Just listened to a fascinating programme on Radio 4 - New Kids on the Blog - in which Matt Frei investigated the revolution in news media and asked whether blogs, camera phones and YouTube are making the role of traditional journalists redundant.
There seems little doubt that these phenomena are changing the political landscape of America, with presidential candidates announcing their campaigns on YouTube, politicians being caught on mobile phone using racist language (and subsequently having to stand down), and millions of people eschewing newspapers in favour of a daily surf through the blogs.
A journalists argued on the programme that, not having the resources of a newsroom at our disposal, bloggers cannot hope to compete with or replace the 'trained' journalist. And, moreover, those who obtain their news only from blogs will gravitate towards those which reflect their own views, and hence 'the people' will be less well informed, so the whole revolution is a Bad Thing. (Hmmm. Do those who read only The Sun or The Daily Mirror have a well-rounded, in-depth grasp of international news and a balanced diet of views right across the political spectrum?)
This already seems an outdated standpoint, and I can't believe it's one shared by any but the oldest generation of 'traditional journalists'. With most newspapers now running a huge network of blogs themselves, to which other bloggers of the world refer and link on a frequent basis, there is a constant exchange of ideas and views which is healthy, vibrant, challenging and generally to be celebrated. The programme dates the true democratisation of news to Boxing Day 2004 and the Asian Tsunami, when it was 'ordinary people' - eyewitnesses with phones and cameras - who took over the reporting of the disaster to the outside world.
I confess I hadn't myself grasped the astonishing influence of YouTube on US public life. Or the colossal scale of its reach - it's only been around for two years, but already its top-ranking video clip, The Evolution of Dance , has been viewed a staggering 71 million times (it says 64 million on the programme but the larger figure is given on the clip itself), and seven hours'-worth of video is uploaded every minute of every day.
I missed the very beginning of the programme, but luckily it's possible to listen to it again, here , for the next six days.
1 day ago