I’ve just realised that a week ago was the fourth anniversary of starting up this blog, which gives me cause to reflect on how tiresome it is to still see the stale, dead-end ‘journalists versus bloggers’ argument being aired far too often. This recent, very over-defensive effort in The Australian is an example – written by Christian Kerr, who developed his career through commentary in the independent media and should really know better (although he was probably just having some fun venting his spleen, which is the sort of thing bloggers stereotypically do).
From what I can see, it all boils down to the quality of the content, not whether someone calls themself a blogger or a journalist. This is truer than ever, now that some journalists also maintain a blog.
Whilst the same sort of outsider/blogger versus insider/journalist antagonism also exists in the USA to some extent, the big difference there is that there no dispute that the independent political blogosphere is seen as having a significant impact.
Nowhere is this more obvious than the upcoming Conventions for the Democrats and Republicans, where their Presidential nominees will be officially confirmed.
This piece in the New York Times demonstrates how widespread blogger access now is in areas which would previously have been seen as solely the domain of the professional journalist. Although the article also shows some of the ‘us versus them’ attitude still prevails, it is a long way removed from the situation in Australia. Just try to imagine a roomful of bloggers being allowed into the pre-Budget lockup or the major parties’ election campaign launches!
The major political parties first gave credentials to bloggers in 2004. The Republicans allowed a dozen bloggers to attend their convention in New York, while the Democrats gave bloggers 35 seats in the nosebleed section of the Fleet Center in Boston.
This year, the R.N.C. gave credentials to 200 bloggers as a means to “get Senator McCain’s message out to more people,” said Joanna Burgos, the press secretary of the convention. For bloggers attending the Democratic convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver, two types of credentials are offered.
The first is a national credential, which offers the same access granted to members of traditional news media organizations. The second, more coveted credential is the state blogger credential. It allows one blogger per state to cover the convention alongside its state delegation, with unlimited floor access.
I have linked a few times in the past to this blog – Democratic Convention Watch. It was the most accurate and detailed source of any I could find when I was following the finely balanced, drawn out and complicated primary contest for the Democrats. Since that contest was decided in favour of Barack Obama, the blog has had an extraordinary level of detail on how the Convention will unfold, including early insights into who is likely to appear. For example, their early tip that Bruce Springsteen might make an appearance is looking more likely. (FWIW, I’m not sure having lots of celebrities supporting him is a terribly helpful look for Obama, but I think Bruce could be an exception).
The site also closely and consistently follows the progress of the Presidential contest, and the Congressional contests in the Senate and the House of Representatives, without getting distracted too much by the mainstream media’s need to find a headline when there isn’t always one to be found. Which is not to say that this blog, or all the other US political blogs, are more valuable than the mainstream media. Rather, it is to acknowledge that they are all of value, which varies according to the needs of the reader and the quality and nature of the content. They add to the diversity of information sources, which is particularly important when it comes to effective democracy, and is another area where Australia also lags well behind the USA.