Friday, March 30, 2007

Bloggers read newspapers too.

Joan Smith in her column in my newspaper is having a right old moan about bloggers...

In a world where anyone with access to a computer can give an instant opinion, couched in intemperate or even threatening language, writing is rapidly being transformed in the public mind from a profession to little more than a typed form of speech. It is already having a disastrous effect on the status and income of professional writers, as we find ourselves under attack for continuing to assert the lasting value of what we do.

If anyone can write, and much of what they produce is either information or complete rubbish, it's no wonder that the public is losing respect for writers who spend literally years finding the right form of words for a poem or a novel. The act of writing is being de-skilled to a point where it is no longer regarded as work, and what follows is a demand that all written material should be available to anyone who wants it without charge.

In this pseudo-democratic universe, the novel that has just taken me nearly five years to finish has no more value than a blog that someone dashed off in 10 minutes. The sheer quantity of words available on the internet has prompted a false analogy with the enclosures of common land in the 18th century, in which novelists, poets and historians are cast in the role of wicked landlords.

People who argue that the written word should be freely available on the net, regardless of its origin, behave as though the world is littered with glittering sentences and paragraphs, occurring as naturally as semi-precious stones. But what they are demanding, in reality, is the right to roam in my brain and my bank account.

...Ok, Joan makes her points loud and clear. Now I will have my say on this issue.

Professional journalists are not the only people who should be allowed to publish and write. All people should have the right to freedom of expression and that includes the internet. In all walks of life there are people paid to do a professional job and others who do it themselves. Quality will vary tremendously with some of the professionals producing shoddy work and some of the amateurs producing premium work. I do not get upset when I do my day job and find that amateurs are providing the same service as I do for lower costs as I live in the real world. I cannot stop amateurs providing the same service as I do and neither can or should Joan Smith. It is not a right for the day job holders to stop other people from having a go.

Once writing is in the public domain it should be allowed to be reproduced. I have no objection to people reading my output for free and reproducing it. Some writers overvalue their output but there will always be a market price for any output. 70p for a copy of The Independent newspaper is excellent value but I know that there are very many capable journalists out there who could replace Joan Smith tomorrow, probably for less money and with the same high quality output.

Joan Smith should get real, she is not unique or indispensable. There are plenty of people waiting outside of the editor's door to replace her. She should be grateful for the job and salary that she holds down. Everyone should have the right to free expression whether they are paid for it or not. She has displayed professional jealousy and is coming across as a bitter old woman.
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