Not all bloggers still live with mum…blogging is not (citizen) journalism

October 12, 2010

So much has been happening with Henrygate over the past week or so that I missed this outrageous speech by the BBC’s senior reporter Andrew Marr:

“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,” he told the Cheltenham Literary Festival. “OK – the country is full of very angry people. Many of us are angry people at times. Some of us are angry and drunk”.

Who’dathunk Whaleoil (not that he’s a drunk) would have such a following in ‘Ol Blighty?

Is that a cauliflower you're wearing Mr Marr?

Sure the slightly seedy, bald[ing], cauliflower-nosed older gentleman that is Andrew Marr is entitled to his jaundiced view of bloggers, but in terms of over-generalising and stereotyping, his comment is A-grade nonsense.

A number of others have pointed this out, suggesting that criticising bloggers is soooo 2005, for example.

And Roy Greenslade writes that that Marr’s rant against ranting is nothing more than the ranting of an angry ranter and very one-dimensional. It’s also important to emphasise, as Krishnan Guru Murthy does, the two-way nature of media now – the news conversation – that blogging allows. It is also fairly common today that  many MSM journalists also blog

However, what Marr’s critics seem to have missed is his more casual association of blogging with so-called ‘citizen journalism: “Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all.”

Well that might be the case, but to conflate blogging with an ill-defined notion of citizen journalism is lazy and inadequate.

In News 2.0 I have intiated a discussion of citizen journalism that argues that it is often used without any real definitional rigour – despite the now famous aphorism from NYU’s Jay Rosen that citizen journalism is the people formerly known as the audience armed with digital cameras and wifi.

It’s a cool idea and snappy, but Rosen’s casual definition is not enough. I think citizen journalism is a sub-category of what I call user-generated news-like content (UGNC). Citizen journalism has to be motivated by and driven by the word ‘citizen’ – that is there is some underlying purpose of citizenship attached to the news-like content. It also has to have a journalistic form.

I don’tjust mean an inverted pyramid, but it has to look like and smell like news.

Yes, the news form is shifting and the lines of the reportorial community are blurring, but there is still some point to putting boundaries around the production of information for public consumption that has the form of news and/or journalism.

User-generated news-like content is broader than poiltically-informed citizen journalism and encompasses eye-witness video or still images that are tweeted (Janis Krums’ Hudson river twitpics for example, or even video from the 2009 Iranian elections). But it is not journalism in this eyewitness form, it is unprocessed news-like information, but it has not undergone any of the formal labour that turn into a journalistic product and therefore ‘news’.

The famous Janis Krums tweet about the Hudson river plane crash

What Janis Krums did is not journalism, not even citizen journalism; it is a tweet from a digitally-enabled eye-witness.

It is, at best what we might call ‘accidental journalism’.

This information is not ‘news’ when Janis Krums tweets it; it is only news when it begins to circulate through news channels.

And it’s true that the number and type of news channels is expanding. News is now available via all forms of social media and casual UGNC can be circulated outside of established news channels, but we should not mix up these forms.

It seems to me that we too often do conflate eye-witness, accidental journalism and UGNC with citizen journalism. I also disagree with Marr’s dismissive view of these alternative forms of UGNC:

“…the so-called citizen journalism is the spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night.

“It is fantastic at times but it is not going to replace journalism.” [Andrew Marr's speech]

WhatMarr does here is mix up UGNC and blogging with this loosely-defined category of citizen journalism, and while it might serve his argument, it does not add to or clarify any real debate about what’s going on.

We have to separate these forms of UGNC  into analytically sound and clear definitional categories in order to fully explain and understand what’s happening to journalism today. It’s true that these forms won’t replace journalism, as Marr suggests, but they may well be incorporated, monetized, commercialised and de-radicalised.

Citizen journalism is important, in its political form it represents a challenge to the status quo and to the dominance of the MSM. As Chris Atton and James Hamilton point out in their book Alternative Journalism, much of citizen journalism is motivated by a distrust of the MSM and is in opposition to the values of the mainstream.

I have already critically reviewed Alternative Journalism, so won’t go over all the arguments again here, but one quote from my previous post on this topic is worth mentioning:

It seems that alternative modes of address in journalism – radical, questioning journalism – have had little, if any, real impact on capitalist hegemony. Of course they have, at least around the margins. Today we see further attempts at incorporation, as Atton and Hamilton point out – blogs are now mainstream and embedded in most commercial news websites.

[EM What is alternative journalism? July 13, 2009]

The key point is that blogs are now fairly mainstream. So too is user-generated news-like content. As I point out in News 2.0, the true inheritors of the Indymedia model of D-I-Y reportage are now outlets such as CNN’s iReport, or the bloggy-news aggregator/comment sites like Huffington Post or The Daily Beast. These sites are not established as a form of citizen journalism, they are commercial, reliant on aggregation from the MSM and on well-known middle-of-the-road celebrities from the established commentariat. What’s alternative about that?

The industrial-media-complex is not going to lie down and let citizen journalism, UGNC or ‘alternative’ journalism  amortize the eyeballs without a fight. As Huffington Post, The Daily Beast and other bloggy-news sites show, there is still an income stream to be had from monetizing the clickstream.

Perhaps this is best exemplified by rumours of a possible merger between the Daily Beast and the almost dead MSM brand Newsweek.

Media capital knows that to survive it must adapt, beg, borrow and steal and why not start by trading on the business models of successful online brands. As David Carr blogged earlier this week, the divide between mainstream news outlets, bloggy-news and broadcasting is breaking down:

More and more, the dichotomy between mainstream media and digital media is a false one. Formerly clear bright lines are being erased all over the place. Open up Gawker, CNN, NPR and The Wall Street Journal on an iPad and tell me without looking at the name which is a blog, a television brand, a radio network, a newspaper. They all have text, links, video and pictures. The new frame around content is changing how people see and interact with the picture in the middle.

[A vanishing journalistic divide, NYT October 10. 2010]

But it would be a mistake to confuse this with ‘citizen journalism’, or even ‘alternative journalism’. In fact it is the process of combined and uneven development in capitalism at work. The digital dialectic which sees the powerful media capitalists colonizing what used to be an alternative and liminal space in pursuit of surplus value and profits.

For the MSM moving into blogging, bloggy-news and online branding is just good business.

BTW: News 2.0 is at the printers and will be available in about 4-6 weeks. Don’t worry, you won’t miss it; I’ll be hawing it like mad.


Whale-watching update: No “shit storm” on horizon

January 6, 2010

Here’s a round-up of some blogosphere commentary on the Whaleoil (Cameron Slater) story.

[If you need to backfill on this, a qick review of this NZ Herald story will get you up to speed.]

Whaleoil has a true friend in Cactus Kate. Not only is she prepared to stick up for him, even wondering if there is either a) some kind of set-up involved with Slater being in court on the same day as a “kiddy fiddler” (her words), or b) if the police are reluctantly pursuing the blogger because of an agenda being run from higher up.

I am wondering whether the Police actually want to charge Whaleoil with this crime? There are several factors that Whaleoil will use in his defence that make me think that their heart is not really in it and other external forces are at play.

This is interesting if a little ingenious. Rightwing bloggers were forever accusing the Labor government of politicising legal proceedings; but really coincidence or conspiracy? It seems an easy choice. But one thing about Ms Cactus,  she’s also prepared to dish some tough love:

As I advise anyone who comes to Whaleoil’s attention, the best course of action is to be polite and either ignore what he has written or write to him in a manner which puts your side of the story and he will more often than not be reasonable enough to publish that. He has a short span of attention thanks to his depression and soon moves to a new target.

The worst course of action is to give Whaleoil opposition. He is mental. I mean this in a loving caring way to his friends, but to his foe he shows as much hatred as he does love for his friends. Whaleoil loves opposition, he loves conflict and more importantly will never back down.

This could be coded warning for people not to get in Whaleoil’s face about this, we’ll see. However, some are pointedly ignoring this advice and are getting stuck into Whaleoil. He has supporters and detractors in equal measure it would seem.

Read the rest of this entry »


Journalism and blogging: leave it to the machines?

October 23, 2009

In science and science fiction there’s a moment when it all goes to custard for the human race. It’s the singularity – often defined as the time when machines begin to out think humans.

We’re not there yet and I’m comfortable with predictions that it might happen 200 years after my demise. But you can never really trust futurist predictions.

We’ve already got smart(ish) bots hurtling around the interWebs chewing up data and spitting it out again in a clickable and commercial form, so I’m not too sanguine about what’s gong on in the DARP labs and other murky salons where “mad” scientists and uber-smart geeks tend to gather.

Anyway, there is evidence of not-so-smart machines out there already aggregating, redacting and posting prose that fills the holes between advertising links on some remote outposts of the blogosphere.

Take, for example, Biginfo, the website with the unbeatable cyber-catchline: “All of your info, on one page”.

Isn’t that the holy grail of the Internet? Isn’t this slogan the absolute bottom-line misison statement for Google?

We won’t need humans any more if Biginfo succeeds.

I  know about Biginfo because the site has linked to a post here at Ethical Martini. As you do, I went to check out why the site was linking and pushing some traffic my way.

This is what I found:

What is More Ethical Blogs or News Media?

20 October, 2009 (15:10) | News And Society | By: admin

// your advertisement goes here

We are chance more and more that readers conceive the aggregation contained in Blogs is more trusty than the indicant programme media. (I don’t conceive a candid comparability between the electronic media and Blogs makes such sense, so my comparability is direct: cursive touchable vs. cursive material.) While I encounter this agitate in ‘believability’ to be somewhat surprising, I staleness adjudge that I don’t conceive I personally undergo anybody that reads the production without a nagging distrustfulness and a taste of doubt. Even more, I move to be astonished at the ontogeny sort of grouping I undergo that do not modify pain to feature the newspaper.

The long post goes on in this vein for some depth. Here’s another of my favourite paras:

I module substance digit appearance on the supply of blogs vs. newspapers. A blogger, aforementioned me, is attractive the instance to indite most an supply that I poverty to indite most and that I see passionately about. Question: so, what most the mortal of ethics? Answer: I do not hit a deadline, I hit no application that is biased, and I modify intend to indite my possess headline!

I am willing to believe that this is a machine-translation of something written in another language (possibly Chinese?) by a blogger or someone and that in it’s original iteration it makes great sense. Also, if it had been translated by a moderately proficient human it would probably also be readable and cogent.

Are we redundant? Should we retreat and leave the web to dribblejaws who find it a convenient medium to feed their conspiracy theories and ugly prejudice?

I certainly hope not, continue reading if you’d like to know more about the singularity.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ethical Martini 501 posts and still blogging

October 20, 2009

This is the 501st post on Ethical Martini, so I guess it’s some sort of milestone. I’ve been blogging now since April 2007, which roughly coincides with my arrival in Auckland to take up my current position at AUT University.

My first post was a bit crude and I’ve certainly learned a lot over the past 2.5 years.It’s also interesting to look at the traffic numbers – even though they’re somewhat unreliable.

The traffic has grown steadily, which I guess you’d expect, but EM has really taken off this year.
In 2007 I had 4261 visitors, in 2008 36777 and so far in 2009 103928 have dropped in for a peek.
My daily average has jumped from 17 per day in 2007 to over 350 in 2009.
Still not massive, but I’m happy enough with the numbers, at least for now. Though I’m not going to get rich quickly from blogging. At the average Google AdSense rate of about $7.00 per 1000 hits, so far this year I would have made about $727.36. That’s about 36 bottles of Bombay Sapphire bought duty-free. I suppose that’s roughly a year’s supply, or maybe a little longer if a bottle can last me around two weeks worth of Martinis.

Over the summer I am going to investigate establishing Ethical Martini somewhere else with a unique URL and a bit more functionality, design and sorting of topics – I don’t like that Martini Music and the general purpose of the blog – journalism and media politics etc – are all mashed together. It would be nice to have separate category pages. First I need to upgrade my account here at WordPress and then recruit some technical assistance with the redesign etc.

For now though, “Happy birthday” to me and thanks to everyone who visits and comments on this site.

I have also been keen for sometime to recruit another person(s) to share EM, so if you think you might fit the bill and can commit to regular posting on topics of your choice (suitably and tangientially related to the themes herein) I’d love to hear from you.

Dribblejaws need not apply.


The “godfather” of Chinese blogging: Isaac Mao in New Zealand

October 20, 2009

I’ve had the privilege in the last couple of days of spending quality time with Isaac Mao, the well-known Chinese blogger and social media enthusiast.

Isaac is in New Zealand this week on a speaking tour of J-schools generously sponsored by the Asia-New Zealand Foundation. Isaac’s passionate commitment to free speech and democratic ideals is clear from his thoughtful and fact-packed presentations. My only regret is that more of New Zealand’s blogging community didn’t take advantage of his two speaking dates in Auckland to actually meet with Isaac.

Despite the fact that a lot of people who should have known better chose to ignore what I think is an important event of interest to Kiwi bloggers, some media have taken a great interest in Isaac’s commentary on social media and the blogosphere in China.

Isaac Mao on Asian Report with Jason Moon National Radio 20 Oct 2009

more about “The “godfather” of Chinese blogging |…“, posted with vodpod

more about “World TV Ltd – www.wtv.co.nz“, posted with vodpod

You still have a couple of chances in Wellington, Christchurch and Rotorua, it is well worthwhile. Isaac is on his way to Los Angeles whree he is a speaker at UCLA’s 40th anniversary of the Internet conference. He’s also a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.2009


Barbarians at the gates – Ultimo is smouldering?

October 15, 2009

Another very good analysis of Mark Scott’s Melbourne Uni speech which I covered yesterday. This from Trevor Cook at Crikey.com

Clueless in Ultimo

In other areas too we may come to see the world of the ‘empowered audience’ as deficient. Comment and opinion are everywhere on media sites these days, but there has been no similar expansion in facts, ideas and analysis, Scott’s much-heralded partnerships with the audience, like the barbarians attacking Rome, may be more suited to producing noise and colour than anything more enduring.

Fourth, it’s likely that the new media will be absorbed into the old media:

As the Western Roman Empire crumbled, the new Germanic rulers who conquered the provinces upheld many Roman laws and traditions. Many of the invading Germanic tribes were already Christianised, though most were followers of Arianism. They quickly converted to Catholicism, gaining more loyalty from the local Roman populations, as well as the recognition and support of the powerful Catholic Church. Although they initially continued to recognise indigenous tribal laws, they were more influenced by Roman Law and gradually incorporated it as well.

The ABC will still be the ABC with just a little more commentary from the audience. Not so much deliverance from the strictures of old media as an opportunity to join the slaves at the Mill.

The absorbtion is happening as we speak.

  • CNN’s iReport is IndyMedia on steroids, but without the awkward anarchist politics
  • TV on demand was YouTube
  • Twitter and Facebook are the cool new marketing tools that are supposed to help legacy media connect with YOOF

There’s a great comment thread on Scott’s speech on Larvatus Prodeo

Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese blogger Isaac Mao visiting New Zealand

October 6, 2009

Chinese blogger and social entrepreneur, Isaac Mao is visiting Auckland for 24 hours as part of whirlwind tour of NZ journalism schools. The trip is sponsored by Asia New Zealand Foundation. The Auckland leg is being hosted by the Centre for Journalism, Media & Democracy at AUT.

Isaac is an excellent commentator on China’s netizens and issues such as the recent Green Dam proposal, the Great Firewall of China, self censorship and other social and internet related issues.

There is this August 08 article by Isaac on The Guardian website

There are two chances to hear Isaac speak about the blogosphere in China and social media in the world of Web 2.0.

  • Sunday 18th October 3pm til around 5pm then adjourn to a local bar. This will be in WT tower, AUT opposite Aotea square, room WT1103.
  • Monday 19th he will be talking again in WT1305 at 12 noon.

If you’d like to come to either event pls rsvp to me martin.hirst AT aut.ac.nz


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