The old and new media: blog-scratch my back…

by Stephen Tall on November 21, 2006

Matthew Taylor’s ill-considered denunciation of “shrill” blogs last week provoked an angry reaction from many bloggers, myself included. (And I accept that has its own irony.)

I don’t imagine he’ll listen to those of us citizens who “behave like teenagers”, and are “not yet capable of self-government”, but he might care to reflect on these words of Leonard Downie Jr, executive editor of the Washington Post, who was speaking yesterday at the launch of a new research institute in Oxford*:

I am not one of those old media journalists who fears or looks down on bloggers. I believe they have achieved a mutually beneficial relationship with the old media.

Most bloggers link to and comment on journalism elsewhere on the Internet, especially old media journalism, whose content many bloggers depend on and respect. They drive a large amount of reader traffic to newspaper Web sites. The blogger Matt Drudge, for example, is one of the largest drivers of reader traffic to

Many newspaper Web sites, like ours, name the blogs who most often link to our journalism. This increases reader traffic for those blogger sites, and, in turn, they are more likely to link again to our site.

Some bloggers do original reporting, which, while often incomplete or overly opinionated, provides tips that newspaper reporters turn into solid stories, sometimes major stories. Bloggers also push old media journalists into covering issues they may otherwise ignore.

In the United States, many bloggers also serve as watchdogs for the old media, pouncing on our every mistake. This has made American journalists more accountable and responsible. It is now much more difficult to get away with plagiarism or journalism not firmly rooted in fact.

* declaration of interest… the launch event was at St Anne’s College, where I work. You can read his speech in full here.