I work hard at not writing about blogging these days, but something always turns up and I’m forced to relent. This one is irresistible for a number of reasons.
Keith Waterhouse is a British National Treasure. He’s incredibly old, being the author of that 1950s smash hit novel and film, Billy Liar. He claimed to be one of the “Angry Young Men” — all the rage in those days — but his sense of humour prevented him ever being angry enough.
He went on to become a very good journalist and playwright, defender of the apostrophe (everyone’s entitled to some eccentricity), and author of a long-running column in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.
And it’s to the latter we turn for his views on blogging. Yesterday, he published a piece titled, “Blogging our way to the true story”.
He begins characteristically : “And a happy blogging New Year to bloggers everywhere. I don’t think.” That’s Keith for you. Sharp and to the point.
He continues, “Meaning I cannot be doing with blogging, bloggers or blogs.” He quotes an example of a typical Christmas blog : “Tarquin, as well as being Head Boy, is now First Triangle in the school orchestra, which gives him a place in next year’s Carnegie Hall and Hollywood Bowl all-schools production of Peter and the Wolf.”
But even worse, he says, is the rise of the grandiosely termed Citizen Journalism. “They print hearsay as hard fact. They lift news items from orthodox sources and embellish them in their own wild words. They twist the newspaper writer’s motto, which is Get It First, Get It Right, to read : Get It Second, Get It Wrong.”
Blimey, someone’s rattled his cage. I hope it wasn’t me.
But he has a solution to this morass of unseemly garbage into which he despatches all bloggers : “To all pejorative references to the phrase ‘Citizen Journalist’ please add : ‘– unless they have a camera’. … I make an exception in the case of photographs.”
Here he goes on at length about the Saddam Hussein execution : “The bloggers were there, though, armed with picture-snatching mobile phone cameras. The official photo coverage … was grisly enough. The bloggers’ contribution — grabbed at the gallows … shocked all right thinking people. … the sheer brutality of the scene takes[s] us back to the public hanging of felons at Tyburn in the 18th century.”
In other words, blogging is OK so long as it tells us a truth that mainstream media is locked out from. Bloggers are forever condemned to be bandits and outlaws, stealing banned information and news of private events that the law and other agencies try to conceal from us.
Well, it’s a tidy gap in the market, if a bit hard to live up to on a daily basis. If this is the view of an old-time journalist and general good egg, blogging does suffer from an image problem. But then, we’ve been saying that here for a long time.
I can’t help feeling that if Waterhouse rewrote Billy Liar for our times, Billy would be a blogger.