The rising value of the Fifth Estate

There have been some fine pieces written across the blogosphere over the past week or so that discuss the rising value of the Fifth Estate (essentially the blogosphere and other independent media) in an era where we are witnessing the deterioration – yes, deterioration – of the Fourth Estate (the mainstream media (MSM)).  Ad astra’s piece at The Political Sword, DragOnista’s at her self-name blog, Mr Denmore’s at The Failed Estate  and this short piece by Massive Spray at Spray of the Day are all worthwhile reads that embrace this delicious issue.

The Fourth Estate, however, whilst deteriorating to the level of muck are desperate to throw some of their own muck, and weight, at the blogosphere and independent media sites.  This became rabid from the moment the Fifth Estate became even the slightest of threats to their diminishing integrity, first occurring a couple of years ago.  Whilst perusing some of the earliest posts here at Café Whispers I came across one that discussed this very point.  With the deluge of criticism currently being truthfully written about the mainstream media it is pertinent to pull that original posts out of the archives (with a bit of revamping).

I hope it still makes sense.

Plato (428-348 BC) was opposed to the use of the written word; convinced that it destroyed memory.  People, he argued, wouldn’t bother to memorise facts or stories.  Spreading words indiscriminately was wasteful and they were not to be trusted.

How prophetic.  And yet, though spoken over two millennia ago, how utterly contemporary.  Look at our MSM with their central tenet that their journalists are reliable, truthful and objective.  Who do you believe?  Them or Plato?

The direction we’ve seen in the MSM leans towards in the last couple of decades favours stories that are trivial, narrow, shallow and sensationalist.  And often untrue.  Truth doesn’t sell a newspaper.  If Plato were alive today he would no doubt bemoan the MSM have been spreading words indiscriminately and wasteful.  And they most definitely are not to be trusted.

Some bloggers have publicly stated what Plato would have agreed to, and in response the MSM have unleashed a ferocious and to some, a persuasive attack on the independent blog sites.  A couple that I’ve read from the Murdoch stable exhibit a sort of  ‘xenophobic’ hatred.  Christian Kerr, a political journalist I once admire incidentally, savaged the blogosphere with more zeal than I’ve ever heard him attack incompetent politicians, writing that:

It’s also worth noting that the `blogosphere’ supposedly outraged is the small incestuous clique of self-identified lefties, with readerships composed mostly of themselves, who were more than happy to out other bloggers a few years ago with whom they disagreed.

That last bit, for the uninitiated, is a reference to the modern dull and doctrinaire Crikey and its very own Adrian Mole, barrister-blogger Walter Jeremy Sear, and his role assisting The Sunday Age dissect the corpse of the spectacularly snarky site The Spin Start Here that offended sensibilities for years until it reached its logical conclusion and ripped itself apart. Sear was happy to help with an outing then.

The whole thing smacks of naivety and self-righteousness.

And naivety and self-righteousness seems to define the vast majority of the Australian blogosphere.  That and whining conspiracy theories.

Quite remarkably, Christian’s little dummy spit is shadowed by the editorial of the masthead of the Murdoch empire, the Townsville Bulletin, which announced to stunned North Queenslanders that bloggers are cowards.

When reporter James Massola “outed” an anonymous blogger in The Australian newspaper last week, he received death threats and a torrent of personal abuse.

How dare someone in the mainstream media name one of these increasingly puerile bloggers, self-appointed guardians of righteousness and all that is wrong about society and, in particular, newspapers.

Grogs Gamut was named as a Canberra public servant and the reaction from his mates was as predictable as it was boring.

Those who hide under the veil of anonymity, taking cheap shots to satisfy their trendy social agenda, don’t like it when they are thrust into the real world.

The great thing about newspapers is that, love us or hate us, we’re the voice of the people. We represent the community, their views, their aspirations and their hopes. We champion North Queensland’s wins and we commiserate during our losses.

Represent the community!  Don’t you mean control the community?

By the way, I didn’t catch the name of the editor.

Blogging has profoundly influenced the nature of modern communication and obviously this doesn’t sit well with the traditional print media.  The above references are indicative of their opinion that blogs produce public discussion that falls well below their standards.  I disagree.  News stories these days are nothing more than opinion pieces to which nobody is held account.

The blog sites are now holding them to account and this sits very uneasy with them.

Many blog writers have a natural gift of being able take the single main story of the day – turn it into something worth reading – and foster the expression of a range of opinions that otherwise would not, or may not, have the opportunity of being expressed to a wide audience via the MSM.

In a few short years, blogging has become a global phenomenon.  It has not only has reshaped our view of journalism, but has unlocked previously unrealised publishing opportunities.  Blogging itself, in my opinion, is journalism. The readership is limited, hence blogging sites with similar agendas often link their sites together to broaden the impact of their commentary.  The blog sites of the MSM usually filter out contributions from bloggers whose opinion do not fit into their schema, so while independent blog sites provide minimal impact, the avenues through the MSM can provide none.

Then what are the impacts of the independent blog sites?

When an opinion is submitted in the form of a blog, the author must remember that it is unlikely that the contribution will sit idle in the site where the blog was published – it may be referred to another site, and another site, and another.

It is in the political sphere, that the impact of blogging is being nurtured.

In his/her March essay titled The Influence of Political Blog Sites on Democratic Participation, ShariVari wrote that:

A computer-mediated environment may make it easier for citizens to express their feelings about political candidates and allow them to speak more candidly than if they were in a face-to-face situation.  The diversity of the internet gives citizens access to a wide variety of opinions and information that they may not have access to otherwise, and this may play a role in changing or shaping an individual’s political views.  After disregarding any blog sites that have a corporate financial objective or are engaging in political agenda-setting, political blog site users can begin to discuss their personal view points with peers.

I found the essay to be rather heartening.  As a blogger who has lost all faith in the MSM it was good to know that we can indeed have an impact, albeit small at this stage.  If we follow the trend seen in the United States, we may one day see a healthy blogging industry flourish in Australia.

ShariVari concludes that:

All of the research shows that increased opportunities for participation can only encourage democracy . . . This research means that citizens are increasingly turning to and trusting the Internet for accurate information, using it as a platform for participatory democracy, and becoming more knowledgeable about political information in the process. A Spiral of Silence is less likely to exist where citizens have only each others’ opinions to evaluate in terms of their own civic participation and lack status cues such as gender, race, and socio-economic status. Blog sites definitely are increasing the ways in which citizens can participate in their democracy.

Up until recently, people in democratic societies wishing to have their ideas and opinions published had to contend with editorial policies that were generally based on the ideology of the editors, and of course, on what was sellable. However, this regime of control over what content is allowed to emerge is collapsing in today’s world of participatory media.

Today’s audience want to be part of the media, rather than passive receivers.  Not only do they want to comment on the news, they want to be part of creating it.

Many bloggers believe they are better suited to provide the diversity that today’s democracies need, yet which are often ignored by traditional journalists.  Blogging advances the opportunity for bloggers to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions.

Bloggers also encourage contributors and readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that might often be avoided by a mainstream media organisation, particularly if they are working to a different (or hidden) agenda.  Further, through blogs, people have the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the established media; the blogosphere is awash with a more objective and factual analysis.

Blogs have exploded in number, not because they are the echo of dissenting voices, but because the MSM has created an arena for them to enter.  If the MSM was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then in a modern democracy there may not be any bloggers, or for that matter, the millions of blog sites that exist purely to fill in the gaps exposed by the mainstream media empires.

Some comments from the original piece are worth repeating.  They echo the sentiment of the Fifth Estate even today.  From B Tolputt comes:

I personally believe that you are quite correct in your reasons as to why blogging has taken off as well as it has. There was always going to be a niche “market” for blogs. Not everyone is interested in the ins & outs of knitting, the family pets, or obscure genres of music (for example), but the mainstream media made blogs popular because they were the only ones providing detailed analysis of political events.

Prior to the groundswell of Internet connection, I can recall the complaints about bland analysis of anything controversial. People had begun to accept (and alot still do) that the media were never going to say anything that upset their advertisers or their editors. In a country, such as ours, where voting is not only a right but an obligation – the lack of frank & honest discourse on politically sensitive events & policies was never going to survive the ability of the common man/woman being able to express their opinion online.

Had we a balanced and analytical media, there would have been blogs for sure at the extremes of the political spectrum but their popularity would have been limited to those that simply agreed with them. Now we have people browsing blogs on a story (either from a list of favourites or from twittered links) because they know they cannot expect the media to give them what they need to make an informed decision. Even down to things as simple as which party is playing political games with an issue (the MSM is currently printing the claims of the Coalition about Gillard’s game-playing ignoring the outright refutation of the journalist that stated he got his information from elsewhere).

If the MSM did their job better – they wouldn’t need to be so capriciously attacking blogs because they wouldn’t be competition.

From RN:

It is up to us to challenge the Murdochinations of the MSM. The more said in the blogosphere such as in this excellent and thought-provoking post and comments, the more the status quo will be uncovered for what it really is: A great big bunch of lies perpetrated by a bunch of bullies.

And from Nasking:

Thnx for the link to The Political Sword Patricia. This from that piece:

Of course not all media coverage has been supportive of your position, or indeed of the position of bloggers in general, as we saw in the Townsville Bulletin, appropriately tagged ‘The Bully’, in its anonymous editorial Cowardly world of bloggers which labelled us “…increasingly puerile bloggers, self-appointed guardians of righteousness and all that is wrong about society and, in particular, newspapers.” And later in the article it asserted: “Bloggers, on the other hand, represent nothing. They whinge, carp and whine about our role in society, and yet they contribute nothing to it, other than satisfying their juvenile egos.” So there…

Hmmm . . . so, when the people who don’t get paid to speak out tell it as they see it, then they are whingers, whiners and carpers.

Nothing’s changed in the last couple of years.  It’s still the people versus Rupert.

What do you think?

42 comments on “The rising value of the Fifth Estate

  1. The only possible reason as to the “why” of the rise and rise of the blogs is that there was a void to be filled. If people were receiving balanced commentary from the msm, then they would have no need to look elsewhere for alternative opinions.

  2. Bloggers are criticised for hiding behind anonymity.
    Leaving aside the unattributed syndicated articles & unverifiable “sources”, the fourth estate hides behind its sheer might. Its ability to deploy divisions of legal staff, to form its own alliances & to discriminate, misrepresent & bully without any real prospect of punishment.

  3. Re anonymity, this has been so for many authors over so many years eg. Mark Twain and Henry Handel Richardson. Twain did write under his own name, but his pseudonym is of course the best known. Henry’s real name was Ethel at a time when female authors were relegated to the trivial.

    Greg Jericho was outed solely because of envy.

  4. If the MSM was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then in a modern democracy there may not be any bloggers, or for that matter, the millions of blog sites that exist purely to fill in the gaps exposed by the mainstream media empires.

    I think that is the most telling statement about blogs. If I could go to a major news site and just get the news, without the angles, I probably wouldn’t be here so often mouthing off about their abject failures. Their failure drives my blogging. Much as I would prefer it not to be. I’d rather complain about poor umpiring decisions, and tailgater’s on the road. But, mediafail sits higher on my list of aggravations. So I whinge

    And luckily, the internets provide a place for that (and Migs more specifically)

  5. On thinking about it, the Fifth Estate is clearly opinion..that is, when anyone enters a blog they are not searching for factual information but rather the author’s interpretation of events.

    This compares with the blurring of the lines between facts and opinion in the msm.

  6. the Fifth Estate is clearly opinion

    Kinda sad that that is where most of the factual information lies then, isn’t it Min 😉

  7. Tom, we don’t pretend to be factual information..just provide it as supportive evidence. One day the msm will work out how to do the linky thing. 😉

  8. Ecellent writing, I sadly agree in part with Mr Massola, My belief is that if its your opinion and conviction you put your name to it. I do and even post my photograph along with what I write.. Theres a biography to my blog with my home city. Why because I want to be seen as a man of conviction willing to stand by what I say. As for the rest. yes if Mainstream Media wasnt inundated with biase, racism and just plain nasty minds striving to be the next George Negus or Ray Martin rather than ethical investigative journalists we wouldnt be so up in arms about the lies and omissions in our media. Blogging would never have reached the fever pitch we are currently seeing, unless an unfilled need for accurate information was being explored.
    Having said that its easy to forget they writers, eitors and reporters also answer to higher powers thatn their conciences.

    Media Barons pushing political and personal agendas..

    First the brutal junkyard dog that was Kerry Packer, now the smarmy manipulator and political game player that is Rupert Murdoch.
    Only the brave would write against such peoples wishes while in their employ.
    This is why we need a media review and return to strict codes of conduct including penalties for publishing malicous or false allegations that destroy careers or reputations, and harsher penalties including media licence suspension if such dont have provable sources.. The days of “an annonomous insider” must end for the sake of truth, where are the provisions of natural justice?? In Australia its a legal right to face your accuser in open court, how if “annonomous”.
    Just ask Graig Thomson, Kathy Jackson and oh so many others currently under attack and villified en masse before any legal action has been taken against them much less any conviction recorded.

  9. Yesterday on the Insiders Cassidy tried talking about the involvement of Steve Lewis with Ashby and possible criminal proceedings. Well that was not going to be tolerated by his guests, The chap from WA turned and looked to the sky, Malcolm Farr tried mumbling on about “we” all receive leaks and must follow, and Fran Bailey declared Steve Lewis was a personal friend but i don’t think that influences my opinion. Fran then rattled on.
    Now upto last week all 3 journalists were out there leading the call for the govt must stand Slipper down, the verdict was in, Slipper was guilty. No editorials about waiting for evidence. No, unsubstantiated claims of alleged remarks said in a private residence were “proof” of guilt for our msm.
    Yes Fran and what did you think of your friend Steve Lewis declaring guilt before facts, taking into account Grech and now Ashby. Is Lewis a participant or a reporter in politics?

  10. Steve Lewis continues to lower the bar for “quality” journalism with his recent bit of shite about how Julia Gillard was going to steal school children’s lunch money, this was front page news for the Telegraph.
    Wonder why people don’t buy newspapers any more?

  11. Wrb330, there are often reasons why people cannot or choose not to put their names and faces to articles. We have your face, but we certainly don’t have your name. 😉

    An additional stressor for the msm is that journalists expect to be paid, and yet we have citizen journalists who are prepared to do at least an equivalent amount of research, and put in an equivalent amount of hours for no payment whatsoever.

    One of the authors here wixxy aka Peter Wicks has been in the right place at the right time. It is extremely rare that this situation happens. We do not have access to 1:1, the ability to conduct interviews..yet we have managed to put the pressure on the msm.

  12. Hi Min,
    You have my name, photo and place of residence, just click the @wrb330 and my blog link opens with a hell of a lot of my personal details and background provided in the author profile. But thats just me meeting my own expectation about shooting my mouth …. The reason I refer to the anonomous blogger is the reason stated, anonomous = rumour or innuendo to me, but thats the laws officer in me, as I do love a good witness or formal statement. I acknowledge your views that to many such openess must be to the contrary, and isnt that just exactly why bloggers are far more direct than mainstream media..

    We love a good honest opinion piece that asks the questions others avoid with a whole bunch of links and docs backing it up….(-;

    Like your site, shall be back again.


  13. Hi wrb330,

    I think that via Facebook etc, that most would know that I’m Carol Ahern. I started out on Tim Dunlop’s blog as Min of Billinudgel. I didn’t use Carol..well, basically because I was the only Carol at Billinudgel, and didn’t fancy people coming and knocking on my door. 🙂

    The fact of anonymity is a bit of an illusion, and this is where the legal eagle in me kicks in. IF there were statements made which were defamatory or contravened anti-discrimination legislation, the blog master would be under an obligation to provide details of that person’s identity.

    Two of my uncles were Inspectors of Police, in Victoria. wrb, speaking for myself, it’s been a pleasure having you here.

  14. Back to the Insiders yesterday and also links in with the Lewis article on “Gillard stealing lunch money”
    A quite interesting statement by Farr was that polls show people have lost trust in journalists.
    Do the 4th estate wonder why?

  15. Sue, my late dad would say “It’s all just paper talk”. Journos used to at least have some credence as professionals, however due to The Great Dumbing Down, they have lost this.

    Want to dumb down? Then make sure that you’re not dumbed down with it..

  16. Pingback: Author’s Note! « Hidden Agendas

  17. So when the Parliament last week spent two days in intense debate on the matter and produced nothing but recriminations, the hopes of the country were dashed.

    Yet the latest approval ratings for Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are essentially unchanged from a month ago. Why? “People think they know what to expect from both leaders, and it’s not much,” says the Herald’s pollster, John Stirton. “Everyone was performing true to form. Look at where the ratings are for these leaders – they are very low.”

    Both have negative ratings, meaning that more people disapprove of them than approve.

    Yet blame for the failure on asylum seekers is not apportioned equally. Asked which party was most to blame for the current impasse on policy, 58 per cent of voters said Labor. Forty-two per cent blamed the Liberals and a similar proportion, 39 per cent, the Greens. The numbers total more than 100 because respondents had a choice of blaming more than one party.

    Meaning? The parliamentary deadlock hurts the government politically more than it hurts the others. This might help explain why it was the government that offered the most flexibility in seeking a compromise.

    Curiously, this proportion blaming the Gillard government – six in 10 – comes up again and again across the poll results. Six out of 10 oppose the carbon tax; six out of 10 disapprove of Gillard; and six out of 10 votes would go to the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis in an election held now.

    “Obviously there’s some relationship,” says Stirton. “Everything the government does gets 60:40 against.” And this is one reason why the government should not expect the implementation of the carbon tax to be its redemption any time soon.

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  18. From Migs’ topic:

    Bloggers also encourage contributors and readers to think..

    Yep, that’s about it in a nutshell. The msm wants people to accept. It’s not about pontificating, it’s not about A+ literary skills..the blogs exists solely because of encouragement of contributors.

  19. The benefit of the Fifth Estate is that there is (usually) a chance to interact directly with the author of the particular piece and if necessary question the opinion presented (provided it is done with courtesy and with some basis in fact). Generally when I have seen it done, there is a conversation where both sides gain. Rarely have I seen that occur in the newspaper or in the electronic media – the only Q&A I have seen parts of in recent memory which was actually “unpredictable” (as advertised) was the one with a panel of non-politicians and John Hewson. I suspect Tony Jones found it confronting for him; so it is unlikely to be repeated for a while.

    There are exceptions to the general rule where I have emailed a writer for a newspaper and received a surprisingly honest reply – but once again a direct email doesn’t pass through the gatekeepers used to “moderate” the comments on the respective website. (That comment isn’t to be taken as an argument against moderation of comments for legal or moral reasons.)

  20. One knows and desires, that when something is put up, it is going to be challenged,

    It is this interaction that is wonderful.

    One has to justify everything said.

  21. 2353, that was some feedback that Migs received a few weeks ago..that this and TPS are the few blogs which accept all comers. A leftie person asked, Why do you let these people in. Ans: it’s called freedom of speech.

  22. Cu, that’s is precisely. We here on the blogs have to justify our statements, back it up with links..something which msm journos are rarely challenged to do.

  23. a chance to interact directly with the author of the particular piece and if necessary question the opinion presented

    To be fair, that does happen on occasion on the Drum website, and, even if the author themseves don’t reply, there are often quite lively debates carried on in the comments section, or else, the comments are liberally sprinkled with points of fact and reason to counteract another IPA article 😉

  24. dear editor
    i am not anonymous. i am alfred venison, an occasional, pseudonymous contributor of comments to papers & blogs on two continents for years. i am known; i have “form”.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  25. I’m the ‘editor’ and I’ve had to remain anonymous, until now, because I was a public servant. My real name is Michael Taylor and I live in Canberra. Most regular bloggers here are well aware of my identity. But they prefer me as a duck. 😦

  26. dear editor
    i protest. 😉 a name, not your own, and which is used consistently, by you, in recognisable contexts, is a pseudonym – a public persona; and no writer, however employed, need justify her or his use of a pseudonym. “anonymous” is not a pseudonym.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  27. Well wixxy the blogger (but not anonymous) has said his latest evidence is with the police. Will the 4th estate take note, probably not.
    thank goodness for the fifth estate

  28. Min said Migs said “Bloggers also encourage contributors and readers to think..”
    …and link and learn, …up to the minute news and views …opinion: both for and against, ..which leads to info and thoughts you would never come across anywhere else, ..honesty and bravery as people reveal their humananity and struggle(s), which shows a certain strength, imo … poetry, music, comedy, good old larikin-ism and the odd bit of biffo 😀 ….. the fifth estate even has its own Cafe.

  29. LOVO, and who exactly are you..I keep getting a sneaking suspicion that we may have met before somewhere along the way..either that, or you’re extremely adaptable.. 😉

  30. Carbon price v privatisation — which is worse in the Latrobe?

    That could just as easily go in one of the Carbon Price topics but as it’s really about the 4th Estate again deliberately fudging headlines and the opening of a story for a beat-up, yet the story has little to do with the headline.

    So I thought I’d put it here as it was a 5th Estate, Crikey, that yet again had to highlight the disingenuousness of the 4th.

    Expect a lot more and a ramp up of the 4th Estate beating up on anything this government does or says, and the reality having little to do with the 4th Estate stories. I would like to say that this would abate after Abbott is elected, but alas, the headlines will go the other way and have little to do with the failures of Abbott whilst the beat-up of the opposition parties will continue on.

    You see at State level in spades with only the Liberal Premiers failing so badly that the MSM has little choice but to report something on the failures, even downplayed, as the people see the complete disconnect to what the Premiers are doing and what the 4th Estate is reporting.

  31. It is said that the huge increase in the number of boats, is because they believe that there will be new laws that stop them from coming, and are getting in before this happens. Cannot believe it is Nauru, as going there would mean a long wait, but getting to Australia. Staying where they are, will mean a longer wait, but not getting anywhere.

    It is also said that they are sinking the boats. One wonders why this would be so. It appears the crews are being picked up by another boats.

    Whether this is true or rumours, I do not know.

    What is true, the numbers has increased, including big boats. The second is, more boats are sinking in fair weather.

  32. Another awkward moment for the domestic economy doomsayers (or so-called “doves”). No retail recession. No below-trend consumer spending. Indeed, no below-trend growth. The more limited monthly retail trade survey released by the ABS today has again printed above analyst expectations: 0.5% in the month of May (s.a.) compared with an average forecast of just 0.2%. On a three month moving average basis retail trade is growing at an above-trend 6% pa

    David Bradbury now on ABC 24.

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