Sunday, February 26, 2006

Quality, consumption and citizen journalism

Ah we are back to the quality blogging debate and this time it’s coming from one of our own.

Piaras Kelly says that the only thing that yesterdays reportage/coverage of the riots did was to ‘highlight the line between the mainstream media and citizen reporters.’

He continues

‘More importantly, just as people legitimately added their thoughts to the days events, there were plenty of idiots who gave their mindless two cents matching the stupidity of those on the streets.’

Does this mean that all MSM reporting is without idiocy and stupidity? What significant contribution do people like Brendan O’Connor (reg. required) make to our understanding of yesterdays events? (Did he really meet an Iraqi on O’Connell Street yesterday?) Are blog readers devoid of intellect in separating the crap from the good stuff?

We had to wait until 6 p.m. for the national broadcaster to show pictures of what happened yesterday lunchtime. There is no doubt they had difficulty in covering yesterdays events and were attacked by some of the rioters. Sky News had reports yesterday afternoon – at least at 4.15 from the screen caps Red Mum had.

And most of the RTE coverage was journalists interviewing journalists or politicians. There was very little coverage of the opinion of local people on what they saw apart from one person on Nassau Street as there were no RTE cameras present when the cars were torched – but there were citizen journalists and someone from Newstalk.

As yesterday was Saturday we did not have Joe Duffy taking calls from people at or near the incident (citizen journalism in another form surely?) or (shudder) Philip Boucher Hayes breathing heavily as he ran about the place for 5-7 live.

I doubt that many people see blogging/flickr photo uploading or the videos on Youtube as any sort of complete replacement of reportage by MSM. What was significant about yesterday was that people turned to blogs to see what people were saying or experiencing. Also many bloggers seemed to have been around town when this occurred and could provide witness accounts and opinion. Others provided links to these and others still commented on the occurrences, both the causes and effects. (Something many bloggers had been doing in the weeks before the March took place.)  

Only recently Roger Greene (Newstalk 106, Media Matters) was questioning quality control and legitimacy of Irish blogs when dealing with legal issues and the Irish Blog Awards in an item on blogging. What I thought about yesterday when commenting on the arrival of Irish blogs as a medium for information on a significant event was the fact that there were different voices there. Other perspectives, with an immediacy that print or many broadcast media outlets were not feeding. Roger Greene did not reflect on this on his programme today and I suppose I did not expect him to eat any humble pie. There is a self enforced ‘quality control’ in terms of the veracity of information amongst citizen journalists/bloggers – something that is rarely reflected on but which I take great interest in observing.

I’m not inviting the Irish blogging community to get all anal and reflective or indeed to become involved in a massive back slapping exercise. I have been reflexive about my own media consumption and reaction to yesterday in terms of where I turned to when in need of information or perspective on the events. And as a sociologist I do have an interest in how we consume/produce information.

If you wanted to see what Charlie Bird or other reporters had to say then you waited till the news bulletin or you turned on your radio or maybe you went to Irishblogs.ie or your RSS feed or indeed if you were like me you combined all 3.  

I do think that waving the quality banner with regards to blogging is rather old hat or ‘ostrich head in sand  like’ and makes assumptions about the quality/consumption of MSM outlets that are overgenerous. (RTE’s web stats yesterday would make for  interesting analysis) And I wonder about the linkages between the profession of PR and the MSM. Flag waving for blog potential in business and marketing terms by PR professionals is well under way, however it would seem that MSM and others are far more reluctant to let the flags be raised when it comes to citizen journalism. I would be interested in Piaras’s thoughts on the coverage of other ‘moments’ by the blogsphere. The next Irish General Election for example?

4 Comments:

At 00:14, Blogger EWI said...

What significant contribution do people like Brendan O’Connor (reg. required) make to our understanding of yesterdays events? (Did he really meet an Iraqi on O’Connell Street yesterday?) Are blog readers devoid of intellect in separating the crap from the good stuff?

Not much; highly unlikely; some blog readers would obviously take O'Connor seriously, just as others would not.

There is a self enforced ‘quality control’ in terms of the veracity of information amongst citizen journalists/bloggers – something that is rarely reflected on but which I take great interest in observing.

Is there, really? As one of the contributors to FI Fie, I have an opinion on that score which can readily be guessed at.

 
At 00:35, Blogger Suzy said...

well i think that we are seeing the emergence of something like - if bloggers bullshit, others question. So I would suggest fifie is an antidote as such? Whilst it is in no way comprehensive or always the case I think the blogosphere has some sort of structure of questioning itself and the MSM. This of course is not always appreciated!

 
At 17:52, Anonymous Piaras Kelly said...

Great post Suzy.

Just to clarify my feelings on the topic.

For me what Saturday illustrated was the difference between mainstream media and blogging. What I mean by that is that blogging will never replace mainstream media, but it adds to it.

I don't think that blogs were the best way to keep up with the events or see the pictures. I heard about the commotion using my RSS reader but it was through RTE and the Irish Times site that I first heard about it first.

During the day I kept an eye on bloggers' reactions as well as updates (and photos) primarily through the RTE News feed.

I think the real beauty of blogging is how it connects with a wider audience. I was talking to someone today about how their relatives abroad watched footage on the Internet and kept track through blogs.

Building upon that, a lot of people abroad would have seen or heard newslines like IRA supporters riot in Dublin. Blogging leaves a permanent footprint online and people who searched to find out more about what happened would have gotten a better perspective on what happened than through their traditional media sources.

 
At 18:01, Anonymous Piaras Kelly said...

Oops forgot to note...

While I don't think that Social Media made a huge impact on the coverage of the Dublin Riots, I think that it highlights what is possible and showcases what we could do during key moments in the future like the next general elections.

From a PR perspective I'm always wary of my peers praising blogging because they often describe its benefits to that of a microphone. It's a great way to make yourself heard, but if you've got nothing good to say then no-one is going to listen. The guantlet that has been laid down to Irish bloggers is to bring quality content on key issues to the public domain. That way we can add to coverage by mainstream media.

 

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