Monday, February 14, 2005

What's Wrong with the Irish Times?

Robin Lynch's article on the Irish blogs generated quite a lot of comment, some here below and some on the other Irish blogs.

Robin came back to me on the comments below.

Fair points, Peter.

How much of your ire is directed against my article and how much against the paper that I work for?

I think an even mix of both, with another equal share being reserved for the profession of journalism as whole, which I've come to believe cannot deliver, largely because accurate news and opinion don't pay either for journalists or for publishers, outside of information on the financial markets.

The paper has a number of problems. Every time I read it, and I do so fairly rarely because paper copies are hard to get here, I think that it comes out very poorly in comparison with my other regular reads, the Financial Times and New York Times. Needless to say, both of these have financial resources that the IT can only dream of, but there's a diversity of opinion and concern for examining perceptions there that the IT hasn't captured.

Sam Smyth wrote about this last year in his piece on being an Irish foreign correspondent in Studies.

I can't believe that you think that I would purposefully exclude blogs that criticise the IT, as if by pretending they don't exist they might go away. I chose five or six of the best blogs that I read on a daily basis; I could just have easily mentioned several others, including yours.

I don't mind the selection of blogs, and in spite of appearances, I'm no egomaniac!

Not elaborating on the inherent differences between blogs and newspapers is one big fault with the article, IMHO. I write this blog because a lot of what I read is simply poorly sourced and hamstrung by weak analysis. I think that this is a particular problem for the Irish Times columnists, of whom O'Toole is the biggest waste of space ever, Myers an eejit and Waters nothing beyond a stylist with nothing left to say once he's exhausted his Roscommon POV.

As far as falling behind the times, I think as a prominent Irish blogger you might be lacking a little perspective. Far from "explaining the world to the great unwashed" I hope the piece will encourage more people to get involved, which can only be a good thing.

I wrote: "I would have been impressed if I'd read this eighteen months ago: As it is, we've another example of some IT journo with a pass degree in English trying to explain the world to the great unwashed. I think that he's missing the point."

OK, here I'm breaking my own rules on not dishing out personal abuse - I'm sure you're a smart guy, so my apologies. I would however be curious to hear about your route into the paper.

My point is, as I go into in more detail below, that any of the bloggers you mention could probably have written a much better version of this article, laying out case studies of the effects of blogs on politics and the media and making some forecasts.

This gets to the key points. First, I perceive in the article, and this can be subjective, that there's the attitude that everybody with any brain cells is entirely in agreement with the Times' "liberal" view of the world, summed up in the famous quote from New Yorker film critc, Pauline Kael: "I don't understand how Nixon could have won! I don't know anyone who voted for him."

Second, Where the really important stories in which blogs have played a starring role? All of these might be a bit obscure to anyone who doesn't follow the American political scene, but I'd expect an article such as this to catch them. How can you leave out Drudge's breaking the Lewinsky story that the Washington Post turned down? The role of blogs in shining the light on Trent Lott's birthday oration about "all these problems"? The keruffle over the fake memos exposed by the blogs when Dan Rather was insisting on their accuracy?

Third, the Dean campaign showcased blogs, but two other innovations,'s ability to create an online community and convert it into a huge, self-sustaining grassroots campaign entirely seperate from the control of the churches, unions, businesses and various special interests - especially feminists, abortion rights campaigners, lawyers and the African-American and Jewish communities that have formed the backbone of the Democrats. You can find the sources I've come across on the Dean campaign in my archives, along with some other ruminations on the paper.

I did consider for a while becoming a journalist myself - but I think I would find it immensely frustrating not to be able to DO anything, rather than just report and feel impotent and unable to feel as if I really understand something by driving it.

I did offer to take a bet from all comers that the IT would be hit by a journalistic ethics scandal before May this year. This farce over the paper being sued by its own columnist seems to have proven me correct!