New Statesman misses the point on political blogging

The New Statesman has published an article on political blogging which, while I'm all for MSM coverage of the great political communications stuff going on at the moment, kind of misses the point a bit.

Having followed (and studied) political blogging since 2006 it pisses me off that this sort of who has more blgogers than who argument still gains credence.

Political blogging has a UK legacy from at least 2003 – and earlier in the US – so why then, in 2009, are we getting articles that cover old ground or make sweeping judgements with little evidence or insight.

The answer is perhaps simple: that's what journalism (or at least a lot of modern 'churnalism') does. And ironically this sort of lazy shorthand reporting is onen reason blogs and social media prolifereated in the first place.

The article in particular regurgitates the line from a press release (I presume there was a press release as the story is based on report by a compnay that offers a commerical product) that there are more Tory bloggers that Labour and Lib Dem ones because:

"the [Red Flag] email smears scandal, which forced LabourList editor Derek Draper to resign, ha[s] stunted Labour’s online efforts."

The thing is: there's no evidence in the article to suggest that Labour's online growth has slowed. I would argue it's a fairly common belief that the Tories were generally ahead online (for a number of inconclusive, complex reasons) which is why Labour retaliated with LabourList and other digital grassroots initiatives.

What really annoys me though is the presumption that the perceived values of traditional media simply transfer of the networked space with an emphasis on successful examples being celebrity. Former Daily Mirror reporter and Labour's best known liar spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, is described as: "one of Labour’s most prominent bloggers". I would suggest that while Campbell is a prominent person associated with Labour, he isn't one of their most prominent bloggers. That would be Recess Monkey or Tom Watson.

Maybe I'm splitting heirs here, but I think it's justified to make the point: social media isn't about numbers or celebrity. It isn't about which party has the msot MP's blogging. It is about conversation, debate, transparency, authenticity, accountability and social production of knowledge.

These are things traditional media (or even traditional democracy) can't deliver. And this is what makes social media one of the key driving forces for the future of not just our media, but for our democratic existence.

*UPDATED* I've just spotted Stuart Bruce (political blogger since 2003) has posted on the subject too.

Tags: New Statesman, political blogging, democracy


  1. At the same time, just claiming some perceived value because we’ve been blogging since X, doesn’t make our argument any stronger.
    (blogging since ’97, political blogger ’03-’05 😉

  2. Absolutely Robin. To be clear the inference I was trying to make by saying political blogging has been around for a while is that surely levels of understanding and knowledge should have moved beyond those in the NS article.
    … and by implication journalists often rely on spoon-fed copy from press releases.

  3. I love it when you type angry Simon. I can almost hear you punching the keyboard. Good stuff though.

  4. Deep sigh.
    Here’s two ironies for you Simon:
    I launched the first blog for the NS back in 2003 to promote the New Media Awards, which had the very purpose of highlighting use of new media within politics and society and which had been running since 1999.
    The second irony is that one of the first articles about the right dominating blogging was written in 2002 by James Crabtree… in the New Statesman. See:
    Note: It’s always forgotten that one of the first MP bloggers wasn’t Tom Watson but Richard Allan of the Lib Dems. However, it was Anne Campbell MP who got online first in 1994, thanks to help from Bill Thompson.
    (New Statesmsn Online Production Editor 01-03, NS Online Manager 03-06)

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