Is the web saving journalism?
Tran Le Thuy writes:
Filling the gaps journalism can't
While a BBC journalist is finding time for a five-paragraph breaking news story, a blogger can overtake conventional journalism by getting the news out to the world faster in just a two sentence entry. No structure. No deadline. No word limits. It's the gaps the web is filling that journalism can't, Mick Fealty told a Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism lunchtime seminar on 26 November.
Speaking about what he described as 'the suitably intimidating title': 'How the web is saving journalism and making it better', Mick Fealty, the creator of leading Northern Ireland political blogger Slugger O'Toole, pointed to a critical gap that mainstream journalism has failed to cover. It's the editorial control in newsroom. For example, since the peace process, news coverage about Northern Ireland has declined worldwide, he said, but Sinn Fein and the DUP continue to battle over power sharing. 'None of the mainstream reporters report the problem within the government,' said Mick Fealty. 'Blog is the only player to have real fix on this.' Fealty suggested mainstream media indulged in self-censorship for fear of being unhelpful to the peace process, adding that it was 'opportunism' for the web to fill in the missing key points.
'How do we get from a simple blog to being an influential player in Northern Ireland? I would say it's opportunism. It's filling the gaps that journalism can't get to,' said Mick Fealty. Set up in June 2002 as part of a research paper, Slugger O'Toole investigated and explained the complexity of Northern Ireland's politics. It now reaches 67 thousand readers a day, making it the biggest political blog on Northern Ireland.
But there is a clear distinction between journalism and the web. It's information verification. There is a lot of untruth on the Internet. Mick Fealty said any unverified, one-sourced news on his blog has to be clearly labeled as rumour. 'If a piece of news is wrong, my credibility is ruined,' he said. 'journalism and the web are two parallel worlds, but in fact some principles are the same. In a blog it is impossible to hide what’s wrong because you are constantly reviewed by peers and readers.'
While comments and interactions seem to be free on Slugger O'Toole, Mick Fealty has in fact applied a solid rule: 'Play the ball, not the man'. 'We don't allow readers to attack politicians personally. What we try to do is to let people talk about what they think, not what they feel.'
Does he make any money after spending so much time on his blog? Fealty said he went through a personal financial crisis about 18 months ago because he spent so much time on the blog and didn't make enough money to cover it. His other work suffered as well. However, things started to improve and advertising brought in more money. He also got a job as political blogger for the Telegraph. 'It gradually went from a hobby to a great success,' said Mick Fealty. 'It doesn't earn me money but it earns me a reputation. It gives me a network of people who know that I know things.'