Friday, April 01, 2011

The Long List etc

At the start of the year, I wrote: "Having a vastly inflated sense of my personal worth, I cannot help myself from nominating myself for the Orwell Prize for blogging. Even though I can think of several people more deserving, like Rosie, Phil, David, the Beached Brigadista, Martin, Sarah D, Will, Paul." Well, I am not surprised or dissappointed to find myself missing from the announced longlist this week, and gratified that one of my own longlist did make it.

David Osler would be my first choice from the longlist (I think this is the second time he has made it there). He has Orwellian qualities (in the good sense): he is a democratic socialist, with a keen sense of class politics and a sincere hostility to left-wing forms of totalitarianism; he is a jobbing hack, with all the craftsmanship and professionalism that implies and none of the cynicism; and he is a pretty good writer, producing concise and thought-provoking blogposts.

In general, though, I am a little dissappointed at the longlist, which mostly includes the blogs of party political hacks. Among the politicos, I quite like Sunder Katwala's Next Left, and I recommend a couple of his nominated entries: Britain is the stuff of Red Tory nightmares, So, does ANYBODY count as truly British, Mr Dacre? Daniel Hannan, on the other hand, is truly appalling. It is no surprise to see the appearance of zeitgeisty and vastly overrated Laurie Penny.

I think that Paul Mason's Idle Scrawl and Channel 4's FactCheck blog are both excellent, but as productions of massive mainstream media corporations they seem out of place in an award for blogging. At the other end of the spectrum, there are some very personal blogs on the longlist, which I will be spending some time with, including Duncan McLaren's Visiting Mabel and Ben Gunn's Prison Blog.

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While I'm here, have I recommended The Politics of the Hap before? An interesting, thoughtful blog, on a range of subjects, both intellectual/political and emotional. I feel a little out of place on its rarefied blogroll, but am not complaining.

And, relevant to some of the material above, I just read Andrew Coates' interesting Socialist response to Blue Labour. Two other reading recommendations: Julie Bindel on East End Pride; Henning Bertram on multiculturalism.

4 comments:

Francis Sedgemore said...

Master Robert - you do me and your other readers a valuable service in bringing to our feeble and limited attentions the delights of Interweb-based comment from the thinking left. But "blogging" is bollocks. There is good writing, there is bad writing, and blogging is but one medium among a dwindling number where writers of both kinds can find an outlet for their work/drivel (delete as appropriate).

Laurie Penny is a cretin who has found her niche. Good luck to her!

Paul Mason? He's a geezer!

bob said...

Thanks Francis. I half agree with you.

I was thinking of my sister, when I was looking at the long list. She is a journalist, and her attitudes is that blogs are not worth reading; she doesn't like them full stop. I try and argue that this is like saying that magazines are not worth reading. The blog is just a platform; the genre, the content and so on vary as much as the distance between, er, Reader's Wives and an angling fanzine.

But it seems to me that if you have a prize for political blogging and also a prize for journalism, you ought to leave the former to people who aren't professional journalists, or at least who aren't blogging as part of their paid employ as professional journalists for a media corporation? And also that including political party website editors also seems odd?

By the way, the journalist longlist has some appalling people in it (including Rachel Shabi, Jonathan Steele and Douglas Murray), although Jack Shenkar clearly deserves the nomination. And the book longlist is pretty good.

Francis Sedgemore said...

What is a journalist? A person who carries a press card, or one who writes for the Groan and takes its shilling? Or perhaps an individual who calls themself a journalist for want of a better trade description?

I gather that the indefatigable Ms Penny makes a living of sorts from sharing with the world her opinions on life the universe and everything. Does that give the gobby wee shite the right to call herself a journalist? Actually, it does, though whether this is a good thing is debatable.

Not only is it difficult to define "journalist", it is also next to impossible to define "independent blogger". There are no accountability mechanisms built into the blogging medium, and, as you've already acknowledged, we have a fair number of political party hacks masquerading as bloggers.

Then there is the pseudo-blogosphere, in the form of informal journalistic media such as Comment is Free, and various BBC correspondents' online scribblings, including those of the esteemed Newsnight economics editor. These blogs are clearly not free and open, given their corporate ties, but with many supposedly independent bloggers hiding behind pseudonyms, how are readers to determine whether the writers have undeclared interests that impact either directly or indirectly on their blog writing?

When all's said and done, however, the description "award-winning" when applied to either journalists or bloggers has never amounted to much. It's much like Father Jack with his grotty teacup. Oh, and let's not forget that a certain Mr Neil Clark, Esq. is an award-winning blogger ... and a journalist to boot. There's nowt as queer as folk.

bob said...

Yes, I completely agree with all that. I'd find it impossible to draw up hard and fast rules, or even soft and loose guidelines, that would capture what I'm getting at, but if I were the Orwell Prize judges, then I'd not longlist these sorts of bloggers, even if they were good.

I'm off to bed now.