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.