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I'm a journalist, ex-national papers, now working in what we call "new" media.

Thought-provoking piece by Bryan Appleyard in the Sunday Times about the pitfalls of blogging. The key insight is that the more anonymous we are to each other, the less considerate we are likely to be. Many bloggers simply refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem with the tone of much online debate; I think they're wrong, for the reasons set out in Appleyard's piece.

The dominant convention on the web is for users to adopt pseudonyms, so much so that it is actually quite rare to see someone posting under their real name. Why is this? Partly, I suspect, because the web was initially, and still is to some degree, a male-dominated phenomenon and blokes like nicknames (think of rappers, graffiti artists, sportsmen, musicians such as Sting and Bono). Another factor is the desire to create a different identity from the quotidien, workaday self. Nor should we forget people who need to be anonymous because they are blogging critically about repressive regimes or, simply, about their employers.

Newspapers rarely print anonymous or pseudonymous pieces and there is a reason for this. In readers' eyes, anonymity (unless for clearly understood reasons such as personal safety) detracts from the authority of the article. Also, the more I read articles by Bryan Appleyard or any other journalist, the more I understand his view of the world, his principles and prejudices, so the the more I get out of each piece I read. From the other side of the fence, most journalists are keen, for reasons of ego and career progression, to see their names - their real names - in print as frequently, and is as large type, as possible.

So I think Appleyard is right. What's true of print should be true online. The only way the Web is going to develop into a mature medium is if most people, most of the time, are prepared to acknowledge and take responsibility for what they write.


darla said...

you cannot print the truth in an irish paper, the laws on libel are too strict so the only option is the web.