The End of Blogging?

Sameh Habeeb is a blogger we’ve used on the World Service a lot. He lives in Gaza and if you want an authentic street level voice he’s a radio programme’s dream: speaks great English, has an unusually excellent phone line and was never backward about coming forwards with his strident opinion — from the Palestinian POV of course. Last week I wanted to get Sameh on to talk about Fatah and Hamas and the chances for unity . . I quickly checked out his blog and my heart sank.

Sameh has started a newspaper. His top blog post was all about the Palestinian Telegraph. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I picked up the phone and gave him a call.

“Can you come on air and talk about whether you think unity is possible?”

“Sure no problem . . will it take long?”

“Nah, we just want to get your opinion . . .maybe 5 minutes pre-rec.”

“I’m sorry I can’t give you my opinion. I cannot compromise my impartiality. I’m starting a newspaper”

I paraphrase, but only slightly. So there we have it. Another independent voice lost to the lure of the MSM. Some might say “So what? He was biased anyway”. Sure, you didn’t go to Sameh to find out how residents of Sderot feel about the latest chicanery in Palestinian politics but that’s the whole point of blogs and bloggers — you got a mouthy and opinionated dude who had already proved their willingness to talk by virtue of their written work. I’ve never contacted a blogger or YouTuber or Tweeter who didn’t want to come on air.

But is this a growing trend? Sameh isn’t the first genuine blogger to decide they were better off joining the massed ranks of the MSM. There’s a prominent politics blogger in the Buckeye state who now has official press accreditation and even appears on CNN to talk about the blogosphere, but I’ve noticed this person when on air is now more guarded and less activist in their tone. The edge has been taken off, the outer layer of naivete scraped away. Good luck to Sameh of course — I wonder how Hamas will feel about his attempts at “impartiality”?

But with micro-blogging on FaceBook’s status wall and Twitter getting a lot of attention right now, are we seeing the demise of a process that now seems dated and quaint: spend a week thinking up a great domain name for your blog, find out someone else has taken it so you come up with a blander alternative, you register and set up your WordPress DB, craft your first post which you are sure will have a life-changing affect on the world of media, you hit publish and sit back and watch your hit counter stay static at 5 (all from you), then the moment of joy as it hits 6 swifly followed by a deflating sigh when the phone rings and your Mum calls to say she’s just visited your site and could you pay more attention to your spelling? Why go to that bother when you can go onto FaceBook and update your status in a matter of seonds? The sheen has worn of blogging and I fear the future is short, sharp and very, very timely. We saw it with the Hudson miracle and we’ll see it again; super relevant communication in the form of sequenced ultra short (sub 140 char) updates rather than long, elaborate and hopefully spelling-mistake-free missives sent from suburban sittingrooms or, in the case of this overly long ramble, a train going over the Forth Rail Bridge.

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