Bright and early Sunday morning, the first panel I went to was The Power of the Blog: Is Blogging Changing the Face of Journalism? I missed the beginning, so I don’t think I ever got the answer.
But there were some interesting comments. In response to a question about the legal issues surrounding blogs, Margaret Simons, an award-winning journalist whose latest book was The Content Makers and who writes media commentary for Crikey.com on a regular basis, briefly discussed defamation law in Australia. She said that the legal situation was basically the same for online as it was for hardcopy, and prompt and prominent apology could get you out of most trouble (well, Crikey would know).
George Megalogenis, a senior journalist with The Australian who maintained a blog during the election, considers today’s media very fragmented; back in the day when everyone read the same five or six newspapers, to a large extent everyone got the same message. Now, with blogging and internet resources and the thousands of different media that assault us all daily, everyone receives different messages, or different parts of the same message.
He also commented on the fact that newspapers are still a source for news, but they aren’t the same gateway they used to be. Blogs talk directly to their audience, unlike the opinion columnists of 10-20 years ago. And with the Kevin 07 internet campaign, the Labor party bypassed the papers and spoke directly to the electorate on a massive scale, in a way that hadn’t really been done before.
Mungo MacCallum, who was actually in the audience rather than on the panel, wondered whether the effect of blogs and the internet was on the body politic rather than journalism itself. He asked whether, since with the internet people can manage their own intake of news, blogs and opinion pieces, there was a risk that they would avoid information that challenges them, and only read things they already agreed with. None of the panellists could definitively answer this question, but Simons seemed to think that social networks were up to the task of circulating information and exposing people to different viewpoints. Megalogenis agreed that if people were without a social network, they could end up just agreeing with themselves their entire lives and never learn anything, but this was probably a symptom of a bigger social problem.