Not The Nine O’Clock News

Piaras Kelly thinks

It isn’t hard to think why some people hold blogs in such disdain given the fact that there’s all this chatter about the phrase ‘Web 2.0?, but in terms of some of the biggest stories which have been in the news recently such as the Afghan hunger strikers in St. Patricks Cathedral, Irish bloggers have been relatively silent.

Is news solely what is in the papers? Is discussing what is in that news a measure of relevancy?

I write about what interests me. I have some eccentric interests, I’ll admit, as anyone reading my dissection of the Annual Report of the Data Protection Commissioner will know. Or listening to me talking about a largely ignored painting in the national gallery. Neither topic is going to hit the front page. Or even page 17 of most papers. But the pleasure of reading blogs, and in particular Irish blogs I have to say, is seeing people writing about their stories and their interests.

Auds, with whom I’ve barely agreed with on anything, is a better representative of her minority viewpoint than her mainstream counterpart Breda O’Brien. Suzy writes about generally ignored things in a funny, intelligent way that makes it enjoyable to share her experiences. Damien straddles lots of different strands and styles of blogging, while still reflecting his own personality. Fustar delves into important matters such as the explanation for the perplexing mystery of Count Curly Wee in the Irish Indo.

If all the Irish blogs were compiled into a daily paper, its news agenda would be barely recognisable as sharing the same country as our traditional broadcast and print news. But that doesn’t mean that it is valueless or worthy of “disdain”. It just goes to show what anyone involved in a reported court case learns- that reality as it is experienced and the story of that experience as it is reported are rarely one and the same thing. Having sat through cases that turned on one vital moment and then read reports the next day that didn’t mention that moment at all, I know which I’m more inclined to rely on.

PR has historically relied on mass media to reach aggregated audiences. Strictly speaking, most of it is a waste of money as the audience reached is mostly made up of people who don’t care. There was no way of separating out the targeted section of society from the rest of us.

For example, yesterday’s newspapers carried pictures of a blond lady with a kitten on her shoulder and a puppy in her hand. The caption told us that it was National Spay Week. I own no pets, so I don’t care.

But I do care about Tom’s travails- and the fact of his new baby- just as local radio gets its highest listernerships for the obituaries. These are important facts to the audience who knew, or knew of, the people involved. And, unlike most stories in the news, I can contribute something to the discussion- a bit of thought on what I’d do if a client of mine came to me with a letter like that. And maybe a little legal discussion on trade mark applications.

The proof offered of blogging’s irrelevance is that it doesn’t discuss big news stories, but prefers navel gazing. In response I can only say this: the proof of blogging’s relevance to its audience is that we talk about the things that engage us personally- not the things we’re told ought to.

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