Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yesterday's conference on blogging and journalism - Thessaloniki, Greece

At the conference on blogging and journalism here at the Olympion cinema – first presentation was research on how Greek internet users view blogs in general and a source of news in particular. It seems that those on the internet (70+%) visit blogs regularly and many of them just under ¾ a reasonably accurate source of news.

Looks like the idea of anonymity will be discussed again, the idea that putting your name on a story is automatically better than remaining anonymous, the argument being that newspapers and other media are constantly faced by the threat of being sued for writing something that maybe be considered untrue.

However, there has been a number of cases in which newspapers and TV stations have quite happily spashed the images and names the six people arrested, allegedly involved in recent terrorist attacks. Defying the country's established codes of ethics the names and pictures of the detainees have been shown repeatedly on the country's TV screens and newspapers. Reporters have even dispensed with words such as “alleged” and “suspects” and simply referred to them as “terrorists”. Without trial, in some cases without even being charged the major TV channels had already decided that those detained were indeed guilty.

The overage has been so one sided that according to the Active media blog many journalist are demanding the Greek Press Council condemn these practices.

The mainstream media has simply broadcast, without any form of critical analysis the police's official reports or leaks concerning the case. In the UK or USA such coverage would be deemed enough to cause a mistrial as any kind of competent trial lawyer would argue that his/her clients would not receive a fair trial.

Thomas is speaking in defence of blogs, his main argument is that while many blog are indeed full of inaccuracies and groundless rumours the mainstream media is rife with such “news items”. If their beef with blogs is their level of professionalism and attention to details they are skating on thin ice. One only has to recall the case of the “visit” of Turkish PM to Greece last year. Despite the fact that the visit was called off on a Friday the Sunday newspapers Vima, Ethnos etc covered the event in great detail in their Sunday editions complete with pictures, quotes and analysis.

On the other hand we have Wikileaks, which Thomas is talking about now, as an example of how anonymity is sometimes necessary to cover stories governments and large, powerful organisations want to keep secret.

According to Thomas the most important thing is credibility in that just because a story or accusation appears on a blog means nothing unless that site has established itself as a credible source. He also argues in many respect TV news has lost ground in that it has ceased to be a trustworthy news source, at least according to the survey with just 1% of internet users considering TV the most reliable medium.

Once again none in the audience, myself excepted, seemed to be utlising any form of technology invented after the ball point pen. Instead they all just scribbled down notes on paper and seemed to havea particular weakness for any kind of stat.


I enjoyd the debate even f I didn't agree with much of what was said, though saying that the criticism made by the panel were well thought out and not just knee - jerk reactions to change. Unfortunately, I can not say the same of the Q&A session which followed. The questions pitched ranged from the inane to the incoherent. It seemed many of those budding journalists present had a hard time putting together a coherent utterence, god knows how they're going to cope with whole paragraphs.

Bloggers who write anonymously were even compared with masked hoodies who attack and firebomb banks in that they wished to hide their identity, which gives a pretty good idea of how low the intellectual content of much of the audience's contribution. It was a shame as there are plenty of serious issues concerning the changing role of the media and The People Formerly Known as the Audience.

It's a brave new world forming on the internet but anyone who believes that the sins and faults of the past will magically disappear with the advent of mass participation in the creation of the news is likely to be disappointed.

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