Danny Rogers: Citizen journalists need a thicker skin

Bloggers were more angry than usual this week after BBC journalist Andrew Marr launched a broadside on 'citizen journalism' at the Cheltenham Literary Festival.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

Among other insults about 'inadequate' bloggers, Marr said 'so-called citizen journalism is the ... rantings of very drunk people late at night. It is fantastic at times, but it is not going to replace journalism'. The blogosphere was immediately ablaze with insults against 'the jug-eared' Marr and his 'outdated' views.

Now, the first thing bloggers should realise is that traditional journalists are quite used to insults being thrown at them. Maybe it is time that citizen journalists developed a thicker skin.

They should also remember this was said at a literary festival that no one has heard of - and it probably needed the publicity.

Marr's comments can be viewed in the context of a profession (and indeed an institution, the BBC) on a permanent war footing these days.

In this issue of PRWeek, Richard Sambrook, the BBC's former head of news who recently defected to the PR industry, claims that when he announced his career change, his colleagues were envious rather than dismissive.

This chimes with the recent flood of senior journalists abandoning ship for the PR profession.

And in Julia Hobsbawm's updated edition of Where the Truth Lies, we read further agonising about the dwindling resources of British journalism and the resurgent PR industry.

If you add the recessionary toll on publishers and broadcasters over recent years, you start getting a sense of how demoralised and frustrated traditional journalists have become.

But before bloggers or PR professionals start feeling too smug about their comparatively strong position in the zeitgeist, we should remember the symbiotic relationships of British media.

I have long argued that there is a strong UK PR industry precisely because of its robust and dynamic media. Bloggers actually rely heavily on traditional media to set the agenda (hence the reaction to Marr's comments).

Indeed, we see good journalists fighting with their backs against the wall - and must hope we are not witnessing their last stand.

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