This column has never been all that enthusiastic about the impact, real or potential, of blogging. More often than not I'm the old fart who reckons it's like talking to oneself without the exciting frisson of insanity, and I have only occasionally seen blogs on political matters that don't end up replicating or at least relying upon the same old mainstream sources.
Notwithstanding the blind spots, my recent spell in America reminded me that the US media's reporting and analysis of the economy is positively copious and comprehensive compared to the myopia of its Iraq coverage. This is only partly explained by the fact that, at least at the time of writing, downtown Manhattan is a safer beat than downtown Baghdad.
The biggest problems with the coverage of Wall Street and its intersecting international thoroughfares have been structural rather than seasonal. The media, and perhaps business media in particular, are congenitally incapable of the simplest observations about the contradiction between allegedly “free” markets and, eg, the expectation/demand that State forces step in – with extra cheap money – when there seems to be some sort of credit crunch.
In the spirit of the recent and highly learned Irish Times leader about the difference between “uncertainty” and “risk”, I will admit that I am “uncertain” about addressing the media coverage of the August stock-market volatility due to the “risk” that the crisis will have passed by the time you read this.
Most Village readers, especially those who notice the business pages, will be aware that Rupert Murdoch is taking over the Wall Street Journal.
Notwithstanding the fact that he comes bearing the great gift to popular culture that is The Simpsons, Rupert Murdoch is such an obvious villain that he may distort the arguments about the effects of concentrated ownership on the media. In fact, the academics who study this stuff are by no means agreed on the malign influence of bigger and bigger media companies: some of them, for example, reckon only big multimedia players will be able to rescue journalism from the predicted collapse of print newspapers.
Stop me if you've heard this before: Trevor Sargent has been a disastrous leader of the Greens since he took charge in 2001, when the party – with a Dublin MEP elected in 1999 and a rising profile – actually looked like it was going places. Instead, though it picked up seats in 2002, its popular vote and representation have stagnated. It gets notably less support in real elections, when electoral minds are concentrated, than it does in opinion polls.
By all rights the Greens should be engaged in a soul-searching exercise, perhaps sharing a retreat-house with Sinn Fein, trying to figure out why the electorate thinks so little of them. Poor SF merely had peace in Ireland to boast about, and still came a couple of percentage points above the party wielding the all-important, media-dominating “Green Agenda”. Even Rupert Murdoch's leading daily tabloid has got some “Buy the Sun and Save the Earth” wheeze on the go.
I was on radio in late June talking about the media and the election. Fellow-guests Kevin Rafter of the Tribune and Fionan Sheehan of the Indo amply demonstrated that journalists like to think they do a good job and can get testy about criticism. As it happens, I think those two guys are sharp and do their jobs very well: my criticisms are mostly about how those jobs get defined.
The most conspicuous 2007 hype, widely regarded as the cause of the much-discussed “squeeze”, was the media's insistence on treating the election as a straight fight between two men – or, at a stretch, two coalitions. Opinion-poll figures were regularly aggregated over pictures of Enda and Bertie. We could hardly complain this was unfair to smaller parties (what's fairness got to do with it?) if it gave an honest and accurate picture of the alternatives. But it didn't.