Thursday 8 November 2007

Political Blogging at the Telegraph

Yesterday evening I went to a panel on political blogging organised by Shane Richmond who runs the Telegraph's Technology blog. I had some trouble with Buckingham Palace Road's strange numbering system but eventually found the Telegraph's offices with its potentially ski-able escalator.

The panel consisted of Mick Fealty (and here), Tim Montgomerie, Lloyd Shepherd, and Alex Hilton and some other Telegraph guy who spoke exceptionally quietly. (Interestingly, no women). The proceedings were chaired by Iain Dale.

Here are some of the main themes to come out of the session.

1. Political blogging in the UK is two or three years behind the US. Panellists seemed frustrated by the state funded nature of British politics which hampered blogging activism, whereas in the States blogging and political debate is driven forward by the need for party fundraising.

2. There was general agreement that blogging democratised politics but scpeticism over how much influence the medium was having on politics. Tim Montgomerie: "Blogs are forming a new conversation". This "represents a massive decentralisation of power".

It was noted that blogs have not claimed any major political scalps as they have done in the US. Iain Dale wondered if political blogging in the UK was still moving forward at the moment.

3. The BBC's non-partisan political reporting was cited as a reason why political conversation has been diminished in the UK. Lloyd Shepherd: "[The BBC has] created a culture of political discourse which is devoid of energy". Mick Fealty described political reporting at the BBC as a "bland narrative".

4. Alex Hilton doesn't think the 'blogosphere' exists in any coherent sense and believes that bloggers are "micropublishers" feeding off, and feeding to, larger media organisations.

5. Mick Fealty thinks bloggers expectations have been too high in terms of what they can achieve. But says they provide a useful role in aggregating info and in-depth reporting.

6. Legal issues were discussed though nothing concrete really came out of these musings.

7. Some discussion of whether political bloggers are an elite cartel from the Westminster village. Not entirely accepted by the panel, but Tim Montgomerie admitted that most of those currently running politics blogs did have strong Westminster connections.

8. Tim Montgomerie: the best blogs have a specialist focus.

9. Nobody seemed to quite know where political blogging is going. Panellists seemed dumbfounded by the apparent inability of the major political parties to effectively use Internet technology. And there was some discussion about virtual political parties which could be started online and the possiblity that social networking might be used for political activism. It seems to me that these gaps are waiting to be exploited and the political establishment might be in for a rude awakening.

More reaction can be found here, and here.


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