Thursday, 4 November 2010

Bloggers bite back...

A guest lecturer today told my year of journalism students that blogging is not opinion, it is a conversation. This started me thinking about little old MissWrite, and how I got to where I am with it today. I started off just wanting to comment on things I saw and heard, much like a columnist would (except a columnist usually has some sort of authority or status that makes that column worth reading.) I had only my thoughts, my laptop, and at times, my temper. I have always sort of thought that blogging was about sharing your opinion, and to some extend I still believe that. What Adam Tinworth was saying was that your blog has no commercial value, no stamp of valuable journalism (rather than citizen journalism) unless you offer a concept and engage with other people online in your analysis of it.

This, in turn, got me thinking about the comments function of a blog. I was delighted the first time MW received a comment; a little thrill of 'I exist!' (in cyberspace) ran through me and a blogger was born. We only write to be read, after all. But I have been slapped over the wrist on more than one occasion by commenters who thought I couldn't take fair criticism. I had one anonymous troll (I'm still convinced they're one and the same) who just had it in for me. The different between their disagreements with my posts and others' was that it was personal, pedantic and laced with venom. Every not-quite-literal phrase was picked up and every motive questioned. So I chatted back to them, not in an especially feisty way really, but genuinely wondering what their issue was. And swiftly, I was told by the blogging community that we just don't do that - accept their comments with grace or don't blog at all. I remember someone commenting that 'If I wanted to get into this line of work, I should expect to be criticised.'

I do expect feedback (and get it in gallons on this course, an avalanche of red pen) but which overlord of the blogosphere decided I couldn't react to it? As I suspected, and Tinworth confirmed today, it is a two-way conversation. If people are allowed to comment on my ramblings, I am certainly allowed to comment on theirs. And so the circle continues. Stephen Fry has today - and lots in the past - used his blog to defend himself from rumour and negative press. Good on him - if he was indeed misquoted, why shouldn't he have a platform for rebuttal?

Similarly, a peer brought this blog to my attention today. NME receive a lot of web comments, some clearly on a mission to ridicule their brand in general, and today a couple of their writers got in and debated with the 'trolls' that were beginning to depress them. Why not? It's their job to report on things, and if people are just blandly criticising the topic (which they clicked on), the website (which they clicked on) and not discussing the points made in the blog, I think it's fair game to knock them back in your own comment. What do you think? Is there an unwritten code of conduct for bloggers to remain quietly dignified? Comment away - but don't expect me to stay out of it.