Posts Tagged 'blogging'

NightJacking anonymity

Earlier today, Mr Justice Eady [1] ruled that the author of the NightJack blog could not stay anonymous. This will probably mean nothing to most people, but could be a significant case law ruling when it coming to blogging and, potentially, whistleblowing.

If you’ve never heard of NightJack, he’s a policeman who blogged anonymously and candidly about his job. It was an eye-opener and a great read that made you emphasise with hiss job. The blog won an Orwell Award for the quality of it’s writing.

That blog is no more and the author has been disciplined after The Times ‘outed’ NightJack. One of their reporters worked out the bloggers identity, the blogger took out an injunction, the Times challenged that injunction and today’s ruling is the end result. Bloggers cannot expect anonymity.

The Times says of the ruling: “Today newspaper lawyers were celebrating one of the rarer Eady rulings in their favour.” I’d beg to differ. It leaves me with a slightly sick feeling in my stomach and a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.

Let’s go, if I may, on a slight tangent before getting back to the case in hand. Generally speaking, for both blogging an the internet, I think moving away from anonymity is a good thing. We’re moving to an era, especially with social media, where identity is more open and the internet is all the better for it. It cuts down on trolling for a start.

I’m also a big fan of openness and accountability. If somebody asked me about starting a blog, I’d suggest they do it under their own name, or at least made it clear who they were. It clears up any misunderstandings from the off – setting out your stall so people know who you are.

Let’s also be clear, when we’re talking about anonymity, we’re not talking about identities created around blogging here. NightJack was very different to the likes of Devil’s Kitchen, Chicken Yoghurt, Doctor Vee, Bloggerheads or many of the other well-known bloggers. They have their online identity which sites alongside their real name. Anybody can find out who they are in a matter of seconds – their pen names are their blogging personas.

Moving onto the judgement, I can see why Mr Justice Eady came to his eventual judgement. It’s still a bit of a mess but can be fitted into the letter of the law, by and large (although, and this is one of the wonders of the vagueries of the English legal system, you could easily have seen him ruling the other way).

But the judgement: the reasoning, the logic and the whole lead-up to this just doesn’t feel right. As Paul Bradshaw says:

“… this is a ruling that has enormous implications for whistleblowers and people blogging ‘on the ground’. That’s someone else’s ‘public interest’.

And that last element is the saddest for me.”

Let’s leave aside the judgement itself for a minute (the judge can only really rule what’s in front of him) and look to The Times and their role in unmasking NightJack. This is the part that leaves me uneasiest of all.

Their journalist pieced together who NightJack was and then went to publish. And the question I have is why? [2]

NightJack is a public servant, true, but in the grand scheme of things he really isn’t that important. Certainly, going to all this effort to unmask him seems a little, well, excessive.

He’s a blogger. A well-read blogger, yes, and an award-winning one. But is it really in the public’s interest, as opposed to being merely interesting to the public, to know who he is? If he were a Chief Constable, a high-ranking BBC employee, an MP or a civil servant, I could understand this. But a Detective Constable in Lancashire? It’s hardly a high-level scoop is it? Or, indeed, a high-profile and significant victory for openness, as they portray the judgement.

[The other thing that sits uneasy with me here is The Times have previous in this area when they unmasked Girl With A One Track Mind for no other reason, seemingly, than they could. That, more than NightJack, seemed like a particularly pointless act for the sake of a story].

Justin McKeating makes a very good point with regard to The Times’ victory today: that of anonymous sources for journalists. They may not be bloggers, but you can see where Justin’s coming from – the principle is very similar (and apologies for copying a large chunk of his text here, but it helps place his argument in context:

Would I be wrong in thinking that anonymous sources, insiders and friends are conducting the business of democracy in the media with the willing collusion of journalists? If nothing else, it’s in direct contravention of the ‘different type of politics’ promised to us by Gordon Brown – a politics promising a ‘more open and honest dialogue‘.
It would seem to me that some kind of public interest challenge in the courts is in order. Imagine the story in The Times…
Thousands of ’sources’, ‘insiders’ and ‘friends’ churn out opinions daily — secure in the protection afforded to them by the cloak of anonymity lent to them by obsequious journalists.
From today, however, they can no longer be sure that their identity can be kept secret, after a landmark ruling by Mr Justice Eady.
The judge, who is known for establishing case law with his judgments on privacy, has struck a blow in favour of openness, ruling that democracy is “essentially a public rather than a private activity”.
What could be more in the public interest than that?

 

Would I be wrong in thinking that anonymous sources, insiders and friends are conducting the business of democracy in the media with the willing collusion of journalists? If nothing else, it’s in direct contravention of the ‘different type of politics’ promised to us by Gordon Brown – a politics promising a ‘more open and honest dialogue‘.

It would seem to me that some kind of public interest challenge in the courts is in order. Imagine the story in The Times…

Thousands of ’sources’, ‘insiders’ and ‘friends’ churn out opinions daily — secure in the protection afforded to them by the cloak of anonymity lent to them by obsequious journalists.

From today, however, they can no longer be sure that their identity can be kept secret, after a landmark ruling by Mr Justice Eady.

The judge, who is known for establishing case law with his judgments on privacy, has struck a blow in favour of openness, ruling that democracy is “essentially a public rather than a private activity”.

What could be more in the public interest than that?

This comes back to Paul Bradshaw’s earlier point about whistleblowers and ‘on the ground’ bloggers.

When it comes to the majority of bloggers, it probably doesn’t matter too much whether they’re anonymous or not. It’d be nice if we knew who they were, as I said earlier, but, at the end of the day, most of the time it’s not really a huge issue.

But those bloggers who write detailed and informative posts about their profession are much rarer and are worth treasuring. Blogs like NightJack, PC Bloggs, Dr Crippen and The Magistrate’s Blogs are essential reads.

They are candid and often eye-opening and enables you to get a better idea of the problems facing our police force, judiciary and NHS. They lift the lid, often a very small lid, on the inner workings of these professions. If anything, they give the public a remarkable insight into the inner workings. And to my mind, this is largely a good thing, as Tom Reynolds points out:

 

“What bloggers do is humanise and explain their section of the world – public sector bodies do well to have bloggers writing within them, after all these are the people who careabout what they do, about what improvements should be made and about where the faults come from. They highlight these things in the hopes that, in bringing this information into the public consciousness, they can effect a change that they would otherwise be powerless to bring about.

Anonymity provides a protection against vindictiveness from management who would rather do nothing than repeat the party-line, or lie, that everything is perfect, there is no cause for concern. Having seen management do, essentially illegal things, in order to persecute and victimise staff – anonymity is a way of protecting your mortgage payments.”

 

You can understand why they are anonymous [3]. The blogs probably contravene the terms of their employment. Yet, in their own small ways, they are important for the public to read, more so than the person writing them (in all honesty, the writer of NightJack could have been any Detective Constable). [4]

There are very few bloggers for whom anonymity is a near-necessity, and if it stops others coming forward to give their insights then the internet will be poorer for it. And for what purpose. One article that doesn’t really amount to much.

Not everybody will agree with this. David MacLean makes some very good points as to why NightJack shouldn’t remain anonymous, although even he calls The Times’ decision to publish “a tough one”.

In the grand scheme of things, The Times’ unmasking story by itself really isn’t overly big. The legacy of if could well be.

 

[1] A name familiar to anybody who’s studied media law.

[2] Anton Vowl asks the same question.

[3] Not all are. Tom Reynolds from Random Acts of Reality, who has some fairly strong words about this case, and Suzi Brent from Nee Naw are more public examples. But I’d wager they’ve had some awkward conversations with their line managers at some point.

[4] One of The Times’ arguments was NightJack was committing Contempt of Court with his posts, and there is an argument here. Certainly if the blog had collapsed a trial there would be little argument against naming the author. That said, the internet is a hideously grey area when it comes to contempt. A reasonable amount of time on Google would probably produce enough to piece together extra information on any significant trial covered in either the national or local press. You’d probably have to do a fair bit of work to piece together events from a trial and link them back to the blog, and the level of threat the blog posed to a fair trial… possibly minimal. It doesn’t make it right, but I’d be surprised if anything NightJack wrote would have led to a trial being abandoned.

Journalists of the future

“Mate,” said my colleague Ben, when I told him about being invited back to the old student paper I edited to do a talk on the future of journalism and how to get into in. “You know you’ve made it when your old university invites you back.”

“Chances are everybody else was busy,” said I. “And I’m cheap.”

It was an unexpectedly enjoyable surprise to find myself back at Cardiff University Students’ Union on a Saturday afternoon to speak to the section editors and writers of gair rhydd. It was also interesting from my own point of view, as I learned a few bits and pieces as well.

Before my waffle talk, Will Dean (The Guardian) and Greg Cochrane (ex-NME, now Radio 1), both ex-gair rhydd members, did their bit as well. What was telling was the amount of times words relating to the internet were thrown around. Podcasting was a common one. Blogging was another.

It shows how quickly the industry is moving these days. When I was editor, blogging was still very niche [1]. Podcasting hadn’t even entered our lexicon. Now Greg and Will are using these terms casually, as part of everyday work. None of us are journalists who’d been told this stuff was vital to our industry when we were learning the ropes.

You want proof of how the web has and will continue to shape journalism. You’ve just read it.

Interesting (and surprising) bit number two: When I asked how many people in the room were blogging, I had a couple of tentative hands. When I asked if any were on Twitter, no hands went up [2]. A few other social media sites elicited no response. On reflection, I think, I should have asked how may people had heard of these sites.

This surprised me somewhat, as I’d assumed (dangerous, I know) that many more journalism hopefuls were blogging in this day and age (when I did my BJTC course, I was the only blogger). I guess, when you spend so much of every day working in this area, you forget not everybody’s quite such of a web geek as yourself.

By the time I’d finally shut up, they’d seen Phillip Schofield explain what Twitter is and had their picture posted up on my Twitter stream.

They also had your crowdsourced advice (thanks to everyone who responded) and probably had it drummed into them that they needed to be online in some form, as well as learning as many different skills as possible, to increase their chances of employment in what is currently a very depressed industry, jobs-wise.

But it was also refreshing that, in the informal chat that followed, there was a lack of cynicism over blogging, Twitter, video sites like Qik and Seesmic, and other such places. Compare this with those currently employed in the industry. It can be tough to convince media people of the worth of these tools (its a common sigh I get from just about everybody I know who works with more web-based tools).

Granted, that attitude is changing, helped, in part, by more colleagues slowly trying (and, in many cases, getting addicted) these sites and reporting back on their worth. If you want a great example of a mainstream journalist utilising social media, look no further than Dan Wootton from the News of the World.

But for every Dan, or Ben in PR, there’s about half a dozen unconvinced hacks or press officers who either don’t have the time, the inclination or the web knowledge to leap in.

And that’s one of the joys about chatting to student journalists. They’re willing to listen; they’re willing to try new things. Ok, they may not get on with Twitter. They may decide that blogging isn’t for them. It’s the same for everybody. But they’re less likely to dismiss these communication tools, which, for me, is encouraging.

I had several queries about setting up blogs – the software to use, how to pick up readers, etc – and a few about assorted sites like Twitter. I had a long chat with the current editor about making their website more Web 2.0 friendly. And, hopefully, we’ll see a few of them blogging and Twittering in the coming weeks.

Here’s a quick list of those I spoke to yesterday who’ve already joined Twitter:

Ben Bryant (gair rhydd editor): @benbryant

Emma (Comment & Opinion editor): @emcetera

Tom Victor (Sorry Tom, I didn’t catch your section): @tomvictor

Feel free to stop by and say hi to them.

[1] Ok, you could argue it still is, in many respects. But back then few newspapers were leaping aboard the blogging bandwagon. It felt much like where Twitter was last year.

[2] I think this may have been out of shyness on a couple of parts. It’s taken me this long to accept I’m an utter geek (or nerdlinger, which Katie Lee uses often and I think fits nicely). I didn’t like to admit it that far back.

Wherever the media is going, it’ll need subs and editors

On this week’s Soccerlens column, I made a fairly basic error. In a sleep-deprived state thanks to a bout of insomnia (at least that’s what I’m blaming it on), I said Droylsden were thrown out of the FA Cup for fielding an illegible player, not an ineligible one. An easy mistake but one, at the time, I said highlighted the need for sub-editors, which is something all of blogging could benefit from.

It goes without saying that I love teh blogs, and that they’re something that the media – be it journalists, broadcasters, magazines or PR are going to have to increasingly deal with on a professional level and/or incorporate into their work. But that doesn’t mean the medium itself is without problems.

One of the main problems is nicely illustrated between the differences between this blog and the weekly blog I do for Soccerlens. On this blog, I write about what I feel like, when I feel like it (or have time). On one respect, this is liberating. On the other hand it leads to its own issues.

For a start there’s no consistency to the postings. A lengthy, well-researched post about the future direction of broadcasting could be followed by a quick three-paragraph posting about the brilliance of Brie. Although this blog has found more of a niche in the year or so as I’ve got more interested in social media and the future of the media, it’s still difficult to classify it as anything other than a personal blog.

Contrast this with my stuff at Soccerlens. I know exactly what my brief is, although it’s possible to stray beyond this. I know who my audience is. And I have a deadline for completion. You could say it’s a very old media way of doing things, but by God it works. It’s why (I think) my columns there have slightly more consistency than what I write on here.

There’s another level that makes Soccerlens a slightly easier writing experience (other than the fact I could talk about football all day). Ahmed, the site’s editor, will occasionally question facts, which encourages me to double check everything I write. He also makes suggestions for columns, and I can run ideas by him.

By the same token, it’s no coincidence that some of the best posts on here (in my humble opinion and all that) come from earlier conversations with friends or colleagues that are later expanded to include further thoughts.

As for editorial policy on here, I’m never entirely sure what this consists of. Taking pitching, for example. Infrequently, I get pitched for both here and football writing [1]. The football requests are a lot easier to deal with because I know whether they’ll work with any of the places that’ll publish me.

The pitches for here are a slightly more arbitrary bunch that some often than not don’t entirely fit in with what usually appears on here, yet could also find a home here.

I may find it fascinating on a personal level, but does this mean my readers will think likewise if it’s far removed from the usual blog posts? And if I’m starting to consider the thoughts of my readers, does this mean this blog moves from the personal to the professional? And, if so, shouldn’t I be trying to make a lot more money than I do out of this lark? [2].

And then consider this. The traffic for this blog only really rises significantly when somebody like Roy Greenslade links to it. What does that say about the power of a individual blog that doesn’t operate within the parameters of a mainstream media organisation or larger blog network.

The obvious solution to this would be to pitch the ideas that are interesting but I don’t feel fit here to other publications, but I have a full-time job (as most other bloggers probably do) and, also, a social life, both of which are important to me [3]. If I were freelance and made money from this blog, I’d consider it.

So, we come back to the problem that I’d imagine isn’t just confined to this blog. They may be challenging the media’s hegemony, but, unless there’s a self-imposed set of deadlines and a clear editorial policy, there’s still somewhat rough around the edges. Some are rough diamonds, some are just rough.

The best individual blogs I’ve seen are the single issue ones, like Nosemonkey’s EUTopia (and it’s noticeable this really improved once he refined the editorial policy), Vee8, Two Footed Tackle (which is appealing for more writers), Going Underground, Random Acts of Reality and others of a no less eclectic, yet similar, ilk.

For all that’s been said about blogging changing the media, I suspect what is really meant here is mainstream media blogging or large group blogs. And it’s the large group blogs like Soccerlens, or the collective of excellent Shiny Media blogs that offer the greatest threat to the established media world rather than a stream of opinion from an individual blog like this. 

And let’s not also forget that this blog is just that: opinion. Soccerlens, Shiny et al are well established and are in a position to break stories quicker than traditional media. They have the contacts, the editorial focus, and the clout. If you were breaking a story, you’d give it more credence if it’s on a larger, more professional blog than the word of one man and his writing.

That isn’t to say certain individual bloggers won’t break news, or aren’t well-respected within their community. But if that news is to go beyond the community, it needs a wider audience.

The individual blog won’t go away. People won’t stop writing in them overnight. Thousands will continue to start new blogs each week. But it takes time for these blogs to start picking up traffic and search. These aren’t the blogs that will change media in a major way (although may still have the capacity for changing it in smaller, less tangible ways).

The group blogs may, in many respects, ape the mainstream media model. But they’re still a different beast entirely – a hybrid of what’s gone before and what’s coming now. And most importantly, they have editors.

And with editors come coherence, standards, and direction. There is encouragement, creativity, standards and a chance to bounce ideas around that wouldn’t necessarily have come to light had it just been one person at their keyboard.

In the current round of job losses, editors and sub-editors (and, by God, don’t we just need the latter) have been among the first to go. Next to go, we may well find, will be standards. If the media is heading down that path, the web may just find that tightening their own editorial area could do them a world of good.

The only problem, as Katchooo Tweeted the other day, is who is going to pay for them.

[1] Soccerlens isn’t the only place I write about football, but it’s the only one I do regularly.

[2] And, with my work PR hat on, this is why, when I’m pitching to bloggers, I like to make damn sure that if I’m emailing them, it will be a) worth their time to read the pitch; and b) something that they will be more likely than not to blog about.

[3] For ‘social life’ don’t just read ‘going to the pub’. It’s downtime with friends and family, which is just as important. You need a work-life balance.

The report of blogging’s death is an exaggeration

The weblog is dead, long live the blog. Or, if you’re Paul Boutin, who wrote an obituary for blogging at Wired magazine the other day, blogging is just dead and we should bury it now:

“Thinking about starting your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.”

Blimey, that’s a cheerful start to the day, and the prognosis just gets worse:

“Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It’s almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.”

The article has caused quite a stir both on and offline and it looks as if BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones will be doing a piece on this on Radio 4’s Today programme tomorrow, asking if blogging is dead.

But the question itself seems somewhat tautologous. A blog post about blogging has got other blogs and non-blogs talking about the death of blogging. For a medium that, last time I checked, definitely wasn’t six feet under, it’s doing a remarkably good job of still getting itself noticed.

As the old saying goes, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, and nobody’s stopped talking about it yet, so writing epitaphs seems a trifle premature.

The cynic in me suspects the post was written largely to get a reaction (and has succeeded), but rather than taking it to the extreme of death, it’s worth asking what’s different between blogging in 2008 than blogging, say, four years ago when citizen journalism was the new buzzword.

It’s certainly true that there are more professional blogs, corporate blogs and group blogs than there were back then. Indeed, it seems like you’re not a proper web 2.0-ed up company unless you’ve got yourself a company blog and are down with the proverbial kids.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? Far from it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s a positively encouraging one, as it shows the evolution and maturing of blogging.

Brands, companies and traditional media are starting to move to the same level as bloggers – interacting, acknowledging and treating some of them as they would any other source. That news can be broken almost instantaneously via the web, and that spurious claims can be easily disproved, should continue to excite.

It also continues to highlight the power of the web or, more accurately, the power of Google. Get negative comments on your service and this will have a significant impact on your brand name’s Google juice – the last thing any company wants to see is the front page of results all criticising the product.

But get it right and a quick Google will produce pages of praise, which is as valuable to a brand’s reputation as any offline campaign. By placing blogging at the heart of this, it further increases the democratisation of the web. Again, this can only be a good thing.

I’ve said before that I see blogging as a medium that fits neatly into Habermas’ ideal of the public sphere. You have discussion about current events and those blogs that are the best informed, best written, or most entertaining will rise to the top. Those that sit ranting badly written rants will continue to attract just a small portion of readers. It is a free market in the currency of opinion.

A quick word about the negativity and vitriol Paul Boutin highlights in his article. This has been around since, really, day one of the internet and won’t change. Trolls won’t go away and there’ll always be that slightly odd group of people who take a perverse delight in sitting in the comments spewing hatred.

But we can live with that. What they most crave is attention, so by ignoring them they’re not getting the reaction they desire. And, if anything, the net seems to have increased in politeness.

Bloggers – and brands, companies and the like – are more willing to go into the comments and forums and politely put forward their point of view while there’s an informal online etiquette that is still evolving. People are getting more willing to engage, and the nuttier online element can be ignored.

Although the Technorati State of the Blogosphere 2008 noted a fall in the number of blogs, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re seeing the death of blogging. There are, perhaps, a few explanations for this:

  1. Many of the original bloggers are getting older, so are moving to more high-powered positions of responsibility in the real world and have less time to blog, but this doesn’t mean they’re any less committed or enthusiastic to using blogs outside of a personal setting.
  2. A few of the really good bloggers – in whatever field – have been snapped up by bigger companies and have started blogging there instead, be it for traditional media sites, or overseeing company blogs.
  3. Many of the niche bloggers have pooled resources. Why have five blogs about a topic when you can come together in a group blog, where there’s less chance of lack of posting time and content, and a greater range of debates. Ultimately, every blogger wants to be read and joining forces to improve the Google juice increases the likelihood of this.

But Paul’s certainly got a point when he alludes to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr being the future. However, it’s worth pointing out that these aren’t blogging and blogging isn’t Twitter, Flickr or Facebook. Blogging is well-established enough not to be a passing fad.

Yes, all three offer a more concise immediacy that blogging, perhaps, can’t offer. But while Flickr could be described as photoblogging, it’s still different from blogging with words. They’re too very difficult entities. Nobody said the rise of photography led to the death of journalism.

Facebook is, again, different from blogging in so many ways. Sure, you can publish your blog to Facebook, but it seems to have settled into a niche as a networking, email exchange and event organiser. If people blog in there, they’re doing it for a specific audience.

And, more importantly, they’re still engaging in blogging, even if it’s in a more locked-out audience specific environment. But then, you could argue, this is just a more grown up version of Live Journal.

Finally, Twitter, which is the closest thing to blogging. It’s even described as microblogging, to which it is. But it’s still fundamentally different.

Twitter has probably been responsible for a decline in brief, one line blog posts. But take a look at the links being shared on Twitter, and then look at how many of them are, in fact, sharing ideas via blogs. Blogging and Twitter is symbiotic.

All of the above contributes to the conversation, and blogging is still very much a part of it. So the early adopters may not blog. So there are more personal blogs than ever before, and it may well be difficult to get your voice heard. That still doesn’t mean it’s a dying medium. Far from it.

This final snapshot may not be entirely reflective of the health of the blogosphere, but it, I think, provides a decent enough conclusion: in both a work and personal environment, I estimate I must get about half a dozen queries a week about blogging – how to set up a blog, what’s best blog practice, how to pitch to a blog, how to write a blog, and the rest.

That, to me, shows a medium that’s in rude health.

A thank you

People sometimes ask me why I started blogging. There’s a variety of reasons, but in the end it largely comes down to one person. A person who is, really, long overdue a big thank you.

When I first started blogging at the now defunct blogger-hosted Coffee and PC in the late summer of 2003, it was largely down to my friend Jasmine.

Jasmine, or missiedith as she’s known on her online community and blog, had been blogging for a while. She was definitely an early adopter.

I can’t even remember why we got talking about blogging, or why she thought I’d be into blogging. It wasn’t the kind of thing I’d have asked about or even had much clue about. Maybe her girlfriend mentioned it once. I’m not sure.

I do remember she kept bugging me to start a blog though. She employed a gentle nagging by frequently asking me if I’d started up a blog, or that I was the kind of person who would enjoy blogging.

She was right.

It took a bit of gentle nagging to get me to start blogging, but I spent plenty of time browsing her well-designed blog and the blogs on her blogroll. And other blogs on those blogrolls. And so on. And I was hooked.

So, one quiet and slightly dull day in August, I signed up to blogger and created My First Blog. Otherwise known as Coffee and PC, and complete with a pretentious image of Jean-Paul Belmondo in A Bout de Souffle as my profile picture.

Jasmine was really the cause of that and, when after a couple of months I seemed to have exhausted everything I wanted to say, she simply shrugged and said: “Everybody gets that. You’ll find something to write about soon.” Or words to that effect.

Because she’d been blogging for a while, and had picked up a fair bit of Google juice, when she linked to me, my traffic, comments and Google ranking went up. And so did my confidence as a blogger.

It’s fair to say my style, and topics, have changed since the first few months. Back then it was a bit more ranty, with lots of swearing and focused mainly on either me or politics. I’m quite glad I don’t write so much about me or politics these days.

Blogging, I think, would have been something I’d have eventually fallen into, but probably much later. But my life may have taken a slightly different route.

Ok, that’s perhaps a bit dramatic. But blogging opened up my eyes to the possibilities of journalism outside of traditional media. I started reading some brilliant writers who I’d have never have found.

Insofar as it’s possible to ‘get’ what blogging is about, I got a better idea of it, and started thinking how it could be used for journalism and PR. I kept close tabs on a lot of sites and ideas that now form the bedrock of social media thinking – and again was aware of how that could be used for journalism and PR.

And I’ve used blogging for journalism and PR. I’ve generated off-diary stories solely through the blogging community. I’ve worked on projects that have significantly boosted web traffic for assorted newsrooms because I was confident in how to work online and with bloggers and forums.

My blog wasn’t directly responsible for landing me my current job. But it helped, I think. And, more than that, I’ve embraced blogging and social media to a degree that it’s become much more of my job that I originally thought it would.

It’s driven me to write about a subject I love – football – and get paid work off the back of it.

Plus, I’ve met some fantastic people – some of whom are now very good friends – through blogging.

As media enters into an uncertain, digital age, I feel excited and undaunted by the online challenges that my industry faces. Whether I’m working in PR or journalism, I at least feel I have some grasp on the media and the web and can handle the transition, whatever and whenever that may be.

Granted, I’ve made a lot of decisions along the way that you’d be hard-pushed to trace back to Jasmine. But in the back of my mind, I know that a lot of my current work and interests owe one hell of a lot to her gentle nagging and belief that I’d enjoy blogging.

Sadly, I’ve completely lost touch with her. After I graduated, I slipped out of touch with several friends and she was one of them. I have no idea what she’s up to now, and until recently I assumed she’d packed up her blog completely.

And the funny thing is, I didn’t even know her that well before she started nagging me to blog. But I’m sure glad she did.

So this is just a small thank you. It’s the least I can do.

Well, that and return your Aladdin video I borrowed once and never gave back. Sorry about that.

Blogging breaking news

Who says blogs can’t break news? In an age where most footballer-penned blogs are full of bland commentary and meticulously on-message, Dean Windass’s post for his weekly ITV.com blog about considering his future at Hull if he didn’t get picked came as somewhat of a surprise. But it was also a great story, and one a journalism would usually have to work hard to get out of a player.

Unsurprisingly, it was the blogs who picked up on it first, before the local newspaper, the Daily Mail, the Vital Football Hull fan site and ESPN,all done with just a couple of emails alerting people to the story. AFter that, things snowballed.

Yes, the blog may have been hosted by a major media company, but the story, which started life on a small part of the site, quickly found its way around the internet and onto the fans forums. Just from one blog post. And the majority of stories credited the blog.

There’s news in them blogs alright – and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Calling football bloggers

Chris from Two Footed Tackle and I had been talking about getting a bunch of football bloggers together at some point.

But rather than set up a blog meetup, Chris has gone one step further and created a Football Blogger social network using Ning (the same rather good platform Ben has used to created meandmybicycle.com).

If you’re a football blogger that occasionally swings by here, do check it out and join. Hopefully at some point we can organise a meetup down the pub, and maybe take in a game or two.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com