A warm welcome for Andrew Marr’s change of heart on blogging

Here’s the BBC’s Andrew Marr speaking in October 2010:

“Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all. A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting. They are very angry people. … Most of the blogging is too angry and too abusive. It is vituperative. Terrible things are said on line because they are anonymous. People say things on line that they wouldn’t dream of saying in person.”

And here’s Andrew Marr speaking to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday:

“You look around and a lot of the most influential highly respected political commentators aren’t newspaper journalists, actually, they are bloggers. I’m thinking of people like Tim Montgomerie on Conservativehome or Mr Pack on the Liberal website.”

Kudos to my co-editor, Mark, on his mention in Leveson’s dispatches.

And kudos, too, to Andrew Marr on this change of heart. As I’ve pointed out before, it was not highly respected political bloggers who chose to recycle unsourced rumours about the mental health of Gordon Brown live on air during a televised interview — it was Andrew Marr.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • I can’t see that this is a change of heart – the two comments don’t contradict each other. There is some very good political blogging…and there is still also an awful lot of nasty abusive anonymous blogging and posting.

    Presenting this as a change of heart on the evidence you’ve given seems like a classic example of the sort of deliberate journalistic misinterpretation we usually get so annoyed about!

  • Bill le Breton 24th May '12 - 5:29pm

    Chris Dillow at http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2012/05/the-media-vs-bloggers.html recently wrote recounting a general change in the appreciation of bloggers, ‘As one of the more, ahem, seasoned bloggers, I can remember when mainstream journalists looked down upon us as “socially inadequate” angry ranters who were no replacement for serious journalism. But I’m starting to think that the opposite is increasingly the case. It is mainstream journalism that comprises linkbait (Samantha Brick), trolls (“Rod” Liddle, A.A Gill, The Mail’s nastiness towards female celebs) and shallow self-absorbed diarists, whilst many bloggers are serious, intellectual and high-minded.’
    It s well worth taking a moment to read.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '12 - 6:17pm

    I’ve been involved with internet discussion since it was done mainly through usenet, and I have to agree with Andrew Marr’s original point – it is too dominated by a certain sort of person who has a certain sort of view. Of course, much the dame sort of thing can be said about any activity which relies on volunteer effort – such as party politics. That is why I don’t agree with entirely “free for all” ways of running things, the bores and boors who have time on their hands tend to dominate and push out everyone else.

    LibDem Voice works because it is controlled – and I say this as someone who is very often met by “Your comment is awaiting moderation”. I’ve seen so many comment outlets brought down by being swamped by silly and rude comments that I’m prepared to accept that. I’ve never started by own blog in part because I do value putting comments through a filter controlled by someone else. I write letters to the Guardian newspaper but not messages on their “Comment is Free” because I like the feel that I have said something worthwhile enough for it to get through the letters editor. Sure, I’ve written them some good stuff that never sees the light of day, but if I’m honest also some bad stuff which I’m glad didn’t.

    I always use my own name, the same name I use in politics and professionally, and it’s one which is easily Googleable. I do question whether the common habit of allowing untraceable nicknames in discussion groups which are intended to be serious should be continued. I rather think this should be an exception, used only when an editor has good reason to agree the real name should not be given.

    What Andrew Marr is saying now is that a relatively small number of blogs have emerged and gained respect. This is not quite the same as the original idealistic “citizen blogger” concept.

  • Matthew is spot on -as is N (but I share Matthew’s opposition to anonymous postings -if it’s worth saying then be prepared put your name to it).

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