When Michael Jackson died last week, TMZ, the celebrity gossip site, was first to break the news. It took nearly an hour for anyone in the mainstream UK media to jump on the bandwagon.
Sky News, in desperation, simply reported that TMZ was reporting that Michael Jackson had died. The BBC followed suit. The way in which this story broke, (nicely analysed by Charlie Brooker in his column this week), showed just how important legitimacy is in the online news environment. There is a clear hierarchy of trust in online news. TMZ may well have broken the story first, but nobody really believed them.
The common response to a large breaking news story is to visit a trusted and reliable source i.e. the BBC, Sky, or a reliable newspaper website. You don’t bother with the others, because, by and large, you know they are not to be trusted. This is the reason people don’t visit blogs for news.
This is a useful point because it neatly illustrates the difference between what a blog does and what news websites do.
Bloggers rarely break news. They seldom investigate political scandals or uncover scoops for themselves. When they do get a scoop the story has often been gifted to them. Bloggers have neither the time nor the resources to carry out in-depth investigatory work. The vast majority are not paid to blog and have no journalism training.
It is a bit strange, therefore, that some folk, when assessing the Welsh blogosphere, are disappointed it isn’t doing these things. This is the role of the Welsh media.
Bloggers express their opinions on the issues of the day, and this is what political blogs are best at. Even the much-trumpeted Guido mostly does comment. He takes a news story, adds a link, and posts his take on it. Blogs are rarely objective, rarely non-partisan and are usually the expression of an individual’s personal political beliefs.
There are also, of course, politicians’ blogs. The worst type of politicians blog is filled with press-release guff. The best are the ones that are off-message and give a genuine opinion. Likewise, blogs by professional journalists are best when they are off-message, taking a risk or being irreverent.
Aside from the politicians and hacks, the broad range of discussions online about Welsh politics is impressive. The variety of voices and political perspectives is something we should celebrate and be very proud of. When I started the Mabiblogion back in January I was astonished at how welcoming an environment the Welsh blogosphere was. This is something we should applaud.
The Welsh blogosphere is in great health. We’re a gobby, argumentative lot with plenty to say about Wales and its future. This is exactly how it should be.
Now, if only Welsh journalists would do their jobs, we might actually get somewhere.
This is post twenty four of a series of articles appearing at www.welshbloggers.co.uk giving a chance to Welsh bloggers to have their say on the state of the blogosphere and where it's going.
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