Why I Write

Political Blogging

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.

Nolan concludes:

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.

Follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.

Advertisements

A Merry Semi-Partisan Christmas

Political Blogging 2

Onward to 2016, with your help

2015 has been a very good year for this blog. The frequency of posts increased dramatically as we covered the general election and its aftermath, and we have kept up the pace ever since. There are now new articles nearly every day, as well as a more lively Twitter feed.

The net result has been an increase in readership of nearly 400%. This blog is still small, but a number of articles have caught the attention of influential MPs, journalists and activists. And nobody recognised or wrote about the eventual cause of Labour’s general election defeat before this blog, though many others have subsequently swooped in to take credit.

My writing is syndicated at Guerilla Policy, where I seem to be the lone conservative voice amid a sea of unabashed lefties, and I am proud to contribute regularly to the excellent campaign group Conservatives for Liberty.

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 have enjoyed this blog’s coverage over the past year, 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 this year’s UKIP annual conference, and 3) help me promote this site and the work of other like-minded writers so that we can actually make a difference.

As I swiftly learned this past year, writers don’t get paid very much (unless you are Owen Jones). This blog is written in my spare time around a day job, usually between midnight and 3AM, and is available to everyone free of charge.

However, small donations from individual contributors are not only greatly appreciated, 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.

If you are happy getting all of your news, analysis and commentary from the BBC or the big national newspapers, then by all means carry on. But if you value independent writing which is not beholden to any party, clique or the Westminster establishment, then please consider helping to ensure its continued existence by donating a couple of quid to the independent sites which keep you coming back for more.

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 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 (but all things in moderation).

With the help of my informed and generous readers, 2016 will be another record-breaking year for Semi-Partisan Politics.

Many thanks to all of you, and a very Merry Christmas.

Christmas Wreath 2

Follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.

A Semi-Partisan Pledge Drive

Semi Partisan Sam Donations

 

It is now more than two and a half years since I started this blog, primarily to spare weary Facebook friends from being continually subjected to my forceful and not always fully-cooked opinions on every new political story coming out of London and Washington, D.C.

Back in March 2012, the Republican primary campaign was still underway in America and this blog was cheering for Ron Paul as loudly as it was denouncing the seductive paternalism of Rick Santorum, for all the difference it made to either of their fortunes. Closer to home in London, this blog was weighing in with exasperation on Britain’s achingly slow planning process and the question of where to increase London’s airport capacity in order to remain a competitive global city – an argument that still rumbles on, perpetually unresolved. And of course there were calls for lower, flatter taxes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Hopefully regular readers will have noticed a marked improvement in the quality of the output since those early posts, and especially since the spring of 2014 when I was fortunate enough to complete my journalism training with The Big Issue and Poached Creative.

New posts are less frequent, but longer-form and (hopefully) more thoughtful. Gone are the picture posts and “Best Thing Of The Day” type updates, which were never very good and which other sites do far better – though the classical music posts may soon make a comeback. And best of all, there is now some exciting and unique primary journalism in the mix as well as the traditional reaction and commentary on developing political news stories.

One story in particular – my coverage of the People’s Assembly March Against Austerity back in June – received widespread attention and acclaim from senior journalists and establishment figures across the political spectrum. Not everyone agreed with the conclusions I drew from covering the overlooked London anti-austerity demonstration, but there was a general consensus that my coverage raised some important questions.

With this improvement in the blog’s output have come new opportunities to make the case for maximal personal freedom and limited, effective government to a wider audience. I am now a regular contributor to London Live TV’s Headline London lunchtime news programme, where they seem to like my no-nonsense, generally libertarian outlook on local and national politics. Further opportunities to provide semi-partisan analysis on television and various political websites are also in development.

But with new opportunities come new challenges. Making a career change into journalism and updating this blog on anything like a regular basis – in between doing a day job – is long, difficult work. Carrying out the kind of primary journalism which can drive or contribute to the news cycle is even more demanding in terms of time and money.

I have concluded at present that the time spent writing and honing pitches to the likes of The Guardian newspaper for freelance work is not worth the investment and frequent 2AM bedtimes – it significantly detracts from blogging time with no guarantee that the story will be picked up (I am currently 0-5 for such article pitches, at a cost of countless wasted hours of effort).

Therefore, I have taken the decision to turn directly to my readers to help fund this blog’s next initiatives.

Semi-Partisan Sam has received press credentials to cover the upcoming UKIP party conference in Doncaster later this month. With all of the current upheavals in British politics – the Scottish independence referendum, UKIP’s performance in the local and European elections and the upcoming Clacton by-election – this promises to be a political convention like no other in recent times.

This blog has covered the rise of UKIP extensively, well before more mainstream outlets began taking a real interest and registering their panic at the thought of UKIP MPs sitting in Parliament following the 2015 general election. But unlike much of the mainstream media, this blog has sought to understand the legitimate motivations of UKIP supporters rather than dismissing them as bitter, prejudiced and economically left-behind simpletons. And though this blog does not share the anti-immigration hysteria of some UKIP activists and supporters, it does find common cause with UKIP’s message of returning power back to a democratically accountable level in Westminster, and acting decisively in the UK’s national interest.

I hope that my coverage of the UKIP conference will not only be illuminating, but will provide an antidote to the inevitable distortions, mischaracterisation and hysteria that most newspapers have demonstrated to be the extent of their interest in covering the rise of Britain’s new third party.

But to achieve these ambitions and more, additional resources are required.

Regular readers who enjoy reading Semi-Partisan Sam, and who believe that journalism should offer more than a binary choice between the partisan filters of the cozy Westminster elite on one hand and dumbed-down Buzzfeed-style listicles on the other, are invited to make a donation (of whatever amount you choose) to help fund my ongoing work, including – but not limited to – coverage of the upcoming UKIP party conference.

Your donation will help to defray some of the considerable costs of travel, accommodation, internet and subscription services whilst on-site, and a necessary investment in new audiovisual technology (a DSLR camera and microphone of the type on which I trained with the Big Issue) so that all those interviews and pictures come to life in glorious HD rather than the shaky iPhone footage which has had to suffice thus far.

Additionally, at a time when newspapers are closing down and journalism of all forms is under huge pressure to participate in a race to the bottom in search of clicks and web traffic above quality reporting and analysis, your donation will make a small but important stand for quality, truly independent new journalism.

You can make a donation conveniently and safely via PayPal, here:

But more than anything else, if you ever read something here that makes you stop and think, shake your fist in furious disagreement or helps you to see an issue in a new light, please take a moment to pass it on by sharing it with your networks on social media, and contributing your own thoughts via the Comments function. The sharing buttons can be found at the bottom of each article, while the “Leave a Comment” button appears on the left side of the screen below the tags.

In just 30 months, Semi-Partisan Sam has gone from being an overflow space for political rants too long for Facebook and of wildly uneven quality, to a budding journalistic enterprise with (hopefully) real potential for the future. Thank you all for reading, clicking, sharing and commenting.

And a special thanks to those of you who are able to financially contribute to the next chapter of this blog’s growth.