Any “trained journalist” who seriously believes that blogging has caused the demise of print journalism must have nodded off during the investigative part of their degree course. Sadly, the obvious fact that it’s a completely bogus, unfounded and ill-informed notion doesn’t stop our friends with a certificate in Advanced Scribbling from desperately wishing it were true. Blogs do make an easy scapegoat. Blaming bloggers for the present condition of journalism conveniently exonerates the journalist community from any part in the profession’s own demise. And it’s so much easier than collecting, sorting and assessing the evidence.
Yesterday there was a typical example on Twitter, occasioned by this blog post by a recently out of work journalist. The blog post contained the usual lazy thinking and needless insults that generally characterise the tone of this type of rant. But never let it be said that our accredited word monger chums ever let a little thing like fairness, accuracy and truth get in the way of a good old whinge.
The first claim of this anti-blogging blogger can be dealt with easily:
There are just too many redundant journalists jostling for too little work, and if you do come across a paying job, the rates you’re likely to get are quite pathetic.
Both these things are indeed true. Neither of these things has anything to do with blogging, however. If there are too many journalists and not enough jobs in journalism then the responsibility is either with Journalism schools for the over supply, or with the owners and employers of print media companies for the reduction in demand. Last time I looked bloggers didn’t run educational establishments, and they certainly don’t own any of the mainstream media institutions. Bloggers? Not guilty.
To be fair, the writer does recognise this when he admits his current employment status was owing directly to his
treacherous friends at the Guardian
Bloggers don’t run the Guardian. Don’t even want to.
The next point is just as easily dismissed:
Every clown with a keyboard is now a ‘writer’, so the traditional skills of the journalist have become completely devalued.
Clowns have always tried to write. There were clowns with quill pens, clowns on Smith-Corona’s, and there’ll be clowns around when we can write with a chip connected directly to Broca’s Area in our brains. Clowns are a constant. What does it say about “traditional skills” if they so easy devalued by clowning? What does it say about journalism that it’s major employers are choosing to replace the trained journalist with the amateurish clown?
The next point is a little awkward. I can appreciate how it feels to be made redundant from a well paying, high status, rewarding job. Fifteen years or so I was earning shed loads being all important and well-known in my little niche – then government policy changed and my little niche got folded up, torn apart, and tossed in the waste bucket. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t nice. It hurt like hell. And I could have responded like most journalists seem to do when asked to do something which they think demeans them … such as blogging:
I don’t need ‘exposure’ and I don’t have a CV. I’ve never needed one, my reputation going before me.
Nobody forces anyone to blog. It might be worth journalists thinking about reputation a bit though. And a CV may come in handy.
The last point the ex-journalist makes was obviously under pressure of anger, bile and righteous wrath. But it does show how little self-awareness most journalists have when it comes to the faults, foibles and fuck-ups of their own profession, and how quick they are to play the “someone else did it” when things go wrong
Anyone who can string a sentence together (and many who can’t) can get their pathetic prattle published these days. The rise of the blogger has meant the downfall of the honest hack.
The first sentence is partly true. Publishing is genuinely easy, even for pathetic prattlers. But the implication that the people who cannot string a sentence together can get and keep an audience is nonsense. Yes, we are all competing for attention, but the idea that readers are stupid and will accept any old crap is frankly ridiculous. Maybe the problem is that journalists hold their readership in contempt? And maybe people read blogs because there is something of value there for them? I know that “trained journalists” have a lot of nous trained out of them and will find the blindingly obvious hard to see. But maybe some blogging is good writing! The second sentence is quite frankly risible. So, the “downfall of the honest hack” has nothing to do with the reason most people find the phrase “honest hack” completely ludicrous then?
Later that day another ant-blogging blog post chimed in with yet more delightfully daft witless waffle that the journalistic community mistakes for logic, apparently.
No matter how you look at it, writing is a profession. It requires skill, dedication, time and energy – and people who do it for a living need to be paid in order to live.
You wouldn’t ask a plumber to work for free on the basis that if he installed your bathroom well, you’d tell all your friends how good it was and he would get more work.
Why should writing be any different?
Why should writing be different from plumbing? Well, since you ask …it shouldn’t.
Firstly, since when did “writing” become a profession? Even in the case of journalism itself the claim to be a profession in the way Doctor, Dentist, Lawyer are professions is dubious. Plenty of people get published in newspapers, get called journalists, and go to journalist conferences without the benefit of formal training. But let’s accept for the sake of argument that journalism is a trade, much like plumbing. Plumbers exist because I have a need (a leaky tap, a blocked toilet, a shower that’s stopped showering) and I’m willing to part with my well-earned cash to fix it. Plumbers don’t have a right to plumb. If plumbing college churns out too many plumbers and not enough toilets get blocked then some plumbers go out of business. So, while I would not ask a plumber to work for free, neither would I expect a plumber to demand a job simply owing to his training and reputation if I could sort my own shit out.
Secondly, this journalist seems unaware of DIY. Plenty of people spend time and energy dedicated to a skill simply for the joy of practising the skill and making something without professional help. Yes, writing is like plumbing, and blogging is the literary equivalent of B and Q.
During the twitter spat that ensued after the journalists had lauded this pile of tosh to the skies, bloggers were called “ignorant”, “random” and “lazy”. I’ll happily put my hand up and plead guilty to all those things. And it’s true that I’d never last an hour in a busy news room. But it also appears to be the case that the possession of a qualification in journalism doesn’t protect you from bad logic, wishful thinking, and blatant inability to face reality.