Blogs are about to be offered the possibility of being covered by Press Council rules and regulations. I think it is totally wrongheaded. Either the Press Council does not understand blogs, or they want to try to control them – at least to some extent.
Blogs like WhaleOil and Kiwiblog may soon be subject to the same rules as newspapers under expansion at The Press Council.
The move is planned for May 1, but already the Council has set back the start date to late May, while it talks through changes with potential new blogger members.
[…]The good news is consumers will have a venue to complain about bloggers who join the Press Council – without resorting the costly process of legal action.
More at the link.
As someone who has severe misgivings about the state of our current mainstream media, I have no desire to be subjected to, or subjugated by, a council dominated by the mainstream media (MSM).
The positives for blogs, as stated by Drinnan:
*blogs would achieve legitimacy they currently lack (with whom?). Drinnan seems to suggest blogs will then need to be explicit about whether they are being fed information by politicians;
*it may make it easier for blogs to make money out of the efforts of the bloggers.
The question of “balance” is raised in Drinnan’s article. The problem is, while “balance” is expected of news reports, it isn’t expected of op eds. And most political blog posts are more like op eds. Furthermore, balance is a contestable notion. Generally it means deciding on a “centre” and providing at least 2 viewpoints on either side of the centre. The problems with this can be seen on issues like climate change, where equal weight is given to climate skeptics and well researched evidence on climate change. “Balance” should not trump accuracy and reliability of reports. And the “centre” is a social construct that shifts over time.
The messages in the MSM can be skewed in may ways, especially these days when infotainment is rampant. The headlines can be skewed towards one viewpoint, with the opposing viewpoint buried at the bottom of the page. Too often left wing views are buried on the back pages. And entertainment and celebrity news gets way more attention than it deserves.
For me, a blog like The Standard has an important role in critiquing the MSM, and in providing viewpoints that rarely get much of a hearing.
Why would any of us want to be subjected to/subjugated by a body that represents a very imperfect system, dominated by media corporations, and commercial values?
A further concern, is to do with this point mentioned in Drinnan’s article.
Where an author’s link to a subject is deemed to be justified, the relationship of author to subject should be declared, “The Press Council declarations state.
This could work to undermine pseudonyms: a very important thing to protect in these days of invasive state surveillance.
Blogs are already subjected to laws like those of defamation and copyright. I don’t see what the Press Council can offer left wing blogs.
The only bloggers that Drinnan mentions are WhaleOil, Kiwiblog and Peter Aranyi.
Kiwiblog and Whale Oil have indicated interest but the Press Council wants a sizeable number so that its newspaper members are not subsidising costs.
Press Council executive director Mary Major said the shape of the expanded body should be defined by the end of May after discussion with bloggers.
The Press Council already allowed robust opinion under its freedom of speech, but blogs created special issues. she said,
“How do expect whale Oil to meet requirements for balance?” Major asked .
Discussion has been held several months and moves follow a review of the Press Council by its main funder, the Newspaper Publishers’ Association.
Who has been involved in these discussions apart from the afore mentioned bloggers? I’ve not heard anything about it on most left wing blogs.
An alternative possibility is suggested in Drinnan’s piece:
Even among bloggers like Peter Aranyi there are concerns,
Some bloggers seeking legitimisation as ‘news media’ …through membership of the Press Council – should more properly be applying for membership of the Public Relations Institute, said Aranyi who has written a lot about a culture of attacks in some blogs.
Peter Aranyi has a post about the issue today, on The Paepae. He says that in the Public Relations Institute,
members are required to be honest, ‘accurate and truthful’ in their endeavors on behalf of their clients [… “and in communicating with the public”].
To me, The standard is a well managed blog (h/t Lynn). I don’t see how the Press Council would help to improve it. This blog also works well, enabling a lot of discussion. Something the MSM generally doesn’t do as well, in my view. In such a blog, commenters are quick to point out inaccuracies in posts.
Accuracy and good quality evidence are important to me, but I don’t see the Press Council being the right body to administer standards in this area.