RECENTLY, A STUDENT at one of the local universities requested, after browsing The Tears of a Clown that I participate in her research on the topic of blogging and it’s relationship to journalism. There were a few interesting and well-conceived questions posed and taking part became a thought-provoking exercise. This site celebrated it’s sixth birthday this month so it seemed to be an opportune time to consider the medium of blogging generally. The questions and their answers are recorded below
Why did you decide to start blogging?
I initiated my main blog in August, 2007 after attending and being inspired by a talk at Lowdham Book Festival, Notts by a leading blogger who now writes professionally. I had previously experimented with blogs in a small way for field research and also ran a free traditional website for a while. I migrated all the previously written articles on the latter to The Tears of a Clown.
‘Tears of a Clown’ has reached 512,904 views. How do you feel that the privilege to communicate on a mass scale has been extended to anybody who has access to the Internet?
I enjoy the freedom to publish my thoughts, beliefs, experiences and knowledge in this way. Clearly, it is a great opportunity for anyone with something to say and my personal belief is that it should be respected. There were other online means previously, for example internet forums and some may claim that blogs have in some ways been superseded and outgrown by other social media such as micro-blogging etc. I still however, find it more satisfying, generally speaking, than those methods of communication. I do however, generally use these different means for different purposes.
How do you respond to the notion that blogging has undermined the privileged position occupied by journalists?
With barely suppressed hilarity I might say! Certain areas of the world of journalism undermine themselves on a regular basis with their irresponsibility and bias. Although I remain a fan and supporter of quality journalism, too many individuals and organisations have brought about their own downfall and therefore I have little sympathy that they are now being regularly challenged.
How do you respond to the opinion that, as a blogger, you are unfamiliar with the process of news gathering?
I respond by saying that I am not a journalist and don’t see my efforts at writing and communicating to be inextricably bound together with news gathering. In addition, my experiences of reading some (not all) newspapers is that their own journalists show themselves to be lamentably poor and indeed lazy, in regards to news gathering at times. I might cite the scanning by certain professional journalists of personal blogs and internet forae etc. for stories. If they use this information gathered to form their own story, with little basis other than a member of the public’s opinion, as I have witnessed them do, what does that say for the accuracy of their own published work?
How do you respond to the critique that blogs have received in that bloggers tend to value immediacy and comment as opposed to accuracy?
I would say that is sometimes a fair criticism. It has though to be remembered that most of us do not blog for a living and therefore only have a finite time to fact find – unlike professional journalists. In fairness, and as with journalists, I believe that there should be a certain responsibility upheld when publishing material on a blog. I attempt at all times to write what I reasonably understand as the truth before pressing the submit button. If I’m not convinced of something’s legitimacy I’ll tend to not publish it. I don’t too often write about contentious issues but I still think that’s a good yardstick to adhere to.
Do you think citizen journalism is fairly representative of the wider public?
If you mean by that, blogging then yes, I think it can be construed as reasonably representative. Of course that representation is by those of us who wish to write and communicate, inferring representation by a certain type of person or section of society. I struggle to understand at times how a journalist and his sub-editor could be seen as more representative in any case.
Would you say, blogs play a part in keeping journalists honest/holding them to account?
There are too many dishonest and biased examples of journalism still to be able to say that always works but I suppose it helps in that process. That the public have so much more opportunity for redress is a good thing in my view and perhaps, I’m not sure, it may occur to journalists that they may be taken to task in various places if people are in disagreement with their opinions and statements of ’fact’. A healthier state of affairs than existed previously I would suggest.