Thursday, 16 October 2008

To blog, or not to blog

Posted on Bevan Foundation blog on 16th October 2008

That is the question that Victoria Winckler has been openly wrestling with

Blogging reminds me a bit of CB radios in the 80s. They started off with a techno-savvy elite, moved into the cool mainstream and for a time everyone was at it; but soon retreated to a small sad group talking to each other. And there some signs of that happening in the Welsh blogosphere.

There was an explosion of interest around the time of the Assembly elections last year. And it had a significant impact - becoming an extension of the coalition talks. Adam Price’s overtures to Labour on his blog played a key role in seeing the One Wales coalition come to pass. But since then the Welsh blogging community has shrunk.

Maybe interest will be cyclical. Outside the hard core, they might mushroom at the time of elections.

But a bit like the mainstream Welsh media in the post-devolution age, an explosion of interest has been followed by a sharp contraction.

For some the novelty has worn off, for others the burden has worn them down. Some undone by their words, several frightened off by the prospect of getting into trouble with their bosses.

Just as Local Government suffers from an increasing aversion by employers to political engagement, so too does the national debate. More and more jobs require political neutrality.

One of the consequences of devolution is that Wales has shrunk, the influence of the Assembly Government ever stronger – with more and more organizations dependant on it for funding and favors – the risk of speaking out is seen as too great.

Just when Wales needs a vibrant debate, many the most challenging minds are being restricted.

For those who can contribute blogs are a valuable outlet, and they have certainly extended the range of political commentary available – a modern version of the polemical pamphlet. Blogs offer a greater range of voices than is available in the traditional media.

But they do nothing to address the bigger problems facing the vibrancy of Welsh democracy: a shrinking media and an immature political class.

Discuss (in less than a 1,000 words)!

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