Bloggers part in G20 proceedings hailed a success
Rubbing shoulders with professional reporters at last week’s G20 summit were “bloggers” from a range of websites. Political Editor Jonathan Walker talks to West Midlands MP Tom Watson about Downing Street’s campaign to court a new breed of internet journalist.
Something unusual happened as Gordon Brown took questions from journalists at last week’s G20 Summit.
After the inevitable queries from Sky News and the BBC, the Prime Minister called on Richard Murphy, who announced that he represented a website called Tax Research UK.
In other words, he was a “blogger” rather than a professional reporter. And his moment in the spotlight reflects the importance Downing Street is beginning to attach to self-published internet journalists.
The Prime Minister didn’t pick on Mr Murphy by chance. He was prompted by West Midlands MP Tom Watson to take at least one question from a gaggle of bloggers clustered together in a section of the conference hall.
Mr Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) was the first British MP to set up a blog of his own - a website which he updates regularly with his thoughts on the political issues of the day.
But now he’s looking at how the entire Government can change the way it communicates with the public, in his role as a minister in the Cabinet Office.
For example, this meant ensuring bloggers were given access to the G20 Summit in London - despite the reservations of some officials, who feared they posed a potential security risk.
Around 30 were invited, and they had a table set aside in the massive media centre shared by television and newspaper reporters from across the world.
Mr Watson said: “The hope is that they make the decisions at the G20 relevant to their readers.
“We don’t know yet whether they have or not.
“But inviting bloggers has been a success. The fears that bureaucrats had, about letting protestors in to blog, have not been realised.”
The idea actually came from Oxfam, which asked whether it could send someone along to write for its website. Mr Watson saw this is a chance to get a range of bloggers involved in the summit, and pushed in Downing Street for them to be invited.
As well as traditional bloggers, there was an administrator at message board mumsnet.com (popular with Mrs Watson) and a photo enthusiast who publishes his work on Flickr.
While many bloggers like to portray themselves as mavericks, operating independently of media companies, some blogs are actually adjuncts to businesses or small businesses in their own right.
For example, Richard Murphy is a chartered accountant and Director of Tax Research LLP, which provides tax advice to a range of public bodies and charities. His blog forms part of the business’ website.
Bloggers also need to go through the same process as other journalists when applying for access to major events - filling in forms, providing identification and, if places are limited, negotiating with or threatening whoever hands out the passes.