Last night, I attended an event to discuss who is winning: the commentariat or the bloggertariat?
Aside from this being an oft-combed topic, the debate was most noteworthy for a spat between Iain Dale and David Aaronovitch of the Times. Dale was deliberately provocative in criticising Aaronovitch’s employers for exposing the identity of NightJack, the blogger who wrote about life working in the police force. But he made a serious point: sometimes the protection offered by anonymity is required to gain deeper insight.
Aaronovitch, on the other hand, was so deeply consumed by his own self-importance as to barely acknowledge the role that citizen journalism now plays. Yes, maybe it’s unfair that he is abused regularly by Guido Fawkes’ readers (and the former editor of this forum will surely know about that!) but his profanities and the dogmatic reverence in which he evidently holds the established media were abrasive, antagonistic and disrespectful of those in the audience looking for genuine understanding.
Personally, I don’t think it matters who is winning. Journalism and comment have always been reciprocal, but the lines of what is considered mainstream and what is fringe have been increasingly blurred by bloggers such as Sunny Hundal and Tim Montgomerie writing for the national newspapers and by the mainstream media moving increasingly online as their circulations fall and their influence becomes more evenly distributed. On the day that prominent journalists warned of the “sustained crisis in our craft“, that couldn’t have been more relevant.
Open source journalism has made a significant contribution to the political debate in this country, and for established commentators to ignore that is to deny that they themselves surf the blogs as if their salaries and their opinions depended on it.
Which, of course, they do.