Blogs and newspapers

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.

8 Replies to “Blogs and newspapers”

  1. Yes, that would be sad. But he could diversify, find new income streams. He could make a questionnaire and give it to all his customers and local residents asking what products they wish he would sell, and in what quantities they would buy if he did. In the words of Porpoise Pit, “you can’t stop progress”.
    I love the immediacy of this post, especially the concept of having a corner shop above your flat. Love it.

  2. corner shop abouve my flat
    How I wish that were true. A third floor cornershop, with customers traipsing past perfectly servicable ground-floor flats to get to it. That would require a pretty fine selection of loss-leaders, I reckon.
    I’ve corrected the conceptual error and the spelling error in the post now. These comments can serve as a reminder to posterity of the upside-down world I almost lived in.

  3. I read somewhere (I think it was a Greenslade article at the Guardian) that the downward trend in printed media seems to be fairly consistent across the board, barring the odd specialist publication like ‘Kerrang’. Certainly ‘teen’ and ‘celebrity news’ mags seem to be hit hard, with readers apparently turning to the internet for their gossip.
    I’m of the opinion that, at least regarding MSM on the internet, the pricing model has yet to be perfected. I’m not about to start paying £1 per article from the Independent, or sign up for a yearly subscription. Advertising based models look interesting, such as Salon’s ‘watch this advertisement and get free article access for the duration of your cookie’ – though I have no idea how much profit they make from this. Viable?

  4. The journalistic process involves the selection of of facts in order to generate narritive. This is both a hasty process, due to the time pressures, and one which is subject to distortion. Juornalists may not be in possession of relivant facts, or due to their personal prejudices, they may ignore facts. Journalists may simply be lazy, and not sort through avaliable facts, in order to come to reasonable conclusiions. Bloggers have access to alternative sources of facts through the internet. They may taked more time to think through issues of fact, and narrative construction. Thus bloggers at best engage in an on going critical conversation about and with the media. Represenatives of the media do not like to have their credibility questioned, yet as Karl Popper pointed out, criticism is the essence of a free society. Blogging serves truth.

  5. Represenatives of the media do not like to have their credibility questioned
    But yet, regardless of what Popper says, the facts of the matter that you mention, namely time constraints, access to information, prejudices and so forth, all dictate that their credibility should be questioned, in the name of accuracy and “truth”. Too much emphasis, I fear, is placed on “freedom” and not enough on responsibility. Freedom of the media to present limited or distorted information either explicitly as “fact”, or implicitly, knowing full well that that is how it will mostly be understood, is not a freedom I desperately want to fight for.

  6. My great revelation about media accuracy came when I discovered that Palestian leaders had claimed in the Arab lanhuage press on numerour occasions in late 2000 and 2001, that they had manipuated event during and after Arial Sharon’s visit tothe grounds of al-Aqsa in order to trigger the Intifada. This has largely been ignored by the European and American media, which vew anything not said in an European language to be irrelivant to the derermination of facts. Evidence that Palestinians played an active role in the outbreak of violence in 2000 is also inconvient for media recapitulation of a Palestinian narritive which portrays the Palestinians as never being actors, only victums in their own history.

  7. Turn the other cheek is a wonderful philosophy and reading the headline this morning about hand cream, and matches and bombs and terror – I thought along similar lines.
    That the whole thing has got out of hand, and out of context. That we are playing right into their hands. What is the phrase … the “oxygen of publicity” ?
    Perhaps if we just took deep breaths, stopped running round screaming “ah terror, civilization over, civil liberties must go, worst threat ever ever ever you know ” … and just got on with watching the footy, visiting the corner shop and cooking our tea, maybe the whole high pitched shrieking – look at me, look at me – would just eventually shrivel up and die.
    Or maybe there’d just be no more footy, shops or tea ?

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