Dear Hugh Martin, why didn’t you call?

Hugh Martin of APN Online has commented on the ongoing artificial journalist vs. blogger thing. His post seeks to establish him as both experienced professional journalist and experienced “online guy”. I’ll pay him on both accounts.

However, his post exhibits some of the worst traits he and the other professional journalists have accused bloggers of perpetuating – failure to research adequately, failure to contact the subjects of criticism for comment and unsubstantiated op-ed. As far as I know, Hugh didn’t contact any of the people he criticises – me, Mark Pesce, Stilgherrian and Chris Saad. He accuses us of generalisation, laziness and, remarkably:

… not to have the first clue about the way MSM actually works, and [clinging] violently to a set of pre-ordained notions about said MSM.

I say remarkably as at least three of us have mainstream media experience of some significance – Stil is an experienced journalist and broadcaster, Mark an often-published author and my background is as a tertiary-trained journalist who hasn’t worked in the industry for some years (I didn’t enjoy the grind enough). If Hugh had called, emailed or researched any of us properly he’d have known that. I think it might have put quite a different spin on his post.

Certainly, I think my post responding to and commenting on the Future of Media Summit was reasonably balanced, so to be accused of laziness, generalisation and not having a clue kind of annoys me.

What bugs me most is the ongoing, patently ridiculous, artificial dichotomy, perpetuated by individuals on both sides of the argument that journalism and blogging are diametrically opposed. The attitude exhibited by both Jane Schulze and Stephen Quinn on the panel; an attitude that suggests a belief that true journalism can only be done by those properly trained, vetted and edited by their publishers is patently rubbish. Equally, the hard line taken by some bloggers that all MSM is evil and a dead medium is ridiculous.

My position, as:

  • a trained journalist and reasonably successful blogger (in terms of readership)
  • someone who who consults on issues around corporate comms, social media and social networking and connecting with stakeholders by using these tools
  • someone who is sought out by journalists for expert comment or covered by them based on my public speaking on this stuff, and
  • someone who researches, interviews and comments (sounds like journalism to me) in his field of expertise

is that there is a place for both professional and amateur, journalist and blogger, new and old. What there’s no place for is bigotry, elitism, low quality, sensationalism and unprofessionalism on either side; and both sides are lousy with each. To say otherwise is to be disingenuous at best.

I don’t know why Hugh’s research didn’t extend to flicking a quick email to some of us, but I don’t think he’s done himself any favors with this piece.

8 Replies to “Dear Hugh Martin, why didn’t you call?”

  1. I’m not actually a journalist (despite what my conference name tag said) but, yes, certainly an experienced broadcaster with 7 years at ABC Radio and 13 years in total. It was there that I was told in no uncertain terms by certain people in the newsroom that I was not a journo.

    As an aside, here’s a yarn about one mainstream media professional, possibly even a capital-J journalist, doing what in my opinion is crap blogging. And unethical to boot.

  2. It is self evident why many professional journalists complain about social media. Instead of researching social media and forming a balanced view on the issue, they argue a position that they feel is going to suit their commercial arrangements the most. It is yet another example of the corruption of the professional journalist who follows their wallet rather than their nose.

  3. I don’t know the rules around acronyms, and as you know Stephen, my English ain’t as good as yours – how does Mainstream Media contract to MSM?

    (…and I find the irony of Hugh using blogger to diss bloggers fantastic!)

  4. I am not opposed to the idea of binary opposites per se, only when they don’t really serve to advance more interesting debate, and actually retard said debate.

    Instead of talking about whether ‘journos’ are better than ‘bloggers’, we should really be concentrating on how reporting on the world around us is developing and evolving.

    By my reckoning, I now have access to far more sources, from multiple different perspectives, and with the right critical skills I’d like to think I can assess the information on display and make my own mind up.

    Surely the extent to which reporting allows us to decide where we stand on key issues in our lives and the lives of others around the world should be the only genuine criteria we should be assessing.

    Seriously, where are we anyway? The playground? Some of us went to uni and some didn’t, but either way I like to hear from people capable of using rigorous critical skills to present information and opinion in a transparent manner.

    Any rhetorical argument seeking to shut down reason and elicit an emotional response is always going to work for a significant proportion of the world’s population. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should simply strive for an argument that is popular.

    Good writing/journalism/thinking is not the exlcusive preserve of anyone. Each instance should be treated on its own merit.

  5. @Scott, I couldn’t agree more. My position has always been that professional journalism, blogging and everything in between (assuming they are opposite ends of some bogus spectrum) all has validity.

    That said, this stuff doesn’t sit in a nice, neat spectrum. Some blogging is awesome, well-researched, in-depth and equally, some journalism is execrable pap. They are both a part of a confusingly fuzzy cloud where any verifiable source has equal validity with any other.

    I certainly object to being labeled without the labeler contacting me to verify the assumptions they’ve made. But I’m not going to get overheated about it.

    I think there are personalities in the journalism and blogger camps who would seek to maintain the status quo; where we are at each other’s throats and the false dichotomy persists. Not me, though.

  6. I think you are being very kind to “pay” Hugh as an online guy.

    Let’s face it, for the likes of News Digital and Fairfax, almost anybody could have overseen the establishment of an online arm because there was a complete void for online news in Australia before the two biggies got moving. Monetising online news delivery still presents a challenge to all operators but growing traffic back in those days was a piece of cake.

    APN has presented a very different challenge as it is a much smaller operator in the print media marketplace. Geographically it has a relatively large footprint within their print division. However, their late entry to the online space meant that their competition had already gained a strong hold on customers within APN’s print market.

    Hugh sought to apply the ideas that had been successful almost 10 years earlier for the 2 big players to a very different company and in a landscape that had evolved significantly.

    Given APN’s late entry into the online space and their comparably small size, they had the opportunity to both benefit from experience and look for novel ways to engage visitors. Instead of seeking ways to differentiate themselves from News and Fairfax, Hugh essentially created a malformed clone of the competition.

    It is not surprising that Hugh would seek to denigrate bloggers as his track record shows that he is very “old school” in his thinking.

    The finda project was not Hugh’s idea but he had stewardship over its delivery. Despite the millions of dollars invested in this project, the site still fails to engage customers in any meaningful way. I have followed this site closely since its launch and can see that the site still lingers around the 100-150,000 PV per month but of greater concern is that its page views per visit is only around 2.

    The only constant in the online space is change and, in my opinion, Hugh’s old school approach has done a great disservice to APN’s shareholders.

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