The BBC website, which is undoubtedly one of Britain's best known institutions, and arguably exports, has almost 100 blogs attached to it whose readers are invited to comment on a range of different topics. However, Andrew Marr (former political editor of BBC News) has dismissed most of these bloggers as "inadequate, pimpled and single", and so-called citizen journalism as the "spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night". He goes on to say that "Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all. A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting. They are very angry people."
It seems to me from my own observations, that he is talking about social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter more than real bloggers. There I see all sorts of comments, some obviously made by drunks, some yes by angry people, who in the heat of moment lose all social graces and communication skills (assuming they had any to begin with). Andrew is right when he says that people say stupid things online because it is anonymous, things that they often wouldn't dream of saying if they were face to face. Face to face communication though sadly in modern Britain, no longer seems to exist. Instead of meeting up to talk in person, or even talking over the phone, people share important news by text or email, where the words are all too easy to misconstrue. I have had first hand experience of this myself, when I used to moderate and at one time administrate, internet based forums.
This type of communication, to my mind at least is not communication at all. While it may be true that some bloggers are angry, late night uneducated drunks letting off steam,the vast majority are decent uright citizens simply voicing their concerns. Will blogging ever replace professional journalism? No, nothing can ever take the place of in depth news analysis which only a trained journalist can write, but when it comes to other issues, celebrity gossip, the insiders view of particular industries, gardening and everyday issues that are part of all our lives, then yes, blogging can be and often is, just as valid a means, if not more valid, of obtaining information, and I mean real information.
Self publishing, which I am of course an expert on, is a case in point. If you wish to obtain information on this, which source do you feel would be more reliable, a book written by a professional journalist who had not actually tried this method, or a blog written by someone who had? I know which I would prefer and find far more authentic, and I think the majority of other self publishers would agree with me. The same could be said of anything that you wanted to find out more about - which stereo or mobile phone to buy, which hotel to stay at, blogs written by those who have tried these things for themselves are infinitely more reliable and better informed than articles written by journalists who are given these things for free and simply asked by the manufacturer to write a review.
Is Andrew then right to attack bloggers in the way that he does or does he need to open his ears and eyes a little more to the real world - I suspect a bit of both. Yes there are some angry people out there (and most may well have good reason to feel angry), but this does not excuse their behaviour. On the other hand, there are also some very good blogs written by some very good and responsible bloggers. If he doesn't like a blog and the comments that it attracts, then he can always like everyone else, hit the escape key (or maybe the beep should just have better filters so that comments such as these don't appear inthe first place)!