This blog has now been shortlisted for the George Orwell Prize for blogging.
However, this is merely one of many blogs which are promoting critical thinking and a source-based approach on matters of public interest.
So, if you are visiting this blog for the first time, I would strongly recommend The Heresiarch, who addresses brilliantly a range of political, cultural, and religious matters, the provocative and sharp Richard Wilson of Don't Get Fooled Again on politics and censorship, and the incomparable Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads on the political use (and misuse) of the internet.
On "Bad Science" and public health matters (where there has been an overlap with my libel interests because of the misconceived and now failed case brought by the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh), the best blogs are the simply amazing Gimpy, the wise and incisive Quackometer, and of course David Colquhoun, a distinguished professor and Fellow of the Royal Society who has taken to blogging about bullshit with the fire and deftness of a pharmacological George Orwell.
Other blogs I greatly admire for their promotion of critical thinking and a source-based approach include Vagina Dentata, on science from a feminist perspective, Dr Petra Boynton (my personal favourite) on sex and relationship issues and media reporting, the erudite and charming Jourdemayne covering religion and superstition, and - a useful corrective to my hostility to current English libel law - the legal blogger Lucifee.
And there are many more.
Blogging is the perfect medium for promoting critical thought and a source-based approach on any matter of public interest, from science to Scientology.
Bloggers can write what they want, when they want. They are freed from the relentless editorial and advertising cycles which reduce many hard-working and talented reporters to mere churnalists.
Bloggers can often add value - either as analysts, explainers, or providers of fresh information - just because they are able and willing to do so as volunteers.
Bloggers can help inform emerging debates or undermine conventional wisdom. But they do this not because they are aping journalists; it is that they are being active citizens.
And bloggers can link without reservation.
A blogger can link to a number of competing media outlets in a way which a reporter will never be able to do.
A blogger can link to the source of his or her contentions, allowing the reader to ascertain the veracity of what is being claimed.
And a blogger can happily link to other bloggers who may have different views on the same subject, so that the reader is not reliant on one perhaps fallible source.
For these reasons, I would suggest blogging is not the new journalism.
The occasional, voluntary, generally selfless, and transparent nature of blogging means that it is more about public participation.
Insofar as blogging exposes any deficiencies in journalism - by adopting a more informed, critical, and source-based approach to a given topic - it does so in a way which may not be feasible or commercial for reporters and media organisations to do.
I do not think blogging can ever replace journalism. There is neither the inclination nor the capacity for bloggers to become a network of primary news providers.
It may be that blogging could have an effect on internet-based "opinion pieces" and columns: I always tend to go a respected blogger on any given topic before a weekly columnist.
But even then, blogging can be sporadic, and op-ed pages in the hard-copy editions do need to be filled on a regular basis.
Blogging is not, in my view, a fundamental threat to news reporting.
(Indeed, one point of this particular blog is to make it easier for national and local journalists, as well as other writers, to do their job without needless worry of libel threats.)
Blogging may well be a threat to poor journalism and a welcome gloss on good journalism; but I do not think that is its main focus.
As I have previously noted, Dr Johnson would regard bloggers as blockheads (or, I suppose, bloggerheads).
However, I think George Orwell's own motivation is more akin to why good bloggers do what they do:
"My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing."
So, for me, blogging is not the new journalism; but it is perhaps an emerging form of active citizenship.
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