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What Webdiary means to you is not necessarily what it means to me
What Webdiary means to you is not necessarily what it means to me.
Ian MacDougall was right: his comment on the About Webdiary thread was rather long. As to whether it deserved separate thread starter status, I cannot comment. I am not a moderator and have neither desire, time, temperament nor inclination to be.
The encapsulation of Margo’s vision for the site is, I think, best summed up in her own words:
Does it meet those objectives? As to the first, ignoring the typo “effect” for “affect” I think it does and likewise for the next three. As for the last, since her retirement, the capacity to engage with professional journalists is limited in that, even though some moderators are or were journalists, their commitment to Webdiary is not (and cannot in current circumstances be) full-time. Margo’s presence was a great loss but things evolve.
To encapsulate the essence of Ian’s comment, he expresses dissatisfaction with that into which it has evolved and is evolving. Leaving aside personal histories, (and many casual visitors, even some regular contributors, would be surprised just how much contact there is behind the scenes amongst Webdiarists including moderators – what you see is not what passes over private email contacts) one of his complaints boils down to a question of bias. So what? What forum discussing politics does not contain inherent bias? We have Ernest William Graham so rusted on to the Ruddy Government that it can do no wrong and there isn’t enough WD 40 in the world to get him off. We have the free marketeers who are having a bit of a hard time of it at the moment since the bubble burst.
One of Ian’s complaints is that we have lost Satan and, with Paradise Regained both here and in the rebel colonies with the election of the mutt with spindly legs, there is no evil in the World now to rail against. Yet,
For my part, there is quite enough to be getting on with here preserving our liberties against legislative lunatics to be bothering principally about the world: Webdiarists are not going to solve its problems but they are welcome to have a go. Just don’t expect me to weigh in unless I can see clear historical error or it has a clear effect on my domestic interests or my (publicly declared) political agenda.
I think on this point, Ian is at least misguided if not plain wrong. From a conservative libertarian 19th Century Liberal lawyer’s point of view, if the Hawke, Keating and Howard Governments did any good, I’d be pleased to have someone point it out to me. I see the Ruddy Government heading in the same direction: propping up shareholders (gamblers) at the expense of the tax-avoiding public. Let me be clear, tax avoidance is no bad thing: better to pay tax through consumption (a form of customs and excise) which is discretionary than let the bastards think they have a limitless supply on tap to waste. How do you think NSW got into this mess? But I digress. What has happened since the rejection of Howard and his gangster mob by the people is that everyone is in a state of unaccustomed unreality exacerbated first by the international economic shock (which blind Freddie and a number of his adherents on this site had been predicting for some time) and followed by the farce of the US elections.
Notwithstanding that, debate has continued. While it is true that Webdiarists generally fall either into the Graham ideological camp or its opposite, not all of us does. The better analogy is a Venn diagram. For most of us there is not only considerable overlap which makes it difficult to categorise any particular individual but there are many instances of rational discourse changing people’s minds.
As to editorial bias, again I think Ian misses the mark. The moderators agree on moderation policies but they are anything but of one mind either socially or politically. I think they impose standards fairly uniformly (and I don’t agree with some of those standards – Dr Reynolds particularly has a very Presbyterian attitude to robust criticism which she generally describes as abuse – poor deluded creature) but I do not think they are otherwise bound by uniformity either of thought or opinion.
[Adopting a Welsh accent, although not that sported by Julia Gillard] “curmudgeon” is it, Scott Dunmore? As fine a back-handed compliment as ever I have been given. Although I would point out that while I am economic in expression and with my time, I am not miserly.
I also disagree with Kathy Farrelly’s objection to abuse: the more the merrier. I am no stranger to having some of my more acerbically witty comments marked Do Not Publish (DNP for the uninitiated) by feint–hearted moderators. I live most of my professional life at the NSW Bar and, believe me, that’s one place where, if you can’t stand the heat, you really ought to get out of the kitchen quick smart. The best advice, if you are of that temperament, would be to spend most of your life under a running shower. Nevertheless, abuse per se is not a complete substitute for argument. One may be arguing with another contributor who would give your average bacillus a running head start in an IQ test but one still has to make out a cogent argument.
In short, I just think the climate is such that we are going through a lull. The field, as Farmer George well knew, has, from time to time, to lie fallow in order to yield at a later time. Now we are beset by mangels, wurzels and turnips; I have confidence the new year will see a bumper crop of exotica. The deteriorating economy will be a fecund source of material as will the inevitable mistakes that are made both by the Ruddy government and the mutt with skinny legs. The
What then, does Webdiary mean to me?
It strikes me that “journalism” falls into the following (sometimes overlapping) categories:
Pamphleteering (now turned into the sort of commentary by the Ackermans, Devines, Albrechtsens, Hendersons, the various political flacks who get columns in the newspapers and those who dwell on the edge of sanity like Paul Sheehan), reporting of news, opinion by news journalists about news, journalists interviewing other journalists (a particular failing of the ABC but gee, it’s cheap), sensationalism, beatups, sport (shudder), magazine articles in the weekend papers, and lifestyle.
Webdiary is not, to me, journalism in any of those senses. It is an opportunity to float pieces of the above for comment by the community at large at a length and in a format which is amenable to no other medium than the internet. It is also an opportunity for members of that community to float ideas to gauge the reaction of other members of the community. It would also be nice to have regular gardening and cooking sections.
From time to time I find the content tedious but, generally, huge fun. Now that the new Defamation Acts are in force and both truth and honest belief in the truth of what one publishes are defences, it is getting to be even more fun politically.
My first article for Webdiary, written at Margo’s invitation, was A time to break down, and a time to build up published on 5 October 2005. I had noticed Webdiary when it first started as part of
Since then, I have used the site to expand both the range of comment and my ability as a writer. Trained as a literary critic with a deep background in the 18th (and to a lesser extent the 17th) Century, I did not think I could write creatively. Whether I am right, dear reader, is for you to judge. I can say it has given me a lot of wicked pleasure and draws on all my skills (such as they may be) developed over about 34 years now. The breakup of what I have written to date is one review, 15 political articles, 24 satirical pieces, one purely legal piece (although that is a common thread through almost everything I write), two sole comment articles, five pieces of pure whimsy, the introduction of the Bulletin Board The Town Crier and the creation of a number of fictional characters: Alphonse de Ponce, astrologer extraordinaire who has penned four prognostications; Claude the Diabetic Cat who has written two but gets to the keyboard as often as possible to comment (usually on food); the revival of that extraordinary politician Tom Lewis; and, drawing on my 18th Century background, Dr Yorick. Of them all, my favourites are the Nadir series and the Yorick Despatches although time will tell where the Great Australian Novel might take us all.
Analysing what I have written statistically is odd but I think typical of Webdiary. My best “hit rate” is 128 while some things, particularly the political satires and the whimsy, often do not draw anything. That used to be dispiriting until I discovered that they are all read by large numbers of people and have a following. Well, Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life, did he?
Not, mind, that I’m suggesting I’m mentally ill but I was narked to find that, without consulting me, I had suddenly been transmogrified from a contributor to a blogger (whatever that might be). Sounds redolent of Burke and Hare to me.
A final point in relation to the student experiment. I do not agree with Scott Dunmore. The exercise has been valuable. A very few of them have entered into the spirit of the thing and, as they mature as writers, will become part of the community. As for the rest, they do no more than reflect the decline in the intellectual life of the University generally: they had to do two assignments for a course that is costing them an arm and a leg just so they can have the opportunity to be qualified unemployed journalists and have another few meaningless letters after their names on their CV’s. To that end, they have ticked the box and fulfilled the requirement. Were I marking some of them (and I say this without having been graced with knowing what the actual tasks they were given are) I would fail them on merit. For my part, I think the University would be much better off just taking their money and awarding the degrees with the caveat Magnum cum Pecuniae. Save us all a lot of time. And after all, you could make the application form sufficiently complicated to deserve a Mirror Maze medal just for completing it successfully. The clever thing would be to structure the fees so that it cost the degree fee minus $10 to purchase the application form and $10 for the testamur. That, at least, would save the embarrassment of actually having to fail anyone. Whatever happened to that Sub-continental stalwart B.A. (Oxon.) Failed?
So, Ian and Scott, I think Webdiary has as robust a future as you and others will allow. It is proper that we should question its direction from time to time but we should ask those questions on line.
Over to you, Webdiarists.