Seems like a good day to reflect on what effect blogging is having on our access to news. First point to make is that blogs are not all the same. They are individual, written for different reasons, in different styles, about different subjects, and they are based on the individual ethical codes of the blogger. The influence of a blog is exercised through the people read it, how many of them there are, and also who they are. People who don't like blogs tend to group them all as one, as some sort of malign influence on public affairs, written by people who need to get a life. They are very wrong - and becoming more wrong by the day.
Over the last few weeks, blogs have wrought great influence on our mainstream news. Gordon Brown's visit to the US to meet Barack Obama was being portrayed as a great success - until the Internet showed us images of Obama, bored out of his mind, listening to our Prime Minister prattling on for the cameras. And Gordon Brown's speech to the European Parliament was being portrayed as a triumph until Dan Hannan's full blooded assault on him became an Internet hit. But this last weekend, the blogosphere has shaped the news, completely overwhelming the mainstream media. Despite the Telegraph's failed attempt to draw the sting out of the 'Smeargate' story by running it early, and from a Downing Street's perspective (two lads 'aving a laugh'), Paul Staines' revelations have led the news for two days. Gordon Brown's closest (?) political advisor has gone. It looks as if most Labour people are desperate for their leading blogger to be ditched as well. And we are being told that the Prime Minister has been forced to write personal letters of apology to several Conservatives. Well maybe. But Paul Staines' success is greater that any of these things. What he's done is show us that the Emperor has no clothes. It doesn't matter what spin Labour spokespersons are putting on this, the punters are not believing it. They know that at the heart of the court of Gordon Brown, there is this 'tub of evil' trained to crush everything before it, by whatever vile means it takes. They probably accept that the Prime Minister had no knowledge of the specifics, but they know that this has gone on for so long that Gordon Brown cannot disassociate himself from it. The 'Moral Compass' and the 'End of Spin' are the most discredited phrases in today's political vocabulary.
Now I'm no Paul Staines. I would never want to write a blog like his, even if he does have zillions of visitors. I have 400 visitors on a good day, and in the low 200s at the weekend. All I want to do is satisfy my urge to write down some of the things I think, and stimulate a bit of discussion. But even my innocuous efforts are being challenged as 'subversive'. Some people just don't like blogs. I suppose if I entertained but 10 visitors a day no-one would care. The criticism that is levelled against me is that I publish 'confidential' information - sometimes relating to my local authority. Actually, this is a completely untrue accusation. What sometimes does happen is that I publish a story that is public, but still largely confined within the Council 'village'. And then too many of the 'wrong' sort of people are reading it before the story is released in a form considered suitable. Whatever, it has been such a good week for the blogosphere that I do not think things will ever be quite the same again.