At Comment is Free, Sunny asks why newspapers are beginning to turn against bloggers. Are they worried about competition? Is building something up then tearing it down just how newspapers work? Or are the columnists scared of the militant and unfettered argument?
One thing I’ve noticed is that blogs have become, for me, sign-posts to the newspapers, and not the other way around. Take a couple of articles on how to combat terrorism which I read online. My attention was drawn to them by bloggers, not headlines on the news-stand! First, I come to this opinion piece by Sam Leith via Tim Worstall:
The terrorists succeeded: they caused terror … More and more, I wonder about something. What if, after the attacks on the World Trade Centre or the London Underground, the West had taken a difficult and strange course of action, and done nothing at all? What if we had, as a society, turned the other cheek: mourned our dead, rebuilt our cities and allowed the senselessness of the attacks to stand exposed for what it was?
I’ve been whining for a more radical and unexpected, even counter-intuitive approach for a while now, although I have not had the guts to stand up and say that perhaps we should simply turn the other cheek. Leith fills that gap, Worstall agrees its something to consider, and there is an interesting discussion in his comments box.
Meanwhile, it is via Rachel From North London, in turn via Chicken Yoghurt, that the latest column by the fantastic Matthew Parris: “Let’s treat the plotters as common criminals, not soldiers in a global war”:
How sides seem to have been switched since the last century turned. Rebels and mutineers used to insist that there was a war on, and governments used to insist that there wasn’t. Hardliners took the view that people who blew things up were common criminals, to be dealt with case by case. Liberals argued that it was more useful to see them as idealists in a warped and misguided army … Now it’s the other way round. Hardliners see a war between opposing forces. Liberals see a more fractured picture, a rebel cast of dangerous but messed-up people, idiots, nutters and psychopaths, some organised, some clever, others out of control: essentially a matter, however grave, for the police.
Hopefully I will be another link in the chain, as people click through from here to read Parris’ thoughts in full.
Crucially though, I haven’t bought either The Telegraph (Leith) or The Times (Parris). I have, however, become extremely efficient at recieving the benefit of their wisdom, for free. Newspapers should be worried by blogs, because blogs increase the likelihood that the likes of me are essentially ‘free-loading’ on the papers’ good work. I’ve certainly bought less newspapers in the past year. Worse still for the newspapers, I think I have a right to do so. Newspapers form an important of public discourse, facilitating the democratic debate before any democratic vote. With the right to free speech comes the right to listen uninterrupted, and if they put their content behind an Independent-style firewall, they will hear me moan. The business side of newspaper publishing is hindered by their aspiration to facilitate the public good.
We might be able to tolerate this is the case of behemoths like the Telegraph Group and News International, who can in any case plug the leak by selling online advertising. But what of the chap who runs the corner shop below my flat? Selling copies of The Telegraph and The Times are an important loss-leader for him. My failure to buy the papers, and instead read the juicy bits from each from three-storeys up, could begin to impact upon his ability to stay in business.
I’m off to buy a pint of milk before he closes.