Remember when bloggers uncovered evidence that Reserve Bank of Australia subsidiary Securency was using money-laundering techniques to channel suspected bribe money to a company in the Seychelles? Me neither. Journalists at the Age and the ABC broke that story. Investigative journalism takes time, persistence and hard work so it’s no surprise almost all of it is done by professional journalists. Yet I’m constantly reading comments like this:
If you didn’t know already, the task of serious investigative political journalism is being undertaken by a dedicated cohort of political bloggers, such as Grogs Gamut, Larvatus Prodeo, The Political Sword, and others. They are not paid and do it for the love of it, hence they are also not subject to the whims of a proprietor. You’ll get more analysis of policies here than in a month of Sundays in the local rags or TV stations.
There’s some great stuff on Australian blogs, but it’s hardly a replacement for the work of professional journalists. Writing in your pajamas after work might keep you out of reach of the truth-throttling tentacles of teh evil Rupert Murdoch, but it doesn’t leave much time to phone your sources, search public records or crunch numbers.
Of course there’s always the ‘conceptual scoop‘ — catching readers’ attention with a sharp piece of analysis that makes sense of facts everybody already knows. But much of the blogosphere’s political analysis is conceptually derivative. For example, Hillbilly Skeleton’s insightful piece on issue framing for The Political Sword turned out to be a cut and paste from George Lakoff’s 2004 manifesto (as Alex White pointed out).
It’s true that Australian political journalism could be a lot better. Not long ago blogger Matt Cowgill used ABS statistics to show how silly some of News Limited’s budget coverage was. No doubt there’ll be more of this kind of thing. But before bloggers and their readers declare victory in their imagined war against journalists, maybe it’s time to stop and think. Why do so many people still pay to read journalism but ignore blogs even when they’re free?
Update: Alex White disagrees:
In my view, many more people are reading blogs – and many successful blogs from around the world have become “mainstream”, incorporated into a major newspaper (the Guardian, New York Times and even The Australian has done this). So, Arthur’s question is mis-concieved.