Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Has Twitter saved pack journalism?

American columnist Michael Kinsley famously insisted that if you have the patience of a birder, you might hear a politician tell the truth. "A gaffe” he explained, “is when a politician tells the truthsome obvious truth he isn't supposed to say." While celebrating the aggressive, “mojo” press coverage of the scandal surrounding the Canadian Senate and Stephen Harper’s office, Toronto Star columnist Edward Greenspon
penned a noteworthy gaffe about his own profession:

“Then there’s the odd galvanizing role played by social media, particularly Twitter. The gallery vacillates between pack mentality and institutional incoherence. The Harper government was skilled at dividing and conquering. Increasingly, though, a group of Ottawa reporters gather every evening on Twitter, bucking one another up by sharing their journalistic humour, biases and insight. That they may well reinforce pack prejudices is beside the immediate point. Their virtual salon is reminiscent of the old days, when gallery members worked at close quarters in the famed Hot Room on the Hill and then hit the press club bar.”

Twenty-four/seven "news" and the amateurish presence of the social media long ago killed the 3-martini lunch and the 5 o’clock debrief at the Ottawa Press Club. Communication professionals and hacks wondered whether the “pack” might die, and whether a multitude of journalistic voices would send conflicting messages across our troubled lands.

Greenspon apparently believes that “institutional incoherence” in a free press is a bad thing and that pack prejudice today is beside the point. So, he’s simply thrilled by the palpable esprit de corps amongst his old colleagues in Ottawa today.

Twitter has become a tool to reassure, to say the same thing in ever more clever ways, to form a working consensus on what’s happening, in real timegetting done what used to demand soul-destroying nights at the Club and exhausting days on a campaign plane. This is progress?

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