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Bloggertariat vs Commentariat – who’s winning? (does it matter?)

Last night Journalism.co.uk picked up its laptop and notepad, and sat on the fence. Sitting in the audience of the Editorial Intelligence/Edelman/Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism ‘Commentariat vs Bloggertariat, Who is winning?’ event typing away definitely had me branded as a ‘blogger’ by some of the established comment writers in the row in front, who seemed to throw a glance every time liveblogging was mentioned.

Blogger/reporter/observer – it was a night of arbitrary definitions – some of which were fortunately challenged by the panel of:

Martin Bright, New Deal of the Mind founder and Spectator blogger

Mick Fealty, political blogger at Slugger O’Toole and the Telegraph’s Brassneck blog

Iain Dale, Iain Dale’s diary

David Aaronovitch, comment writer for The Times

Anne Spackman, comment editor for The Times

‘versus’
Before attending the event I had some reservations about setting up bloggers/blogs vs comment writers/comment – so it was good to see this artificial opposition challenged by both panel and audience.

“They are part of the same thing – it is part of the same continuum. I think it’s an artificial distinction,” said Bright.

But there are new rules and etiquette that blogging, and the technology which powers it, have introduced, which are shaping the future of comment.

“Bloggers have been able to hold traditional commentariat to account. That gets an instant reaction from the commentariat because they’re not used to be held to accountable in this way,” explained Dale.

“When you do comment quickly you do make mistakes and you have to hold your hands up.”

And if the future of journalism and the business of publishing is online, bloggers are the pathfinders, added Fealty:

“We’ve changed the behaviour of a commentariat. It isn’t bloggers that have ripped the revenue out of the big newsgatherers – it’s Google,” he said.

“Online bloggers have started a party that is irresistible to the commentariat. Spreadability is the new currency. To do that you need a personal audience as a blogger.

“They [the commentariat] are better writers, but there are many more of us than there are of them (…) We’re getting stories from the little people, not the big people that the commentariat are. The people we talk to aren’t always the best behaved witnesses.

“We’re not obliged to fit in with someone else’s brand. Bloggers are brand builders, the new brand online (…) is us speaking directly from the gut.”

Anonymity and NightJack
Last night’s event was timely given the debate over the Times decision to out anonymous policeman blogger NightJack – despite a punchy start from Iain Dale, neither Spackman nor Aaronovitch would be drawn on the issue.

However, Spackman did say she agreed with Jeff Jarvis that social media sites were breaking down anonymity.

Aaronovitch went further saying he could see previously ‘anonymous’ political sources in comment writing being unmasked and suggested that this was a necessary development.

Bright agreed and said he hoped this would happen ‘organically': “It is changing, but at the moment it isn’t changing fast enough.”

For journalists using social and new media sources, transparency is needed, added Aaronovitch: “There are synergies there (…) I use bloggers as sources of information I wouldn’t otherwise get. There’s a form of democratisation there. It’s unreliable democratisation – I don’t really know what I’m getting or who I’m getting it from.”

Twitter challenge and shaping the future
The commentariat has been with us for 25 years, but how the shape of the ‘bloggertariat’ will shift in the same time is almost unpredictable, he added.

“I absolutely love what the new media has created (…) the possibilities it has created for me and everyone else.

“We couldn’t even imagine two years ago that there’d be a form of 140 characters and we had no idea how it would apply itself to situations like Iran.

“‘Commentariat vs bloggertariat’ suggests a settled contention that we know where everybody is and everybody’s going.”

Indeed the rise of Twitter was agreed to be a somewhat unforeseen challenge to the dominance of blogging over traditional comment.

“I’ve yet to read a great classic blog post. I think it’s getting close with Twitter. Every now and then you do read a fantastic tweet,” said Bright.

But, commenting on yesterday’s launch of the UK Investigations Fund, Bright said he was concerned that developments and the future of neither the bloggertariat or commentariat would accommodate investigative journalism.

UPDATE – you can now download Editorial Intelligence’s podcast of the event.

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BBC dominates list naming top political journalists

November 20th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Magazines, Online Journalism

Total Politics, political blogger Iain Dale’s recently launched magazine, tomorrow publishes its list of top political journalists, as voted for by over 100 MPs, the magazine’s Facebook group of 500, and 130 lobby journalists. It can be viewed online, after registering, on the e-zine site.

Iain Dale told Journalism.co.uk that it’s “surprising that the BBC seems more loved by Conservative MPs and Labour MPs, but few will be surprised that Labour MPs rate Andrew Marr and James Naughtie highly.

“The surprise is that Andrew Neil doesn’t figure in the Top 20 of either party. Conservative MPs have shown a masochistic tendency by voting Jeremy Paxman at eight, but Labour MPs don’t include him in their Top 20 at all.”

Topping the overall list:
1. Evan Davis
2. Jeremy Paxman
3. Matthew Parris
4. Nick Robinson
5. John Humphrys

So who do the Tories like…?
1. Evan Davis
2. Jonathan Oliver
3. Jeremy Vine
4. Carolyn Quinn
5. Martha Kearney

And who do Labour like….?
1. Andrew Marr
2. Michael White
3. David Aaronovitch
4. Polly Toynbee
5. Evan Davis

And journalists themselves…?
1. Nick Robinson
2. Jeremy Paxman
3. Evan Davis
4. David Dimbleby
5. John Humphrys

And the top blog…? A certain Iain Dale’s Diary, followed by Tim Montgomerie (2) and Guido Fawkes (3).

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