Well-connected amateurs?

Has it been over a month since I last posted here? Shit, sorry. Anyway, today at work we were discussing the great Max Gogarty flamefest over at the Guardian (previously linklogged). In short, Max is an eminently hip and loathable character from Nathan Barley travel writer who will be blogging his gap year trip to India and Thailand for the Grauniad. A fiery storm of cynical comments followed, in which it was revealed his father is Paul Gogarty, travel writer for the Guardian (amongst others) who runs a PR firm which boasts “unbeatable contacts and skills with communications professionals”.

The comments got closed early on his first post, only for the Guardian’s editor gave a mealy-mouthed justification for hiring Max the following day. Cue further comments questioning his decision, but also this very strange one, which a colleague highlighted and came out in support of:

Surely the one thing to come out of yesterday’s posts is that ‘citizen journalism’ and ‘user-generated content’ is generally bollocks, and people much prefer things done by professionals, rather than well-connected amateurs?

To which my response was… absolute, utter bollocks and something only a total fucking idiot would agree with it, quite frankly. It’s completely the wrong way round. Proper user-generated content is not done by well-connected amateurs, it is done by poorly-connected amateurs who do not have the means to get their content into the mainstream media. Max Gogarty is a professional writer, just like his father, not an amateur – having already done stuff for Skins and other TV programmes and has now got a gig in a national newspaper’s website.

What this article proves is the exact opposite – it’s a rejection of “professional” media content, and is a fucking stellar example of how good “amateur” user-generated content can be. The entertaining and compelling content on that page – the reason so many people have read and linked to it – is all in the comments written by “amateurs”, not what the so-called professional wrote. The fact they got together and found out who he was and who his father was, and his father’s PR firm, is a nice little bit of investigative citizen journalism – something that a talentless hack like Max Gogarty is utterly incapable of doing. In this case, UGC was the clear winner, and traditional content lost out.

More of this sort of thing – see Digital Lifestyles and Metafilter – which introduced me to the wonderful phrase “What really napalms my village…”. Oh, and some golden oldies from Guardian threads past, including the Barefoot “Doctor” and Mike Read.

Update: This lucid and to the point comment is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about.

9 thoughts on “Well-connected amateurs?

  1. Yeah, sorry about the swearing. The second half of this post is actually taken verbatim from the email I sent back when discussing this – the profanity was tongue in cheek though.

  2. “And it was written with his tongue firmly in his cheek.”

    That’s what Peter Gogarty (if it was actually him, which I reckon it was) said about his son’s article in the CiF follow-up. But at least he didn’t apologise for it. Stand by your profanity, man! Where’s your loyalty?

  3. Sorry, but you’re quite wrong. Max Gogarty has written a sum total of nothing professionally. He is not a professional. Those of us who actually spent time EARNING our journalistic qualifications through study agree with the sentiment that sites offering PROFESSIONAL journalism should not be choked with AMATEUR nonsense by people who have no idea what they are doing, like Max.

  4. He may have little experience but it’s clear from his aspirations and the fact he’s hanging onto daddy’s coat-tails that he is pursuing a professional writing career (the Guardian have made no attempt to deny he is being paid for his efforts). He is indeed piss-poor at it, but being a terrible writer is no obstacle to a career in journalism.

  5. Hmmm. Frankly, I don’t think the whole thing as got anything to do with UGC, either for or against. Beyond the hardly earth-shattering revelation that open comment threads can be a) hilarious and b) scary, everything that’s wrong with the article is related to traditional editorial commissioning structure, and what people are saying should be done about is equally an offline issue (like, “don’t hire cocks”).

    I agree that the comment you highlight is wrong to say that Gogartygate is an indictment of UGC, but they were right to point out that the Guardian’s take on this – “One thing that came out of yesterday’s posts was that you want to hear a lot more from real people rather than journalists, so I’m going to be putting up a lot more readers’ recommendations and writing” – was also total balls. I didn’t see anybody saying that in the comments. What I got out of it was that people don’t care what the source is or what content filtering architecture was used to get the writing in front of their eyes – they just care that it be good.

  6. True enough.If the piece had shown some evidence of wit,of self-awareness,of charm-in short,of any quality that might make you want to keep reading,the reaction would have been very different.The nepotism was a side issue.The real issue was why the Grauniad thought it could get away with insulting our intelligence.The subsequent attempts at damage limitation were even worse than the offending article.A sorry saga.

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