The power of blogs, or the weakness of journalism?

by Stephen Tall on October 11, 2007

When does a story become worth reporting? I ask the question in the light of today’s Indy story, ‘Delayed election revives criticism of Lib Dem leader’, which quotes extensively from Jo Hayes’ blog posting, ‘Time to take stock’.

Here’s Jo’s conclusion:

“To go on indefinitely working for our success I need to be sustained by the belief that we have a leader who is a potential Prime Minister. Is it not time that our MPs moved to propose someone new?”

To be clear: I have no problems with what Jo has written, or her decision publicly to speak her mind. We are a party where free discussion and dissent is fundamental to who we are.

No, my problem isn’t with Jo, it’s with Colin Brown, the author of the Indy piece.

If Jo’s had been one of a series of blog postings having a go at Ming, then fair enough. But it wasn’t. This is one activist. Since when does one blog posting become the basis for an entire article in a supposedly serious newspaper? Is this now the criterion by which the Indy judges whether a story is worth being written?

In which case will Colin Brown be equally happy to pen something the moment a Labour or Tory activist goes off-message about the leadership? (The answer to that last question is: only if it fits with the media’s agenda de jour.)

Jo’s argument is backed up in Colin Brown’s piece by a “senior Liberal Democrat source”, who may or may not exist, and may or may not be senior. It could be Vince Cable or it could be the journalist’s own imagination: how can we judge? Depends, I guess, how far you trust journalists.

To finish, a great quote from Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip:

“You can blame the blogs, but I blame The New York Times. They quote the blogs like they’ve found a source. CNN quotes the blogs. ‘Beverly, Editor-in-Chief of the BeverlyBlog, says the Fed should cut interest rates to counter the drop in consumer spending over the past fiscal-‘ who the hell is Beverly? I don’t believe in free speech, I think it should require a license. What happened to credentials. What happened to being impeccably credentialed, and when did elite stop being a good word?”