Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Blogging and the press

Driving to Aberdeen on Saturday was a strange experience for me. Listening to the news on the radio was the first time I'd seen (or heard) blogging dominate the Mainstream Media. The featured story was, of course, Guido Fawkes scoop regarding emails sent by (now former) Downing Street spinner Damian McBride and LabourList editor Derek Draper.

Listening to it I tried to think of the last time a newspaper broke political sleaze story that dominated the headlines for such a period of time. I'm thinking Paul Hutcheon in our Sunday Herald regarding the Wendy Alexander-campaign donations scandal... but even that was a while ago.

On the scandal itself, it brought to light something that I suspect most political parties have on stand-by as a tactic - not smearing as such but negative campaigning certainly. It's a plague on all their houses. The idiotic thing for McBride and Draper was not that they were discussing it, it's that they were doing it on emails - and got caught. Of course there's outrage and demands for apologies (on that note - why can't Gordon just say it - it's only a five letter word!) but I suspect there's a certain amount of celebration going on at Tory HQ. This kind of thing plays into their hands - another Labour scandal.

But what is equally interesting to me is how the MSM has covered the story - and how they have treated the blogosphere. Iain MacWhirter, he of Edinburgh rectorship (or should that be "rectum"?) has made his feelings about blogging rather clear in this piece for the Herald. Naturally, the blogosphere has hit back, in its own imitable (and that is it's beauty) style. Will, Jeff, Yousuf and Alex Massie all crit MacWhirter's journalism. And they are right: the newspapers "don't like it up 'em."

Basically all Guido has done here is what - if a newspaper ever got round to it - would be called "investigative journalism." It is nothing more sinister. Though MacWhirter does raise an interesting point: If Draper hadn't been so damning of Guido and Iain Dale over the Carol Thatcher gaffe then they probably wouldn't have looked quite so hard for an opportunity to get him. As it is, he made it easy for them - and it now looks like his blogging project is over (at least for him).

The end result: A big scalp for Guido and presumably a surge in readership, Labour painted with another scandal, a poll bump for the Tories, the end of the political careers of Draper and McBride and some MSM coverage for the blogosphere. And all because two guys are daft enough to think no one can access their emails.

To think we let them run the country...


Alan Smart 14 April 2009 at 14:15  


Good post. Ive a fair amount of time for ian mcwhirter as an incisive commentator. But lets be blunt. he dont like blogging as noone on the net would pay him £500for the his colunms and he has just manahged get two published about Guido and co - in both the heral and the Scot,man attacking blogger. Ching! - £1000!

Nice cosy arrangement - money for himand cover for these editors who missed the story and were then slow on the uptake.

And Iain McWhirter is a blogger - just a failed one. Check out his blog - no posts for about two months...once that Rector's chair was safely secured!

Guido - the journalistic scoop of the century so far. I reckon this will finnish brown by the time it's played out. The comrades are a plotting a midnight coup.....

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