Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leveson enquiry: blogs to inherit freedom of the press?

The Leveson enquiry into press standards reports today, amid fears that 300 years of press freedom in Great Britain are about to end. Even should this be the case, however, freedom of information will not cease but will merely move: to the blogosphere.

It’s surely no coincidence that the two publications in which comment is most free – ie in which editorial policy is for editorial policy to have the lightest touch possible – are the Mail and the Spectator, which both have sizeable and well-visited online presences (the Mail’s is suspected to be the only newspaper website making money). The Spectator has vowed to break the law if mandatory regulation is introduced, and one suspects that the Mail will carry regardless.

click to see Wired's list of news-breaking tweets
The blogosphere’s ascendancy became noticed in January 2009, when Jim Hanrahan (aka Manolantern) tweeted a photo of UA Airways Flight 1549 in Hudson Bay, scooping the New York Times. On the same network in 2011 a tech consultant inadvertently tweeted the start of the operation to kill Osama bin Laden, while in 2010 bloggers circulated a picture of Cambridge’s Labour parliamentary Daniel Zeichner - click to read morecandidate Daniel Zeichner performing a Nazi salute in election hustings before it made the newspapers, who seemed to still regard bloggers as something to scrape off their shoes.

Then Damien Thompson was promoted to the position of the Daily Telegraph’s blog editor: everything had changed. Now, when you hear phrases such as "the BBC has learnt…" it usually means that a news editor read it on a blog but either doesn’t want to or isn’t allowed to admit it.

Personally I buy papers for puzzles and get breaking news online, but if newspaper stories have to go through a central committee then papers will become mostly commentaries and blogs will inherit responsibility to maintain press freedom, much of which they carry already.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

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