John Armstrong versus parasitical bloggers

John Armstrong, NZ herald political reporter, blasts two bloggers as a pair of tut-tutting old dowagers gossiping in the salon. He is aiming at:

  • “former Listener columnist and Greens propagandist Gordon Campbell”
  • “former Alliance staffer and now Otago University politics lecturer Bryce Edwards”

In his Saturday column Blogging parasites don’t let the facts get in the way Armstrong says:

In short, stop making blinkered, cheap-shot accusations of the kind you made this week – that the media who went with John Key to Vladivostok and Tokyo concentrated on trivia, interviewed their laptops and parroted Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet press releases.

Press gallery journalists generally treat the bile and invective directed at them by portions of the blog-a-tariat as an unwelcome and unfortunate byproduct of an otherwise exciting and intellectually challenging job.

You just have to put up with it. To bother to reply is to invite another shower of criticism – plus the old chestnut that if you cannot stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.

Polemic and argument over ideas is one thing; ignorance is something else, however.

He continues with some explanations of the realities of reporting an event like APEC in Vladivostock, and keeps getting a few things off his chest.

Does it occur to them to actually pick up the phone and try to talk to those journalists about what is happening and why things are being reported in a certain way?

Of course not. That would risk the facts getting in the way of, well … interviewing their laptops and having yet another ritual poke at the parliamentary press gallery.

The rules that apply to journalists in terms of accuracy do not apply to Campbell and his echo chamber Dr Edwards – who is not be confused with Dr Brian Edwards, another blogger, but a far more original one when it comes to ideas and analysis.

And it seems that the TPP was and is the main point of contention.

Edwards’ and Campbell’s claim that there was precious little analysis of key Apec issues, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is simply not borne out.

Everybody knew and said the TPP would not be a big deal as Barak Obama, the figure crucial to building political momentum to achieve a final deal, was absent.

TPP is sure important within the wider context of Apec. But it was not a major feature of this year’s meeting.

Or is it Campbell’s and Edwards’ agenda or strategy to make the media feel guilty about not writing more anti-TPP stories?

Campbell is let of the hook a little.

To Campbell’s credit, he does do his own digging. He is also a regular attendee at the Prime Minister’s weekly press conference. His blog is one of the more valuable. But he does have a blind spot with regards to the press gallery.

And saves his main blast for Edwards.

The rapidly growing influence of Edwards’ blog was initially down to its being an exhaustive wrap-up of all of the day’s political news. It is now starting to develop a much more political dynamic that is unlikely to please National.

Edwards’ blog is the extreme example of the fact that most blogsites rely on the mainstream media for their information and then use that information to criticise the media for not stressing something enough or deliberately hiding it.

And the real beef:

It is the ultimate parasitical relationship. And it will not change until the media start charging for use of their material.

Edwards political round can be a useful collection of political news and comment from MSM and blogs, but if it becomes a vehicle for political comment from a particular viewpoint it becomes a different beast.

There’s no doubt that online news and comment, including on blogs, is damaging MSM, who have real difficulty in adapting to the proliferation of media and getting enough income. If they charge for online content they risk their audience simply ignoring them and going somewhere else that’s still free.

And yes, there is a degree of the parasitical. But it’s more complicated than that – blogs can also direct readers to MSM websites with their links, so to an extent they can be mutual parasites.

If blogs use MSM content what could they be charged?
And would MSM pay for traffic generated by blogs in return?

I understand the frustrations but I don’t think there’s easy answers.

We are all learning how new media works as we go, in a rapidly evolving environment.

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