What’s the point of journalists any more?

Though Saturday is largely an Unconference and the attendees will be fixing the agenda and timetable on the day (with a bit of healthy pre-event lobbying on the Uservoice site), I’m going to be chairing one whole-event session after lunch on the whole question of the Fourth Estate.

We’ve got a democracy that relies on them, at least in part, to provide a counterweight to powerful interests. But their current business model appears to be changing, and we – in the blogosphere – are being cited in some quarters as having the shoulders that may carry the slack that they are leaving. We’ll be ranging around questions about holding Stormont to account, organising for a political purpose online, and the changing relationship between ‘hack’ and ‘flak’ – how journalism and PR are mutating together.

The speakers confirmed so far are as follows (in no particular order):

  • David GordonBelfast Telegraph
  • Geoff McGimpsey – founding editor – Open Unionism
  • Dan McGinn – former NI Political Editor, PA
  • Eamonn Mallie – Downtown Radio & Slugger O’Toole. And maestro of the Northern Ireland’s news twittersphere
  • Aldous Duke – journalist & blogger

Tickets are free of charge but you must register for the event as we need to know numbers. Book your ticket now while they’re still to be had.

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  • joeCanuck

    The problem with dismissing the MSM is that they are the initial source for much of what bloggers write about.
    The advantage of blogs is to give a forum for the rest of us to discuss the issues.
    I see the bloggers as adding value not a replacement.

  • Drumlins Rock

    umm, should I go now? after the things I’ve said about Eamonn, lol

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I declare a slight interest. I was moved by the stories about the Baghdad Blogger…..the “citizen journalist” who was actually a hero in the liberal West and I think perhaps this was the first time that Id actually heard the phrase “citizen journalist” and launched my occasional career into the Blogosphere.
    But some time ago, I read something which I attribute to local Amnesty International (apologies if it was written independently by Patrick Corrigan as I did not actually mark it except mentally) …..in which it was reasonably argued that in dictatorships the “blogger” can actually hold the “dictatorship” to account in a way that conventional media cannot do.
    We delude ourselves that we bloggers in democracies are in the same courageous league. Indeed nobody blogging about Stormont can expect an early morning call from the Secret Police. All we are really doing is rolling up pieces of paper and throwing them at Jim Allister, Gerry Adams, Ian Parsley whoever.
    Curiously some expect…..indeed demand…..to be taken seriously.
    But at the bottom of it all is MONEY.
    There is a Recession.
    Too many Newspapers. Too many Journalists. Too little Advertising.
    And the Advertisements are going online.
    But the Bloggers have no real resources. Unless they band together. Or in other words become mainstream, losing the very identity that made them “different”.
    To attract advertisers etc, a Blogger would need to be able to show the quality of his/her product.
    Its bizarre that Newspapers are moving towards the Blogosphere while the Bloggers are moving more mainstream.
    Ironically a panellist at the SDLP Conference ten days ago referred to the Blogosphere as being filled with sad and lonely individuals.
    But while I clearly cant take “blogging” as seriously as some, Im not convinced about the cosiness of relationships between “senior” journalists and politicians. The nod and wink…..indeed collusion between them under lobby rules.
    Yet who can and cant claim to be a useful blogger as opposed to a casual sniper?
    An excellent example would be “Alan in Belfast” who did excellent work on the SDLP conference and East Belfast speaks out. But essentially he used blogging techniques and journalistic skill. And got the access of course that most bloggers would not get and journalists do get.

    Yet deep down Bloggers……well ok……this Blogger …..are wannabee journalists. Could anyone point me in the direction of a Blogger who would not take £50,000 per annum, a car, an expense account and a Blackberry…..to work for The Guardian.

  • FJH

    Whilst I agree with much of your post where we differ is on your last sentence. I do not believe most bloggers are wannabe journalists, as most of us do not have the necessary skills due to our lack of training. What most bloggers undoubtedly are is wannabe columnists, which is something completely different in my mind.

    The fact we are not working for the MSM, is what gives us the freedom which makes us different from MSM columnists. That alone is what makes some bloggers different and of interest.

    Once you take the man’s shilling, as any employee knows, you are finished as an independent entity.

    What bloggers have failed to do, is find a source of cash which would enable us to keep our independence and allow us to have the time and space to blog.

  • Granni Trixie

    Whilst I have been a wannabe ‘air hostess’ I have never sought to be a journalist or even a local councillor.
    I think that this is because I know too much about the nitty gritty …at afar you see the glamour but close up all is hassle. I’m sure writing as a joujrnalist is like that and even £50K wouldnt do it.

    I suspect that some bloggers seek to make sense of the world by exchanges too and fro and for recreational sport. Thats all. Journalists jobs are safe. .

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    For myself……and you will note my qualification that……”Bloggers ….well ok this blogger…..” was a reference primarily to myself as a wannabee journalist (although I did not mean it too seriously).
    I of course would never take the mans shilling. Or indeed two shillings……..If Im offered three shillings we are into negotiating territory.
    And yes youre right. Primarily we are columnists not journalists.
    But none the less my point is a valid one……if not entirely literally that a Blogger looks at a Journalist and says “money for old rope….I could do that”.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well no…..a lot of journalists will lose their jobs and thats a tragedy for a lot of families.
    But there is something “precious” about journalists in believing they have a quasi constitutional role. I recall a late Sunday night sitcom “Hot Press” “Hot Metal”???? where the tabloid hack intoduced himself as “Her Majestys Press”.
    That belief is ripe for satire as is the Blogospheres self image.

    Wannabee Air Hostess eh?
    For me it was and still is Olympic Three Day Event Gold Medalist.
    Guess I will just have to settle for the bronze I got in……..oops Ive said too much already.

  • FJH

    I do not believe we differ on this,

    All the best.