Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Blogstorm

A new word has entered the English language: "blogstorm". It seems to have been coined in relation to the storm of comment on the US blogs about the conduct of CNN executive Eason Jordan.

This is the man who asserted in a discussion forum at the recent Davos summit that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but had in fact been "targeted".

Although there were a number of journalists present, none of them chose to report it, but it was picked up by blogger Rony Abovitz who, on 28 January, put a detailed account of the incident on his Blog.

His post was, in turn, picked up by fellow bloggers, leading to an explosion of comment (see, for instance, here and here)which then got picked up by the "legacy" media. When Jordon, under the light of intense public scrutiny, failed to substantiate his claim, he was forced to resign, claiming he had done so to save his network from further embarrassment.

This is the second high-profile victim of the Blogosphere, the first one being Dan Rather of CBS, which we commented on when we reached our first 50,000 hits (see here).

So significant is this latest scalp that even the BBC has noticed. On the BBC PM programme this afternoon, the loathsome Eddie Mair ran a piece asking whether the Blogosphere was going to change the world.

Rony Abovitz, whom Mair interviewed, was in no doubt. He believed it was "the true democratisation of the media" and he himself was "amazed and frightened at its power".

Mair then interviewed two pundits, neither of whose names I caught, but one of them clearly signalled that the "legacy" media saw the Blogsphere as a threat, complaining that journalists were "supposed to be the gatekeepers" of the news but, instead of going to them with stories that might be interesting, these bloggers were publishing them themselves.

One could almost taste the indignation of Mair when he put to his interviewee that the bloggers were not professional journalists, so there were no checks on them if they got it wrong – a bit rich that, after "Rathergate". He was told that bloggers themselves would challenge those who did get it wrong, and very quickly indeed.

Clearly, Mair does not understand the phenomenon which will eventually displace him and his likes. What he must realise is that, if the journos and their "legacy media" do not do the job, then we will do it for him.

There is a similar issue here with the story that the BBC reported at lunchtime, commenting on Blair's attempt to reach the puvli through popular television shows such as the Richard & Judy show, and the "Wright stuff" programme on Channel 5.

Peter Kelner of YouGov opined that Blair was trying to connect with an audience that did not watch the new and political programmes. But the piece also discussed the way politicians were becoming frustrated by the way their messages were getting distorted by the media and were therefore seeking to by-pass the "Westminster filter".

In our own way, that is what the bloggers are doing as well. We may not have access to the popular telly shows by, through the Blogsosphere, collectively we can make our voices heard. The "legacy media" no longer has the monopoly. And, although the "blogstorm" has yet to reach these shore, political blogs in the UK are following the lead set by the US. It can only be a matter of time.

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