No blinding flash of revelation here, just a decision to write down what has been in my head for quite some time regarding journalism, newspapers and blogging.
It has been brought into sharper focus in recent days by the storm in a check-out queue created by one of The Birmingham Post’s guest bloggers.
I wondered on my own blog whether such sites should have a few more controls than personal blogs, or if that would go against the basic principals of blogging – freedom of expression for all.
Now the Post blogger has, in my view, compounded his original folly with a follow-up article.
I firmly believe that blogs work best when the boundaries are either blurred beyond recognition, or simply do not exist.
So why am I still in a lather about these two items on the Post’s News Blogs?
Well, it is “our” News Blog. Isn’t it?
And so, by the same token, it is “our” Birmingham Post as well.
Certainly the recent relaunch of the newspaper’s website was based around the idea of creating a community of bloggers. I doubt that means creating a clique, more a community that expands to include the paper’s print and online readership.
Therefore, it isn’t a personal news blog. If it was, I would have stopped reading the original post way before the end and would have not commented on it all, resolving to never darken the door of that particular site again (other than the odd bit of lurking to confirm my suspicions).
But I don’t want to give up on The Birmingham Post or its blogs, because it is “my” newspaper and they are “my” blogs.
Admittedly, as a former employee of the Post and still a very occasional contributor, I feel a strong pull towards the paper. But it would still exist if I didn’t have those established links as that pull is also something I feel towards other publications I enjoy reading and which I’ve never contributed to.
I don’t expect to agree with every word written in the Post (or, now, on its blogs). I didn’t agree with every word written in the paper when I was employed by it.
But, along with other media organisations with public blogs, I expect certain things – ranging from standards of writing, to not treating its readership with contempt.
I expect to be challenged, I expect to be annoyed and frustrated, I expect to laugh, I expect to admire the way a particular article has been written, I expect to disagree, I expect to nod my head enthusiastically in agreement.
I don’t expect to be patronised. I don’t expect to stay mute when something appears that angers me.
Above all, I don’t expect to be made to feel grateful with any old words thrown together simply because it appears in print or on the blogs.
I do expect a lot more from “our” newspaper and “our” blogs.
The events of the last few days on the Post’s blogs have got me thinking of another recent and far more high-profile newspaper blog furore – the now infamous Guardian-Gogarty debacle.
Although that quickly escalated into some fairly puerile and personal accusations – something which has happened on a smaller scale with the Post’s blogger – at the heart of the storm were several hundred (thousand?) Guardian readers who felt affronted at what they deemed a dramatic drop in standards.
They felt their newspaper had let them down. Worse still, they felt their newspaper was treating them with contempt and in a very high-handed manner was feeding them any old rubbish on the understanding that the readers should just be very grateful to receive.
I’m not entirely convinced the Post has fallen into this trap, but possibly some of the adverse reaction can be traced to this belief that we expect something more from “our” bloggers on “our” newspapers.
We are all new to this, even those with a lot more experience than the rest of us.
So we are all learning from our mistakes and by listening to what others have to say. No-one has all the answers.
The Post’s blogs have apparently enjoyed a successful debut, according to web traffic figures. But that doesn’t mean to say it has the right blueprint yet.
These are exciting times at the Post, what with a new website, an imminent move to new offices at Fort Dunlop and a Twitter revolution in the newsroom.
And yet some old newspaper and journalistic rules surely still apply – such as maintaining standards and not alienating readers.
Exerting editorial control over a newspaper’s blogs, particularly when you’ve invited guest bloggers to take part, is a tricky little issue.
Different rules apply – blogs that get published might get spiked by unimpressed news editors if one of their journalists presented it for publication in the paper. Equally, articles that appear in print do not necessarily work as blogs because they are too rigid and traditional in their construction.
For a newspaper finding the balance between the new and exciting and the traditional is the key and is something we are all still learning – hence the Guardian-Gogarty nonsense.
If the original article on the Post’s News Blog that kick-started all this was aimed at highlighting a lack of manners, respect and common courtesy in society (I’m still unsure it was and that alone is a problem), then that is fertile ground for any blogger.
The fact that the real lack of manners, respect and courtesy on show was the blogger’s own means it failed as blog post. To follow it up with a post that, in my view, compounds the original folly makes it all the more maddening.
That is why I’m so frustrated at the post on our blog, run by our newspaper.
Making mistakes is inevitable and acceptable.
Not accepting them and learning from them is the crime.