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Bloggers driving the news agenda: bar room tittle-tattle or a correction to MSM?

I've breezed through quite a few commentary pieces on UK deputy prime minister John Prescott's demise in Norwegian press recently, but those I've read all miss one of the big points of what brought it about: the relentless onslaught of bloggers such as Guido Fawkes alias Paul Staines and Iain Dale.

Or did it? Some hail Prescott's recent troubles as 'the first big political victory' of UK bloggers, others predictably question the value and legitimacy of the bloggers' campaign. The Independent's deputy political editor Colin Brown told The Press Gazette: "[The bloggers] have just put on the web something about a name that everybody knew about, but had no evidence on. That's neither brave nor great journalism — that's just bar room tittle-tattle dressed up as journalism." The Press Gazette is well worth reading on this, as well as The Guardian's excellent article last Monday, where Guido himself mounts a passionate defence for the influence of blogs.

Guido Fawkes currently boasts 200,000 hits a month, much of it made up of mainstream media. My friend Brian Micklethwait told me a while back how it's always been a tradition for this type of incendiary, irreverent writer in the UK, and Brian, Wordblog and others point to the similarities with the role previously played by Private Eye. In an excellent piece on Guido's narrative, Brian writes:

"My understanding is that the 'conspiracy' of which Guido is a part includes mainstream journalists. As Antoine explained in our last mp3, they tell Guido some juicy titbit. Guido reports it. Iain Dale reports that Guido reported it. The journalists can then report that 'internet sites' reported it - the plural being quite important because it makes omitting the actual names of the 'internet sites' a lot less ridiculous."

This obviously raises quite a few questions to journalistic practice as well.

What of Norwegian Bloggers?
Now of course, we've seen this sort of scenario, where bloggers get the story long before it's picked up by mainstream media, unfold several times across the Atlantic, starting with Trent Lott's much publicised fall from grace. But as I'm currently blogging from the northern outpost of Oslo, it begs the question: what about Norwegian bloggers?

Norwegian bloggers first hit the headlines in a big way during the cartoon war, where quite a few published the infamous cartoon depicting Mohammed as a suicide bomber. This created a bit of an uproar in a consensus oriented country such as Norway, where most mainstream media were scurrying to make apologies for this 'abuse' of press freedom. So far, this is the only major political controversy that I am aware of where Norwegian bloggers have played a very public role, but I don't claim to be an expert on the history of the Norwegian blogging scene so feel free to leave a comment if you think there are other agenda setting blogging stories that should be mentioned.

Of course, another big development is 'the vast right wing conspiracy' - Norway's first political video blog, which aims to run weekly broadcasts starting this fall. I find this development quite encouraging, though for the record I have to state I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out I knew all or most of the team behind VRC, I certainly know the presenter, but I would be equally excited to see mainstream media complemented with a whole range of diverse political video blogs...


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