How blogging can improve politics (and journalism)?

One of the outworking of the Slugger Awards has been the way it has stirred up attention for blogs and blogging (I’ll be compiling a round up for the Awards site in the next few days). But I was struck by Matt Wardman’s take on the Awards, because, quite simply, he absolutely gets what we were trying to do with it. Whether we have actually released anything near its full potential is an important debate, but for another time. Here’s Matt:

The work that Slugger is doing is (as far as I know) unique in this country: a blog having a measure of impact in seeking to strengthen the political process, rather than simply trying to make different things happen using the existing political process.

Much of the debate (well intentioned though it usually is) often misses this point and has a tendency focuses on the disruption rather than on what these cheap tools can be enabled to do. Matt picks up on what he thinks is an example coming up in Cardiff soon:

I think that that list of names for this debate, comprising two professional politicians, a specialist in the political process and a big media journalist, completely misses the point. It is also a symbol that the most important aspect of political blogging – the potential for engagement in the political convesation by those who would not do it otherwise – has not yet been absorbed by the political and media establishments.

To be fair, I’ve been on blogger only panels where the debate has completely misfired, so there are no easy golden bullets here. And for the most part, because the technologies are so disruptive, it requires a suck it and see approach. The 2gether08 debate got fitfully to the point. But it seems to me that there is an opportunity for a pro-politics approach to develop and work from the outside (i.e., the liberated populus) inwards to those (incarcerated) elites who have grown fearful of the forthright opinions of ordinary folk.

That requires the kind of pro political approach I outlined in my Dublin video recently. It also requires some independence, and the determination to be a critical friend to politics rather than laying low in the long grass of the net to take the next villain down. It also requires a willingness to facilitate change rather than force it.

Sadly I won’t be in Cardiff on the 21st October (though I now see Matt will!!). But I will be giving a lecture for the Reuters Institute at Green Templeton College, Oxford on 26th November between 12:00 – 14:00, and speaking to the suitably intimidating title: How the web is saving journalism and making it better.

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