be offered a similar post doing such commendable work in the interests off the public good!
    PS. Mick I think you’ve left yourself open to accusations that you secretly moonlight in that impressive new government building by Holywood Co.Down!!!

  • “Well… I don’t buy accusations of bias, but in terms of actual blog posts there has been a shortage of Nationalist orientated posts recently. And Alliance types, now I think about it.”

    Lol just shows how the perception of slugger varies according to which side of the political fence one sits on. For example, D.V. is usually ranting and raving about Mr. Fealty letting Slugger become overrun by ‘Republican Pondlife’ as he likes to term about 45% or so of Northern Irelands population.

  • Mick Fealty

    paul,

    Just watch the space… I am open to any rigorous form of Popperian falsification…

    Blogs should always be prepared to publish what a newspaper might never touch. For instance: http://url.ie/dj2.

  • Charles in Texas

    Indeed Mick, well done!

  • Dave

    “But it is also the case that British newspaper commentary is among the liveliest, most combative and sharpest in the world; that it is now seen by editors and owners of newspapers as more important than reporting, at least as measured in the amount of money paid to commentators as against that paid to reporters and the privileging of commentators on the skylines of newspapers.” – Julia Hobsbawm and John Lloyd

    It sounds like becoming a member of the Commentariat is both a lucrative career move and a healthy boost to one’s status and sense of self-importance. It must be great to be paid to proffer an opinion about subjects that you are naturally opinionated about.

    Why are the commentators concerned about how influential they are if the editors and owners of newspapers are more concerned about their entertainment value and, presumably, the resultant increase in sales? I suppose there is a snob value for certain people buying a newspaper because they are led to believe that it employs a prominent opinion-former? Perhaps, but I doubt many would admit to buying a newspaper for that reason, even to market research groups that owners may rely on to target their newspaper. That sounds suspiciously like vanity – or perhaps brand-building by the commentators to promote competition for their services among newspapers who value the snob angle, leading to upward mobility in the salary of the commentators.

    Trying to be influential with the political class sounds suspiciously like activism; a self-appointed role of advisor or public guardian to those who are duly elected by those who have no such mandate. At any rate, it is always good to have a diversity of opinions, even if some are by those who operate within the idiosyncratic constraints of their strange trade and within the impose constraints who those who employ them. It doesn’t mean that the editor or owner has to tell them what to write; it means that the one who employs them already knows what they will write (which is why you hire someone like Michael McDowell if you want an anti-Shinner opinion and someone like Jim Gibney if you want a pro-Shinner opinion).

    Still, well done, I suppose, on becoming influential.

  • Garibaldy

    Fair play to you Mick. Very pleased for you. Even if I’m never happy to see plaudits go to anything connected to the Daily Telegraph.

  • Mick Fealty

    Dave,

    I’m working on a piece on that report, and the launch event itself. Briefly though, Hobsbawm notes that whatever that influence is, it is cultural: i.e. soft, and often indefinable. She also says that such ‘power’ as it does possess only comes to bear in aggregation, not one in and off itself.

  • kensei

    Lol just shows how the perception of slugger varies according to which side of the political fence one sits on. For example, D.V. is usually ranting and raving about Mr. Fealty letting Slugger become overrun by ‘Republican Pondlife’ as he likes to term about 45% or so of Northern Irelands population.

    I’m sure he’s talking about the commentators rather than the bloggers. Take a log at the number of posts by author in the blogroll down the side – I don’t think it’s arguable that there has been half as much Nationalist leaning commentary as Unionist.

  • willis

    Surely you also have a home over at Comment is Free, thus appearing at 4 and 10.

    Whatever, congrats Mick. Maybe the Irish can do for blogging what they did for the english-speaking theater, whatever that was.

  • Mick Fealty

    That would erring on the way too generous side. I used to be the first in the F section of their list of bloggers, now I am about five or six down. In short, it’s massive, and my contributions there account for an infinitesimally tiny fraction of its success.

    ken,

    (At risk of blowing us off the course of a promising conversation) You used the term ‘nationalist-oriented’, and appeared to be focused on posts rather than individual bloggers. I would argue that we still probably post more on nationalist related subjects than unionist ones. There are nearly 30 different individuals with the power to post on Slugger. They run from Rusty at one end to Turgon at the other and every other point in between (barring perhaps an SDLP POV). Not sure what else we can do.

  • Debbie

    I don’t think slugger needs to do any thing else, it covers a broad range of views in its blogging of posts and its commentary – there isn’t anything else to be done, though I look forward to the expansion and welcome the input from the down south and accross the water.

  • Turgon

    kensei,
    I know this may seem odd but I entirely agree with you. Although I am on the fairly extreme end of the spectrum I can see that the majority of the opening blogs are either unionist (to varying degrees of dreadfulness; mine surely being amongst the worst) or neutral (such as Mick’s).

    On the other hand I do think the majority of comments are probably from pro nationalists: no science there, just an impression.

    I do sometimes worry that there should be more nationalist / republican blogs but I guess people like Mr. Donnelly may be too busy having real lives (unlike me). On that note my personal circumstances will probably change soon with a new job and I may have less time to blog. I am sure that will please some here.

  • kensei

    At risk of blowing us off the course of a promising conversation) You used the term ‘nationalist-oriented’, and appeared to be focused on posts rather than individual bloggers. I would argue that we still probably post more on nationalist related subjects than unionist ones. There are nearly 30 different individuals with the power to post on Slugger. They run from Rusty at one end to Turgon at the other and every other point in between (barring perhaps an SDLP POV). Not sure what else we can do.

    I am focusing on posts. I don’t deny you have a decent spread of bloggers, but if the Nationalist side don’t post half as often as the Unionist side, you end up with an imbalance. The topic is only half the story: how people see the same thing is often quite different. Pete might post on Nationalist issues, but it would be hard to claim he’s coming from a Nationalist perspective.

    The only answer I see is to get a few more people in and increase the spread a little.

  • Mick Fealty

    ken,

    “But if the Nationalist side don’t post half as often as the Unionist side, you end up with an imbalance.”

    Notwithstanding the problem you pose (but seems to ignore basic rules hereby hangs your problem: self volition.

  • Turgon

    kensie / Mick,
    You need more sad nationalists with no friends who sit all evening and think of things to vent their strongly held opinions on; thinking they are reasoned and sensible arguments.

    At least I have insight.

  • Pete Baker

    My sole intervention on this otherwise interesting discussion.

    “The topic is only half the story: how people see the same thing is often quite different.”

    If you think there is a conflicting viewpoint then argue it and let the readers of the subsequent argument reach a conclusion. Any other judgement is based on bigotry.

    “thinking they are reasoned and sensible argument”

    On the same front. Assess an argument on its merits. Not on which community you think that argument is coming from.

  • Billie-Joe Remarkable

    Jesus Christ! ‘…a self selecting group of individuals from politics, business, media, public life, and academia’. It’s like the Simpsons episode where comic book guy and the, ahem, intelligentsia run Springfield.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Notwithstanding the problem you pose (but seems to ignore basic rules hereby hangs your problem: self volition.

    I am, as usual, an idiot.

    What?

    Pete

    If you think there is a conflicting viewpoint then argue it and let the readers of the subsequent argument reach a conclusion. Any other judgement is based on bigotry.
    On the same front. Assess an argument on its merits. Not on which community you think that argument is coming from.

    Which is to miss the point. The same story can be tackled from an number of angles, different people can be place different weights on the same facts, insight developed that might otherwise be missed. It might be that the original argument has force, and is well argued but only sees part of the picture. In a wider sense, people have different interests and ideas and might pull in stories or articles that the site is otherwise blind to.

    Your attitude doesn’t seem to fit with the ethos of blogging to me, Pete. It’s an opening up. People get a platform for their voices in some ways equal to the mainstream media. Not all of it is good, but having different voices and insights moves us closer to the underlying truth than reporters simply chasing what they perceive as “the story”.

  • Pete Baker

    ken

    “The same story can be tackled from an number of angles, different people can be place different weights on the same facts, insight developed that might otherwise be missed. It might be that the original argument has force, and is well argued but only sees part of the picture.”

    If there are additional parts of the picture of relevance that you believe have been missed then add those in the comments zone and let the reader decide how relevant, or otherwise, they are.

    You see, it doesn’t matter whether it’s additional elements or a completely conflicting interpretation, the first place to respond to any post is in the comments. Other than your own blog that is.

    Otherwise what you’re arguing for Slugger is a false balance where any and every interpretation of each topic gets equal space above the fold resulting in a cacophony of noise.

    But I forget, you already have me labelled as not “coming from a Nationalist perspective.”

    Here’s another fact, I don’t come at any topic from a Unionist perspective either.

    Since you seem confused about “the ethos of blogging”, understandably perhaps, allow me to explain.

    Blogging is primarily an individual affair.

    I blog to try to get a better understanding of the “underlying truth” of what’s actually happening, in particular about any story that seems interesting to me, and especially when the spun version appears blatantly false.

    At times, as part of that process, I use a version of the Baconian method – which I know you appreciate.

    That involves the comparison of previous examples or incidents which have a bearing on the current topic.

    So far, I have been moderately successful, as far as I’m concerned.

    If others also benefit then that’s an added bonus.

    Of course, other people may blog for entirely different reasons.

  • kensei

    If there are additional parts of the picture of relevance that you believe have been missed then add those in the comments zone and let the reader decide how relevant, or otherwise, they are.

    Like it as not, Pete, the top level carries more prestige and more authority. It also appears on the main page where things in the comments do not, so has more eyeball space.

    You see, it doesn’t matter whether it’s additional elements or a completely conflicting interpretation, the first place to respond to any post is in the comments. Other than your own blog that is.

    I don’t have a blog, Pete. I am an idiot with no special insight. I am aware that there exist people that do though. Unless really there is just you?

    Otherwise what you’re arguing for Slugger is a false balance where any and every interpretation of each topic gets equal space above the fold resulting in a cacophony of noise.

    No, I’m not. Slugger covers a range topics, some of which is fact chasing and some of which is more subjective. There have been pieces fair_deal, Turgon and The Watchman recently discussing perspectives on the state of Unionism and what they see as the best strategy on various issues. Sometimes blogs are started that just chuck ideas out too. There is no objective truth. There is no right answer. But it’s interesting an informative all the same.

    That is only one aspect. They stories they select, the points they pull out, they are all subtly different. Sometimes a thread is started with the basic facts and a link to the story. But it isn’t always the case.

    But I forget, you already have me labelled as not “coming from a Nationalist perspective.”

    Correct. That’d be the “self important prick” perspective. Hell, that will probably be removed but some days I really can’t help myself.

    Here’s another fact, I don’t come at any topic from a Unionist perspective either.

    Fair_deal or Turgon, often do however.

    I blog to try to get a better understanding of the “underlying truth” of what’s actually happening, in particular about any story that seems interesting to me, and especially when the spun version appears blatantly false.

    And here is the heart of the argument. Glad you are doing that. I am sure you believe you are chasing the Important Objective Truth without spin or bias. But however good you are, you have implicit bias, blindspots, limited capacity, the habit of repeating yourself and producing often unfathomable and hard to read webs of backlinks and so on.

    The “underlying truth” is best served and most likely revealed when lots of independent actors are doing the same thing — chasing what they see as the Important Objective Truth. If you don’t believe that, then you must believe things would be improved by having one single newspaper with one reporter chasing a single story.

    Some people are really good at it. Some people are really bad. But even the normally bad people can be capable of occasional insight, just as even the normally good are capable of making stupid points. Some striving to be objective and some are outrageously biased. But they all have a line, all have arguments. So I read on a topic, read someone else, and so on until I evaluate the arguments, the competing facts presented. The noise cancels out. You want to transmit the Truth. Great, I’ll hear you out. But I’m trying to discover it.

  • Pete Baker

    “Correct. That’d be the “self important prick” perspective. Hell, that will probably be removed but some days I really can’t help myself.”

    Indeed.

  • Pete Baker’s blogs make Slugger worth reading.

  • I working on a piece on the report too.

    Making half of it available for download for free, then pricing the other half (£20, Amazon) such that it’s too much for 25 more pages, but too little to make any money from corporate is a marketing approach that I think misses both the “wide circulation” and the “make money” objectives.

    I’m not sure that they “get it”.

    It is a mistake for bloggers to be subsumed by the glass bubble *completely*. Keep your sharp elbows. Please.