Friday, August 19, 2005

Journalism, blogging and professionalism again

Now that blogs have become popular in Norway, Norwegian newspapers have started writing about it and Norwegian media professors at the universities can talk about it. Professor Martin Eide at the University in Bergen uses weblogs as an example of how "happy amateurs" can challenge journalism. His article is mainly about the need for intelligent, questioning, critical and thinking journalists - since UiB opened their three year journalism education this year.

So why is this important for us? (apart from the fact that this means more competition for Volda)

I think it is very interesting and even significant that weblogs are being used as the threath to make journalists wake up and sharpen their wits. The fear of blogs in the US has caused a massive attack on blogs and bloggers from the media, followed by an attempt to colonize the concept - which we see in Norway today. I have claimed for a long time that this is a strategy to maintain control of the media sphere, and keep the power of communication on a limited number of hands. It this can be done, the media companies don't have to run the risk of the economical challenge good alternatives rise. They also don't need to run the risk of the political implications of having good, critical journalists.

A good, questioning journalist, one who has not been bought, one who has access to a large audience through the mass media, is a powerful person. An uncorruptable person with power is dangerous to the adversaries. Who wants the power of the media in the hands of a person who is not predictable and malleable?

To avoid this, journalists are systematically socialised into "the newsroom spirit", taught to write "the way we do it here", and pressed to publish "what the audience wants". Now that the audience starts writing for themselves, and obviously wants something they don't get from the established newspapers, the new groups of writers has to be if not silenced, then made suspect. But Martin Eide is right. The readers and writers of blogs does not potentially have the power of a really good journalist. The real problem is that the really good journalists are so few, so far between, and most of the time totally immersed in the task of writing stuff that will keep the news selling, and beat the headlines of the competition - in some internal media game of one-upmanship which changes nothing but the numbers on the accounts of their owners.

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