Like a tailor in a bad suit or a fitness instructor who runs out of puff, a writer without a decent blog sends a negative signal. It’s taken me some time to come to that conclusion, but it’s an inescapable one. Which is quite ironic since, not so long ago, blogging was seen as heralding the end of a professional media.
I’m not about to turn into the kind of new media evangelist who denounces anyone without a multi-platform networking habit as a dinosaur. It’s always struck me as quite odd when people talk about technology as something we ‘have’ to use or which ‘makes’ us do things. It’s people who should control technology, not the other way round. But there is something equally narrow about not taking advantage of the many fantastic opportunities the wealth of new media offers. When I started as a journalist we thought we were at the cutting edge of DIY culture because we could produce photocopied fanzines. We couldn’t dream of a time when the production of sophisticated media at high speed and with almost instant reader feedback would be so widespread.
Technological development has democratised the media enormously, although things are still not perfect. What is? There is tension because, as always happens, those who own the media see technology primarily as a way to cut costs. This means it can be difficult for media workers to fully appreciate, or to get to grips with, the advantages that technology can bring. But there’s also a threatened tyranny of new social media which needs to be dealt with. Part of my reluctance to blog was not just because it blurred the edges between work and leisure, but because there is just so much of this stuff to keep up with. Blogging, updating your website, checking your RSS feeds, keeping abreast of events in the Tweetosphere, Linking in, Facebooking and all the rest can take up so much time you don’t actually get to do anything.
The reason we are confronted with this tidal wave of interactive media tasks is, once again, because we haven’t got to grips with the fact that it’s us who control the technology. We should celebrate the fact that there is so much choice, and then choose to use what suits us best. You don’t have to use every form of networking, you don’t have to post your most intimate details on a global noticeboard. Choose what suits you best.
I found Facebook a bit dull and knocked my account on the head fairly early on. One of my students at the London College of Communications told me this was because I’m too old, which may well be the case. I can see how they use it to find stories and gather information, but I got fed up with messages telling me to log in to see my messages. Just call me or send an email for Chrissakes! And I haven’t really got to grips with Twitter, partly because of a reluctance to spend too much time checking the feeds. But email has transformed my life in the last decade – far fewer meetings, much more productivity – building a website was stimulating and opened up a host of new opportunities, and now here I am blogging. Make your choice and take control – it really is that simple.
How all this will turn out is anyone’s guess, but the journey is a large part of the fun. My professional website carries the detail about what I do and what I’ve done, and there’s also a newsblog with updates on what I’m doing. Here it’s going to be more freeform, with postings on anything that takes my fancy. But expect a lot of media, sport, politics… well, let’s just see, eh?