An ostrich, called Canute, head in the sand of the Severn Bore, incoming tide, shooting itself in the foot

Phew. That’s better. I am eating a cheese sandwich as I type (Tesco’s value red Leicester on Kingsmill 50/50 sliced bread). And here’s a picture of my cat.

don't mess with me

Isn’t he lovely? It’s not a recent picture but that could be because I’m using him as a narrative device. Or maybe not. Maybe my camera’s broken or he’s become unadorable or I’m just too lazy to take and upload another one. You decide.

Now then. Having established myself as deeply facile and boring I can go on to say that my snappy, attention-grabbing headline has got absolutely nothing to do with the event I went to this morning. Absolutely nothing to do with the “traditional media” in general, and of course, absolutely nothing to do with the BBC in particular. Oh no.

Uh, but hang on a bit. I’m a blogger aren’t I? So that means I might be um, less than accurate. Unlike, of course, the “traditional media”. Oh, the terrible uncertainty in the minds of my readers.

It was interesting, the discussion this morning. The most interesting thing, to me, was said by Stewart Purvis, professor of journalism, fabulously experienced award-studded former ITN head honcho etc. “I’m just waiting”, he said (and of course I’m paraphrasing here because I wasn’t taking notes or recording the session), “I’m just waiting for a really big blog hoax”.

A ripple ran around the room. Not the Severn Bore, but a perceptible ripple. Sort of schadenfreude-in-advance with an added dose of “please don’t let it be me”. The implication, it seemed to me, in both speaker and audience reaction, was that this would be proof of the inherent danger of “blogs” and that once this had happened journalists could stop being quite so concerned about them.

That’s one interpretation that might result from a “traditional media” organisation falling for a blog-based hoax. There is, of course, another. And it is that if a media organisation ends up falling for such a hoax it will demonstrate that said media organisation had not checked its facts properly. Verified its sources. Done what journalists and editors in the room this morning congratulated themselves upon, and quite rightly so (in many cases). Exercised all those skills that journalists insist, quite rightly in many cases, distinguish them from bloggers.

It really, really isn’t rocket science. You cannot eat your cake and have it at the same time. You cannot laud your own professionalism on the one hand and blame a source for being inaccurate if you transmit that inaccurate information on the other. Blogs are not journalism. Just as press releases are not journalism. Just as party political statements are not journalism. Just as stories seen in other, rival, “traditional media” do not or, rather more accurately, should not, be lifted and reproduced without being checked.

Does this attitude toward information generated by individuals and published on the internet have something to do with a perceived (or actual) erosion of power? That the future cuts both ways has already been demonstrated by the Reuters picture incident. Did the smoke of the doctored picture from Beirut which was “outed” by bloggers hang heavy but unacknowledged in the air?

It isn’t (she types, slowly and heavily, because this is sooo old and it’s soooo tedious to have to repeat it all the time) “them and us”. It really isn’t. Get your head out of the sand, get on your surfboard and ride the frikkin wave. Change is difficult, change (nowadays) is extremely fast. Entrenched, adversarial, inflexible, defensive attitudes are not going to get you anywhere.

And now, back to the cat. In a glorious example of web2.0 loveliness I have to relate that I was contacted to take part in today’s exciting event by flickr mail. By AnnabelB who, I notice, already has a picture of the event on her photostream.

She, it transpires, has been reading this blog (no doubt concerned that she’d contacted some cat-loving madwoman) and had been following the saga of the cards closely. So when we met and I offered her one she immediately demanded the one with the most embarrassing photo title. Which I think has to be “don’t mess with me”. Which is (you will have realised by now, I hope) a picture of….. my cat!

7 Replies to “An ostrich, called Canute, head in the sand of the Severn Bore, incoming tide, shooting itself in the foot”

  1. “Blogs are not journalism”. But the content of some blogs is news? So journalism just one way of presenting/framing news, but not the only way?

  2. Luckily at this point despite “living on the net” I have to visit the physical realm of my son’s school to pick him up. Further conversation possible in an hour or so!

    And Annabel… was I not told to be provocative? 🙂

  3. I believe somebody might have mentioned something like that at some time or other. *sticks head in sand*

  4. Annabel – you are here and therefore can’t be said to have your head in the sand and thus we believe not your protestations. Fortunately the “traditional” media isn’t as monolithic as it might (wish?) to appear. But boy-oh-boy-oh-boy is it going to be an uphill struggle. Reminds me compellingly of trying to get a small and extremely stubborn child to try to eat something it hasn’t come across before. A “Green Eggs and Ham” moment. You know they’ll love it and life will be so much more exciting and vibrant, but there’s a hell of a lot of inertia to overcome.

    Jean, sorry, I was using the term loosely. Yes, you’re right. There is (particularly with recent technological advances) an enormous multiplicity of ways of presenting “news” of which what we currently understand as “journalism” is just one.

    Pica – precisely!!! You will have a better idea of the answer to that question than someone randomly landing up here because you are a regular reader and will have built up a sense of how much you trust me, the level of “authenticity” I have for you, my particular “tone”. (Better, for instance, than the random visitor who was checking technorati for blog use of the term “tesco”). And this process is akin to what used to be called a journalist’s “nose” for a story or the veracity/trustworthiness of a contact/informant. And it’s what journalists are going to have to apply to these new, rapidly proliferating, sources of information.

    Oh, and the answer is yes, I genuinely *was* eating a cheese sandwich. Very dull it was too but there was nothing much else in the house and I couldn’t resist the opportunity genuinely to blog about eating a cheese sandwich for lunch actually as I ate it. The live-blogged cheese sandwich.

    But of course it will be very difficult to prove. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.

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