Never mind the vagaries of the online world. This article from the ABC's Jonathan Holmes could have been written in the 1920s about "the yellow press". John Norton or Joynton Smith or "Inky" Stephenson would have reacted in much the same way to Holmes' scenario as his straw man, Mr P.
My blog, and those blogs that really rattle journalists, are not those which make the sorts of claims that Vexnews or Pickering do; they are not even typical of political blogs. This is one point that Greg Jericho makes strongly in his well-written and highly recommended book, The Rise of the Fifth Estate. The blogs that really rattle journalists are those which analyse how well or badly journalists do their job. In many cases, bloggers point out when journalists depart from existing codes of practice (such as they are). Journos hate that, they hate it worse than being unemployed. They deal with it through laughter: laughing off Press Council adjudications, or stern admonitions from judges, or even the gentle chidings from Uncle Jonathan on Monday evenings.
This analysis is one that journalists will only tolerate being performed by other journalists. The fact is that no profession or trade gets to set and enforce its own judgments - and ironically, no journalist would tolerate any attempt by lawyers, doctors, politicians, or [insert other profession/trade here] to do this.
In a free country, where the press play an important role, it is not on for journalists to seek to exclude non-journalists from participating in and shaping debates about what good journalism is and what it should be. Such EXCLUSIVE behaviour is rude, it's stupid, it's unsustainable, choose your adjective; but know that journalists who cleave to this in the name of tradition are kidding themselves.
Fairfax's ability to sort the wheat from the chaff came under serious question yesterday, as they discarded some wheat (e.g. Ian Verrender, Cynthia Banham) and kept some chaff (e.g. Michelle Grattan, James Massola). The people who made those decisions set the editorial and commercial direction of that organisation's output; they are also people Jonathan Holmes has probably known for years and whose judgment he would regard as the best in the business (for the time being at least). Remember the universal acclaim about Greg Hywood's appointment as Fairfax CEO? I do.
A code of practice would probably mean that we'd all have to be nicer to one another, which runs the risk of anodyne comment limiting the potential impact of debate in terms of actually changing the outcomes that powerful people would impose upon us.
Yes, it's beyond the pale to call Leigh Sales a 'cow'; but it is probably no less hurtful to Tony Abbott to question whether he'd be a very good Prime Minister, or even to assert (as this unregulated blogger does) that he's not even good enough to make it to the top job in the first place. Holmes preferred option, a code of practice where journos look after their own, would focus on the niceties and improve nothing for the wider public in terms of either redress or better journalism.
On the subject of Sales' recent comments about "anonymous" people online: I use my real name online just as she uses hers. The fact that she hasn't met me, and that I don't mix in the media-political circles in which she mixes, doesn't make me "anonymous".
Holmes went into some detail about powerful people suing bloggers and experiencing popular condemnation for doing so. He seems to take Australia's libel laws as given, whereas in the past journalists questioned it and wondered how it might be improved. Has he never heard of The Streisand Effect? This phenomenon is extensively documented and as available to him as any other research he did for his article. If you're going to write about the internet and blogging you have no excuse for reinventing such a fundamental wheel. The editor of The Drum should have spiked his article on the grounds that Holmes has taken a lot of space to say not very much, a big no-no in professional journalism apparently.
It's interesting that Holmes cites Vexnews as his example of a typical blog. As I said in my post on The Herald-Sun Intern, it was Vexnews who put a name to 'Anonymous' and all of a sudden every journalist who rushed to condemn her used the name from a site which it was apparently beneath them to read. Does Holmes really believe that no big news story will ever from Chaff Media to Wheat Media if it's big/good enough? Worse, does he expect anyone else to believe that?
As host of Media Watch, Holmes has clearly decided that bloggers are part of his bailiwick now and is at least starting to take them/us seriously. He started on familiar ground of "the yellow press", which should have been like shooting fish in a barrel - but even so, he missed. Get a copy of Jericho's book, realise that your conceptions about "The Blogosphere" might not be as reliable as you need them to be, and start to rethink your assumptions about what media content is - let alone what it could (or should) become.