Saturday, 25 October 2008

Jersey Bloggers near to Tipping Point in Media War?

Lately I have been closely following the situation in Jersey. By this I mean I have been reading Senator Stuart Syvret's blog, because this appears to be the ONLY reliable source of information on the island. If you don't know what I mean by the `situation in Jersey', I suggest you read the blog itself. For the purpose of the current posting, the main issues of concern are:

  • the ongoing police investigation of historical child abuse at the former Haut de la Garenne children's home, and the pursuit of justice for the victims
  • the prevailing culture within the political administration of the island which appears, over a period of decades, to have allowed such abuse to flourish
  • the de facto one party state - labelled by some the Jersey Establishment Party (JEP) - that has obstructed the police and the pursuit of justice - the charitable interpretation being an antideluvial attitude towards preserving the international image of Jersey; or, less charitably, a sinister closing of ranks to protect cronies
  • the impossibility of obtaining justice within such a system, where the judiciary and the establishment politicians appear to be less than separate parts of the same oligarchy
  • the formal declaration by the police of a senior education official as a suspect under investigation for child abuse, and the failure of the authorities to suspend the individual pending the outcome of enquiries, pleading a duty of care towards employees that overrides all other perceived duties
Now that is just to set the scene. But this posting is not just about Jersey - it is also about the growing practice of blogging.

You might imagine that all of the above points would have found their way into the local media. Well, actually no. You see the establishment has effective control of the media too. Are you thinking Soviet Union now? - it may sound incredible, but that's not too far from the mark. The local BBC channel actively stifles political debate that might challenge the status quo, and the only local paper, the Jersey Evening Press ( = JEP, get the connection?) even publishes made-up letters in support of the oligarchy. This may sound just too far fetched - but read Stuart's blog.

It is no surprise then that Jersey has a flourishing blogging community (like China I imagine). Many islanders have ditched the conventional media outlets in disgust and have opted to get their news direct from Stuart. The sense of community through a common cause is palpable, and, with Stuart's blog having now attracted over 70,000 discrete readers, a tipping point may be close. Newspapers are running scared of the internet - and not just in Jersey. Advertising revenue, their life-blood, is vanishing as internet-savvy companies learn to exploit the online market. And when the point is reached where most citizens choose to source their news from blogs both the raison d'etre and the viability of the traditional media may disappear forever. And, in Jersey at least, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this point is rapidly approaching.

I take absolutely no pleasure in this prediction. I am for the most part a staunch admirer of the quality of journalism to be found in the `serious' media in the UK. But "the times they are a'changing" and the traditional media will be forced either to adapt and find a way of living in harmony with the online dissemination of news - or perish. Efforts to manipulate or massage the news to suit a particular political agenda will be more easily and rapidly exposed as more people realise they can locate primary sources of news for themselves on the internet. Thus truth will out.

As ever with the internet, the freedom it brings is a double-edged sword. The technology itself is a morally neutral medium that can just as easily be used as a vehicle for obfuscation and disinformation as it can to reveal the truth. As citizens of the online news community we need well-tuned antennae. We need a `moral compass' that will allow us to recognise and home in on those sources charcterised by honesty, integrity, compassion and a commitment to truth, justice and clear ethical principles.

Where better to test your moral compass than by logging in to Stuart Syvret's blog. You will find all these qualities in spades. He really is setting a standard for committed and principled investigative blogging which should have the emasculated media in Jersey and beyond truly fearful for their future.

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