At the risk of sounding like a PBS telethon…
Why isn’t there more good journalism out there? Gawker paints a depressing picture for those of us who toil away in the often thankless business of writing.
Hamilton Nolan writes:
Many writers believe that our brilliant writing will naturally create its own audience. The moving power of our words, the clarity and meaning of our reporting, the brilliance of our wit, the counterintuitive nature of our insights, the elegance with which we sum up the world’s problems; these things, we imagine, will leave the universe no choice but to conjure up an audience for us each day.
Time and experience have long since disabused me of any such idea. Fortunately, writing about politics and public policy – if immensely frustrating at times – is also its own form of reward.
Maybe there is a talented young writer out there with a dream of starting the very best, smartest magazine or website that has ever existed, and building it into their very own historic legacy. I am here to tell you that it will not work. The business of media has very little, if anything, to do with quality journalism. If you aspire to be a Writer of Legitimately Good Things, the best you can hope for is to get the prestige spot that is paid for by the garbage. To hope for a prestige spot that is not paid for by garbage, or by a lone rich wacko, or by a new advertising technology, but instead by the mass audience that will flock to your brilliance is to ask for too much. If you are able to get a job writing good stuff, you are one of the lucky ones in the big Exercycle of Mindless Entertainment that is “the media.”
Now, political writing certainly shouldn’t be an easy career option. After all, it takes a certain arrogance to expect to be remunerated for sitting at a keyboard ranting about the state of the world and pontificating on the “obvious” solutions to society’s ills, particularly when there are people out there doing real work like serving in the armed forces, providing healthcare, creating world-class art, working out how to get to Mars or producing amazing, unthought-of new consumer products.
There are certainly times when my own efforts at political writing seem depressingly far from the high ideal set out by George Orwell, and much closer to the ranting of the pub bore or the slick keyword focus of the SEO marketer – though having done this (with varying levels of commitment) for four years now, I hope that I am somewhat better than when I started out.
Earlier this week I was at a talk given by Dan Hodges about his general election book “One Minute To Ten”, and got chatting to a senior journalist from the Sunday Times. I put to him that while political blogging may have been ripe with promise ten years ago, the format seems to have dried up today, and readers left with the choice between established legacy media outlets or the latest viral clickbait funnelled through social media.
He didn’t disagree, and hammered home the fact that many readers currently have almost zero loyalty to any specific news outlet, and instead get their news according to what happens to be trending on social media or appear in their (often bias-reinforcing) news feeds. This trend is reflected in the traffic stats for Semi-Partisan Politics. A sizeable minority of traffic now comes through Facebook in particular, and there is always the temptation to devote time and effort to promoting pieces on Facebook to get more eyeballs on the latest piece, even if it brings in few potential long-term readers with whom one can develop a relationship.
The one positive trend at present is the growing and thriving community of Brexit bloggers and campaigners coalescing around eureferendum.com and the work of Dr. Richard North to promote Flexcit – by far the best (and only) properly thought-through plan for how Britain might best leave the European Union and re-emerge as a globally engaged, prosperous sovereign democracy.
If only the same collegial, rigorous and dedicated spirit could be found elsewhere in the political blogosphere as exists among many of my fellow Brexiteers (see links in the sidebar on the right), journalism in this country – particularly citizen journalism and the concept of the campaigning blog – might not be in quite such a parlous state.
Regardless: whatever the people at Gawker say, Semi-Partisan Politics will continue to grow and flourish as we enter 2016, and will campaign – loudly and unapologetically – for the following goals and ideals:
Brexit: freedom from the European Union
Democracy and national sovereignty
Constitutional reform and a federal UK
Separation of church and state
Healthcare reform, not NHS worship
Smaller, smarter government
Free speech, without restriction
Fighting timid centrism on the Right
Fighting empty virtue-signalling on the Left
If you agree with these objectives and enjoy this blog’s coverage of UK politics and current affairs, please do consider using the PayPal tip jar to make a small regular contribution or a one-time donation:
Any reader donations will 1) be a personal ego boost to myself, 2) help me to do more original reporting, like the successful live blog of last year’s UKIP annual conference, and 3) help me promote this site and the work of other like-minded writers – particularly in the crucial effort to win a “Leave” vote in the coming Brexit referendum – so that we can actually make a difference.
Small donations from individual contributors are not only greatly appreciated by me, but also help to preserve independent journalism and commentary in general – so that nobody has to rely exclusively on the BBC, the Guardian or the Telegraph to understand what’s going on in our country and around the world.
But it’s not all about the money. What matters even more than that (for me) is spreading the word and sharing the message – and these days, like it or not, that means social media. So if you read something you like here, don’t just sit on it. Share it on Twitter or Reddit. Email it to a friend. Be that person on Facebook who posts provocative political articles on their timeline.
2016 is already off to a good start – pageviews and comments are at their highest ever, and an appearance on a certain major national political TV show (to be announced soon) is in the works. Onwards and upwards!
Many thanks to all my readers for your continued generous support.