As I’ve observed many times both here at Crikey and in my academic work on blogging, discussion in the media about online politics is inevitably dominated by the tedious repetition of a few clichés (to the point where I feel as if pointing this out has itself become tedious). But occasionally you come across such a clanger that it’s worth revisiting the discussion.
One of those clichés is the journos v bloggers theme. Bloggers, we’re constantly told, don’t do the hard work that journos are trained for – including rigorous fact-checking. This is in fact a bad joke, as many journos these days, as David Salter makes witheringly clear in his new book The Media We Deserve, do their job sitting in front of a computer screen permanently frozen on Wikipedia, and “reporting” consists largely of tweaking press releases and news feeds. Bloggers, by contrast, at least at the best of times, are instantly accountable to their readers for errors of fact.
There’s a striking example of the finely honed research skills of journos in The Australian’s media section this week, ironically about the use of online media for political campaigning. Lara Sinclair writes:
Politicians of all persuasions have taken the opportunity to put their profile on MySpace, with John Howard making up for a slow start by attracting 16,050 friends, marginally ahead of 15,816 who had signed up by yesterday afternoon for Mr Rudd.
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John Howard’s “official” MySpace page has nine friends (some of whom are Cabinet Ministers who may therefore be lying to him). The page that Sinclair points to as a breathless indicator of Howard’s growing popularity is in fact pure satire. Does she really believe that Howard wrote this blog post about the Indigenous “emergency”?:
Of course there are in fact, many other ways we could address the problems that exist in Indigenous communities. However most of these alternatives involve having to include Indigenous Australians in the decision making process who would only argue that we must address the causes of the problems as well as the symptoms. This would quite likely lead to the creation of Indigenous Affairs policies that are actually beneficial for Indigenous Australians. An unsavoury prospect indeed.
If reading the site she’s writing about is too much hard work for Sinclair, you’d have thought that the hubristic motto might have given the game away: “The price of greatness is responsibility.”