Long live bloggers
Everyone knows Sunday Times columnist David Bullard has enough vitriol to run a small vehicle for a month, and he has made a great business selling it. In essence, his column is a blog on paper, which is why it was so surprising that he launched such a vicious attack on the real bloggers last weekend in a rant that will go down in South African blogging history as the first event to galvanise bloggers into mass action.
In his column, Bullard patted the print media on the back for their high standards and excellent quality control and then proceeded to make sweeping generalisations about bloggers, saying they are the kind of people who gun down their classmates at university, or frustrated men who can’t get a woman to sleep with them.
Predictably, of course, South African bloggers responded in kind with the general sentiment that Bullard had lost his grip and was doing damage to the public image of his publication. Let’s just say that some of the choicest responses cannot be published on a decent website. Many, however, were well-argued rebuttals explaining the basics of media strategy in this day and age.
Vinny Lingham, a well-known South African digital media entrepreneur, sums it up poignantly when he says “this is exactly the mentality that is leading to the decline of offline print as a source of information, because the people entrenched in the offline world are so resistant to change, they cannot keep up with the times”.
Bullard’s assertion that bloggers just want to be like journalists is the kind of thing that was being said by the American print media five years ago, just before they started haemorrhaging readers. They are now running back to the bloggers with their tails between their legs.
Strangely, the Sunday Times was busy developing a good track record in this area with the preparations for the launch of its new daily newspaper, the Times. This may be a slight setback for the newspaper when it comes to maintaining good relationships with bloggers.
As the international online media have begun commenting on Bullard’s attack, his situation is looking even more dire. Amy Gahran, the editor of the Poynter Institute’s newsletter, said that “regardless of what you think of weblogs, it seems to me that bald-faced bigotry of any kind should have no place in a responsible news organisation”. BL Ochman, a well-known social media consultant, referred to it as “yellow” journalism before pointing out that, in this day and age, most journalists are also bloggers.
With the storm raging on the blogosphere, one would think that efforts would have been made to contain the situation and minimise the damage. What actually happened was the complete opposite. Bullard’s new media team produced five video pieces in which he sniggers at bloggers and accuses them of lacking originality. Then they launched a blog for Bullard, on which he has not yet written anything.
Just when things were dying down and people started patting him on the back for constructing a marketing campaign out of near hate speech, he started adding fuel to the fire by making more provocative comments on the blogs—on one he apologised and on another he called bloggers stupid and unoriginal.
Then, hours later,
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