It’s about far more than Bristol: blogging debate filling up fast

by Christina Zaba

Seats are filling up for this weekend’s blogging convention at Bristol’s Watershed and the Pervasive Media Studio, where bloggers, journalists, and those who are both, will be coming together to unearth some truths about the media, the blogosphere, accountability and truth-telling.

With fantastic Friday-night panel members and a range of invited bloggers in the audience, followed by two free in-depth workshops on the Saturday, the event is a first for Bristol, the UK’s digital city.

It’s also timely. Just two weeks ago the BBC’s political presenter Andrew Marr, from the comfort of his perch at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, dismissed bloggers as “socially inadequate, pimpled, single young men sitting in their mothers’ basements, ranting”.

But many would say that it’s Marr who is out of touch, in a world where the news agenda is frequently now set by the blogosphere itself, and where millions of people from Rangoon to Tehran depend on the blogosphere every day for reliable information and unpoliced communication.

Whereas companies like oil-dumping Trafigura can injunct mainstream papers like the Guardian, they can’t do much about social media spreading the story worldwide, to real political effect.

So – is blogging democracy, or anarchy? And does anyone even know? Is social media, in fact, reinventing activism, and if so, aren’t trade unions the very institutions which should be engaging with it?

Bristol NUJ entered the debate a year ago, when we launched this website with a report about a fringe meeting at the union’s ADM, which discussed enrolling new media workers in the NUJ.

The meeting, we said, had broadly agreed that “anyone producing creative content online who isn’t merely a blogger should be able to join”.

That got our knuckles well and truly rapped by the anonymous Bristol Blogger, who called us “a coalition of rich daddy’s boys who hang around the Watershed with laptops and a bunch [of] embittered ex-Western Daily Press hacks”.

Great stuff. Bring it on, you bloggers! But (in a spirit of trade union democracy and sister- and brotherhood) how about meeting up to discuss the issues, we said?

The NUJ Vice-President agreed, as did others, pointing out that non-journalistic members of Indymedia collectives and bloggers can join the union as associate members.

So we talked to UWE, MediaWise, the Festival of Ideas, Watershed, and attracted interest from the European research project,MediaAct; we raised money, invited people, got the ball rolling.

The events of this weekend will involve bloggers, journalists, students and the public from the West and further still; it will be streamed live all over Europe, and kick off further research. Most of all, it brings the NUJ into the heart of the issues. We hope it’s just the start.

The debate is about professional standards, about theory and practice, about a revolution that’s already happening and is changing the media landscape worldwide. It’s about far more than Bristol.

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Read more about the weekend’s events at the Guardian; listen to the interview with Bristol NUJ chair Paul Breeden at Bristol Community FM and with Brooke Magnanti, on tonight’s Ben Prater show, BBC Radio Bristol between 5 and 6 pm.

What’s the Blogging Story? starts at 7pm in Bristol’s Watershed on Friday 22 Oct, and continues at the Pervasive Media Centre on Sat 23.

See www.newsfutures.co.uk for more details.

Tickets for Friday Oct 22 7 pm, £7/concs and NUJ members £5, 0117 927 5100 www.watershed.co.uk

To register interest in Saturday’s workshops, go to www.newsfutures.co.uk/category/event

Thanks to all the people who have generously given their time and expertise to make sure this live debate about the blogosphere and new media takes place. That includes all the panellists, chairs and facilitators, NUJ members, officials and branch officers, bloggers who have agreed to take part, Bristol Festival of Ideas director Andrew Kelly, Watershed, Pervasive Media Studio, tech wizard Andy Channelle, Tony Gosling of BCFM and Dialect Radio, and many others.

We’re all going to enjoy taking a breather once it’s all over, before we get ready for….the 5th public NUJ/Arnolfini Benn Lecture, on 26th November, featuring a star lady columnist from the Mail on Sunday. Watch this space.

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  1. Elisabeth says:

    Looking forward…

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