Professionals, Patients and Social Media

Earlier this week I met up for a pint with Victoria Betton, author of the Digital Mental Health blog. This turned into quite an in-depth conversation about social media, and the way it’s used by people who work in or use mental health services. After we met I decided to jot down some of the thoughts and ideas we were bouncing about, and put them up in a blog post.

Where are the subversive professional blogs?

Victoria commented that apart from the Not So Big Society and The World of Mentalists, she hadn’t come across many subversive blogs run by professionals (or in the case of The World of Mentalists half-run by a professional, since I co-edit it with Pandora). I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised that either of those blogs would be considered subversive. Once I’d recovered from the unexpected compliment, I did find myself agreeing that a certain chill has set over the health blogging world – from the professional side anyway; the patient side is flourishing. I’m not saying there aren’t good-quality, subversive bloggers out there – look at Stuart Sorensen and the 20 Commandments for Mental Health Workers. Even so, when you look back to the spleen-venting polemics of NHS Blog Doctor, Dr Rant and Militant Medical Nurse, it’s hard not to feel that professionals are increasingly cautious about what they stick on a blog or a tweet. I’ve felt this myself, and I’ve noticed that there’s things I might have said online three or four years ago that nowadays I just wouldn’t say.

Don’t get wrong, I’m not suggesting we all go out and start swearblogging. There are, after all, good reasons why professionals are more cautious. When I first started blogging on the now-defunct Mental Nurse, there were no guidelines from regulators about social media. Then one day an article appeared in the NMC News, basically saying it’s okay to blog, so long as you don’t breach confidentiality or bring the nursing profession into disrepute (gratifyingly, they recommended Mental Nurse as a good example of how to blog). Then a paragraph or so of guidance was issued. That paragraph has become increasingly detailed, mainly in the wake of people getting into trouble at work through social media.

As a result, professionals are now nervous about blogging or tweeting. In many cases they’ve interpreted “be careful about how you engage with social media” as “don’t use it at all”, which in fact regulators like the NMC have made clear is not their suggestion.

Which professionals are using social media well?

Something I commented on, which Victoria seemed to agree on, is that of the various professional groups using social media, one that seems to do it particularly well are the police. This especially seems to be the case on Twitter, for reasons I’ve yet to fathom. Possibly it may be partly due to the institutional sense of humour of police officers, which seems to translate well into tweeting.

It also strikes me that Chief Constables seem to trust their officers with social media in a way that perhaps directors of NHS trusts and social services departments might not. Nightjack is an obvious exception to that, though in his case he allegedly had the misfortune to be utterly shafted by the Times, to make it look like he’d breached confidentiality when he hadn’t.

If anyone has any additional thoughts on why the police seem so good at tweeting, I’d be interested to hear them.

The Ascent of Twitter

I’ve noticed a change in my approach to social media. Previously I thought of myself as a blogger who has a Twitter feed to promote the blog. Increasingly I think of myself more as a tweeter who also runs a couple of blogs. Interestingly, when I mentioned this to Victoria she felt she’d undergone the same change. Conversations that might have taken place on the comments thread to a blog post will now be tweeted after reading the post.

This goes to show that social media is still evolving. Different platforms come and go (Goodbye Livejournal! Hello Tumblr!) The way we engage with it is also involving, and becoming more multi-platform in nature.

Anonymous versus Non-Anonymous

I’ve generally felt more comfortable expressing myself anonymously as a nurse. This isn’t just because of worries about something I might say causing trouble with my employer. There’s been times when stuff I’ve blogged about has led to individuals trying to make problems for me in meatspace.

I do also have a non-anonymous Twitter and blog. Victoria seemed surprised when I said that I’m actually more careful about what I say under my anonymous Zarathustra alter ego than my non-anonymous one. I think the difference is that as Zarathustra I self-identity as a nurse, whereas the other identity is just me being me. So, if I want to say, retweet a rude joke, I’d do it non-anonymously, but also non-professionally.

Might professional cautiousness swing the other way?

As I said that at the beginning of this posts, some professionals are starting to avoid social media. I’m wondering if the trend might reverse. Just recently in the wake of the Twitter Joke Trial fiasco, the Crown Prosecution Service has issued statements suggesting they’re rethinking the extent to which they prosecute people for what they say online. In the case of the Twitter joke, they caused a man to lose his job, and squandered large sums of public money for something that was monumentally trivial. Their recent statements suggest they now recognise a need for balance to protect free speech.

If the CPS are starting to backpedal, and realise that they don’t need to run around prosecuting left, right and centre every time someone says something stupid on Twitter, perhaps that might lead to a climate in which people might become more comfortable in communicating online. I don’t dispute the need for social networking guidelines from bodies like the NMC, but I think it’s also important to recognise that professionals can use social media to communicate in a responsible, ethical and at times slightly subversive way. When they do, good things can come out of that.

Shortlist announced for Mind Media Awards

It’s that time of year again, and Mind have just annnounced the 2012 shortlist for their media awards.

Last year The World of Mentalists co-editor Pandora won the Mark Hanson Award for Digital Media for her Confessions of a Serial Insomniac blog. This year there’s at least two of my favourite bloggers nominated – namely Inspector Michael Brown aka Mental Health Cop and Independent blogger Ilona Burton. Both of those are very deserved, and I’m looking forward to browsing the other nominees and getting to know their work a bit better.

Other than the Mark Hanson Award, I’m also pleased that the superb This is England 88 is nominated for Best Drama, and that Patrick Strudwick has been shortlisted for Journalist of the Year for his coverage of psychotherapists offering “gay cures”.

Back in July Mind asked me to write a blog post encouraging people to submit nominations. At the time I wrote,

I’ve submitted a nomination in the Digital Media category. I won’t say who I’ve nominated, other than it’s not any website that I work on. Feel free to submit your favourites too.

Now that the shortlist has been announced, I’ll say that it was Chaos and Control. I nominated her for a saga in which she was stopped by staff from blogging while an inpatient. After some considerable wrangling with the NHS trust PALS service, she seemed to spark some genuine reflection on the part of the trust. She didn’t make the shortlist, but I certainly appreciated it.

Good luck to all the nominees.

TV Review: Young, Bright and On the Right

Yesterday evening, I was sitting at home and browsing through Facebook. Suddenly, various online friends were howling in disbelief at something on BBC2. Out of curiosity, I flicked on the TV, and was greeted by an edifice clearly designed to make you lose all faith in party politics, and possibly also common humanity.

Young, Bright and on the Right follows Joe and Chris, two Conservative Party members at Oxford and Cambridge respectively. Chris is an engagingly geekish sort. An ex-comprehensive schoolboy with Lib Dem parents who seem pleasantly bemused by his zeal for conservatism. At one point they ask him what the appeal is, and he admits that he enjoys getting to “pretend to be a member of the upper classes”. He gets inordinately excited at the prospect of being allowed to make a comment in a student debate, or to serve on a committee that nobody else could be bothered to apply for.

Joe, on the other hand, is a self-confessed schemer who openly revels in the skullduggery and manouevring among the leadership of Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA). He has a Margaret Thatcher screen-saver, and meets with his fellow stuffed-shirts over a cream tea for pleasant afternoons plotting whose back to plunge a knife into.

What’s notably absent, apart from chins, is the sound of anyone in the show saying, “I’m interested in politics because I really want to help the people in my community”. This is basically a game to these little squirts. Sort of like LARPing, except with the possibility of starting a war or screwing up the NHS.

Halfway through the show, Joe gets in a bit of a tizzy with the leadership of OUCA (I forget why: too trivial to care) and decides to shaft the lot of them by leaking footage of their members getting drunk and singing anti-semitic songs. It makes the Daily Telegraph, and he gets to revel in his glee. Along the way, he breaks down and admits that behind his cultivated Bertie Wooster exterior, he’s the son of a convict and was entitled to free school meals as a kid. The whiff of self-loathing hangs in the air.

Meanwhile, Chris has taken a break from drinking “conservative cocktails” (which look suspiciously like Blue WKD) to get himself “elected” onto a committee, or more accurately appointed since nobody else has stood for election. Possibly because they realised that there are far more enjoyable and productive ways to spend your time at university. Chris takes the same glee from organising biscuits that Joe takes from shafting his rivals. “Biscuit sourcing is actually quite a responsible position”, he enthuses. There’s a likeable naivity to him, which make me rather relieved that he and Joe are at separate universities. Joe would probably put arsenic in his biscuits.

A while back I wrote an account of my time in the Labour Party, and made the following observations.

As I experienced the rather sad spectacle that the Labour Party had become, it quickly dawned on me how the Blairite careerists had come to prosper. There was no conspiracy to take over. It’s just that…well, who else would actually find this sort of thing a worthwhile use of their time and effort? You need to be an odd sort of a creature to find modern party politics enjoyable and rewarding…Political parties used to be mass movements with roots in local communities. Now they’re small cliques of PR types and policy wonks who real humans tend to find a bit strange.

This documentary shows exactly how these bizarre creatures emerge into the likes of George Osborne and William Hague. The student political associations do a thorough job of weeding out anybody who might actually have a soul.

As Chris cycles away, revelling in his committee non-job, he makes the first insightful comment I’ve heard anyone say during the show. “I don’t think any of us at the age of 19 is fitted to proper power”. What? Is there some self-awareness creeping in here? Sure enough, we learn at the end that, “Chris has decided to focus on his studies rather than university politics”. Another being is brought back to the light, and angels rejoice at his salvation.

What about Joe? Has he been redeemed too? For a simple answer, here’s his Twitter profile.

Ladies and gentlemen, the future architect of the collapse of Western civilization

Incidentally, while writing this review, I came across this puff-piece preview, written by an American friend of Joe’s.

I feel for Joe. It’s not fair that he’s judged on his background, or accent, or education prior to attending Oxford. He should be judged only on his character and his personal talents.

Yes, I rather think he will.

Nuke them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

Submit your favourite bloggers and tweeters for the Mind Media Awards

On the 13th July nominations close for the Mind Media Awards. Bloggers, vloggers and tweeters can be nominated by you lot to win the Mark Hanson Digital Media Award. Last year it was won by TWOM co-editor Pandora for her Confessions of a Serial Insomniac blog, and in 2009 another Madosphere regular, Seaneen Molloy, won Best Radio Drama for her Radio 4 play, Do’s and Don’ts for the Mentally Interesting.

Both Pandora and Seaneen richly deserved their awards, though I may be biased in saying that since they’re both friends of mine. That said, the Mind Awards also alerted me to some new media figures who I hadn’t heard of before. Beckie0’s trichotillomania YouTube vlogs won the Comic Relief Speaking Out award in 2011, and I’ve been a firm fan of her videos ever since.

 

 

I know some people have criticised Mind for running a media awards ceremony, and suggested it’s all a bit glitzy and corporate. My own view of this is that we do need good portrayals of mental health in the media, and one way to encourage that is reward and recognise those that are created. Lord knows there’s been enough bad portrayals over the years.

I’ve submitted a nomination in the Digital Media category. I won’t say who I’ve nominated, other than it’s not any website that I work on. Feel free to submit your favourites too.

The Spirit Level: The Movie – An interview with director Katherine Round

In 2009 the groundbreaking and controversial The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Do Better was published. It argued that almost every aspect of society was improved by greater equality, and made worse by greater inequality. I interviewed producer and director Katherine Round, who plans to make a movie based on the book.

Z: What made you want to turn The Spirit Level into a film?

Katherine: When I read the book I was struck by the power of the evidence within it that inequality underlines many of the social problems we are most concerned about, and felt that if this message could be taken out to a wider audience it would really have the potential to make a significant contribution to public policy and from there hopefully we’ll start seeing improvements in areas as diverse as child poverty to mental health. I have long believed that film has a very powerful role to play both in raising awareness of issues and offering solutions – presenting factual information in a way that is accessible to new audiences. There are lots of people out there who would never pick up a book about the need for greater equality, and it is these people that a film can engage. The film The End of the Line, which examined the impact of over-fishing on the world’s oceans, was subject to an impact study on its effectiveness. The film was found to have been effective not just at spreading the message, but also changing policy (both government and retail). I hope The Spirit Level film can be as successful.

Z: What are the effects of inequality on society and the economy?

Katherine: The analysis conducted by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett shows that a range of social ills are more common in societies that have a bigger gap between rich and poor. For example; social mobility is less likely, there is more violent crime, more mental health problems, and poorer educational performance. And, contrary to what many believe, these problems impact on people even if they’re at the higher end of the income scale. We’ve been fed the view for years that inequality is necessary for economic success, but the reality is that it is a destabilising factor. Vastly unequal societies prohibit large sections of the population from participating in the economy without taking on debt. What we have seen is the creation of debt-based economies which are unsustainable, with wealth flowing upwards and the rest maintaining their position through borrowing. This inevitably collapses, causing recession.

Z: Some people have disputed the findings of The Spirit Level, and argue that inequality is not necessarily bad. What is your response to that?

Katherine: The critiques to the book have mainly come from a small number of politically-motivated sources, who by cherry-picking data and the inconsistent removal of different countries, have found they can show something different. This is the reason that the authors of the book used statistically sound epidemiological methods and data sources – to ensure that there was no bias and that their analysis was rigorous. They even added an additional chapter to the book answering their critics point-by-point.

Z: What do you hope the film will achieve?

Katherine: I hope the film will enable more people to be aware of how damaging the current levels of inequality are to our societies. By giving people ways they can influence change – as consumers, citizens and campaigners – I hope that we will be able to make an intervention in the debate, build the social movement for a fairer society, and ultimately make changes that improve people’s lives.

Katherine is attempting to crowfund the making of this movie. To make a donation, go here. (Note: donations end on Sunday night)

John Hemming MP encourages mother with history of violence to evade social services

John Hemming MP (Lib Dem, Birmingham Yardley) today made a spectacularly irresponsible and dangerous statement. He encouraged a pregnant woman whose unborn child is on the Child Protection Register, and who has a history of violence and substance misuse, to skip the country to evade social services.

There’s a story in today’s Sunday Express, of what superficially looks like one of those “politically-correct, interfering social workers” stories that the Express is so fond of.

SOCIAL workers want to seize a baby as soon as it is born because they are concerned about the mother’s violent links to the English Defence League.
Durham County Council has told Toni McLeod she would pose a “risk of ­significant harm” to the baby. Social workers fear the child would become radicalised with EDL views and want it put up for adoption immediately….

However, her cause has been taken up by Lib Dem MP John Hemming who, despite his loathing for the EDL, raised it in the Commons. He contrasts her treatment with that of the extremist Islamic cleric Abu Qatada, who was allowed to remain with his ­children when he was briefly remanded on bail earlier this year as the Government tries to deport him.

He said: “It raises a curious question as to why Abu Qatada is allowed to radicalise his children but the state won’t take the chance of allowing Toni McLeod to look after her baby in case she says something social workers won’t like.

“I am very strongly opposed to the EDL, which I believe to be a racist organisation, but I do not think we should remove all of the children of the people who go on their demonstrations, however misguided they may be.”

Mrs McLeod is reportedly considering a move to Ireland to evade the eyes of social services.

John Hemming MP has also commented today about the case on his blog.

I oppose the EDL myself. Mrs McLeod says she now does not support the EDL. My view is that the EDL are generally out for a fight rather than expressing a political position. However, I do not think association with the EDL is good cause to remove a new born child from a mother. She has no real choice but to emigrate because the care system is so orientated towards adoption.

First of all, there’s a concern here because he says, “She has no real choice but to emigrate”. He’s not saying, “Look, you should cooperate with social services, and show them that you’re a capable mother, regardless of your political views.” He’s effectively saying, “Yes, it’s okay to leg it, even though your foetus is on the CPR.”

Also, and there’s a real irony here, the Express seems to have done its homework more thoroughly than Mr Hemming. As with Mr Hemming they state that Mrs McLeod no longer supports the EDL. However, unlike Hemming, they report that she’s now believed to support the North West Infidels, an EDL splinter group that are, if anything, even worse. A couple of months ago five of their members were arrested for inciting racial hatred online. Earlier this week their leader John Shaw was jailed for neglecting his herd of llamas so badly that some of them died of starvation.

Also in the Express article (but again not mentioned by Hemming) are some snippets that perhaps paint a rather different picture of Mrs McLeod than a victim of political correctness.

Mrs McLeod, who is 35 weeks pregnant, is a former leading member of the EDL, in which she was notorious as “English Angel”. The 25-year-old has a string of convictions for violence, including butting and biting a police officer after an EDL march in 2010 and she has been banned from owning dogs after setting a pit bull on a former partner….

Mrs McLeod has posted racist abuse on social networking sites but denies being racist…

Documents seen by the Sunday Express reveal social workers are worried about Mrs McLeod’s previous alcohol and drug misuse, her “aggressive behaviour” and her alleged “mental health issues”…

Mrs McLeod’s unborn child is her fourth, all of them by different fathers, even though she’s only 25, and the first three have already been removed from her care. Still, I shouldn’t be judgemental or make assumptions about that. I’m sure she’s a perfectly good mother when she’s not biting police officers or setting dogs on people.

Mr Hemming presumably has read the Express article, since he’s linked to it from his blog. Despite all that deeply worrying information about Mrs McLeod’s behaviour, he’s happy to make a media statement enocouraging her to leave the country so social services can’t monitor her.

Well done Mr Hemming, way to put cheap political point-scoring above the safety of a vulnerable child.

Oxfam warns of “Perfect Storm” of UK poverty

Today, Oxfam released a briefing paper: The Perfect Storm: Economic stagnation, the rising cost of living, public spending cuts, and the impact on UK poverty.

The paper warns of an assault from all sides on Britain’s poor, caused by a toxic combination of rising unemployment, declining incomes, increased cost of living, public service cuts, benefit cuts, housing shortages and weak labour rights.

The government‟s rapid deficit reduction measures are hitting the livelihoods of almost everyone in the UK, but the particular approach taken is hurting people living in poverty the most. The focus on cutting public spending rather than raising taxes is deeply regressive, and the blend of tax increases chosen is itself regressive. In addition, both public spending cuts and the tax and benefit changes introduced by this government will have a significantly more negative impact on women than on men.

At the same time, we are seeing a synergy of economic and social needs. Protecting the incomes of the poorest people is crucial for both social and economic reasons. It is people on low incomes who are being hurt the most by the Perfect Storm, and increasing the incomes of the poorest will have the strongest multiplier effect on aggregate demand in the economy. By prioritising and targeting social and economic investment, the government can ensure that it protects the services upon which those in poverty most rely, while helping to boost demand and provide investment in the long-term productive capacity of the economy.

Oxfam are calling for decisive action to safeguard the increasing number of British people living in poverty, which shames our status as one of the richest nations in the world.

Protect the incomes of the low paid, reducing the withdrawal rate of Universal Credit from 65 per cent to 55 per cent to ensure that work pays, and increasing the National Minimum Wage at least in line with inflation or average earnings, whichever is the higher;
Protect people in poverty from the increasing cost of living, by giving new powers to Ofgem to cap fuel prices; introducing a maximum level of interest; and protecting the Social Fund and expanding its resources, to protect people from exploitation and to guard against problem debt;
Protect public services, by using progressive taxation to slow the speed and depth of cuts; ring-fencing the Sure Start grant to local authorities in England; and exploring investing in a national system of universal child care, to make work pay for women and to build the social infrastructure of the country;
Protect the social safety-net, by giving local authorities in England and Wales sufficient resources to maintain existing levels of Council Tax Benefit; monitoring the effect of the Housing Benefit and overall benefit caps; reversing the switch from RPI to CPI inflation for benefit uprating; maintaining real Child Benefit levels; and reversing cuts to child-care support;
Provide secure, affordable, decent housing for all, by investing in affordable homes to boost the economy and to help solve the housing crisis; and increasing maximum penalties for rogue landlords;
Protect rights at work: the weak labour market is adding to the power that employers have over workers, and so it is essential to maintain and enforce the vital protections that do exist for vulnerable workers;
Move towards a fairer tax system by clamping down on tax avoidance; introducing a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions, to help protect public services and benefits and ensure that everyone pays their fair share; and exploring options for a land value tax; and
Rethink how we measure value: the social damage caused by inequality, high unemployment, and environmental degradation all tell us that it is not growth that matters, but the type and distribution of growth; measuring true social value through a measure of well-being such as Oxfam Scotland‟s Humankind Index will help us to measure whether what we are doing to fix the economy is really, sustainably benefiting society.

While such a paper wouldn’t be so surprising if it came from the likes of, say, UKUncut, this is from a major charity more usually associated with providing aid to the developing world. That they now feel it necessary to speak out about the way we treat our own poor may speak volumes about the increasing levels of inequality and hardship on our doorsteps.

You can read the full briefing paper here.

Shine A Light

What would Not So Big Society do without the Daily Mail? It’s the unfailing inspiration behind many articles as we take to our keyboards in umbrage at the latest affront perpetrated on our profession and especially on the vulnerable people we in our different fields all work with.

Last week they published a piece by a columnist with a long history of antagonism towards social services. It trumpeted the scandal that children are being needlessly removed from their families. It’s familiar fare but not without its dark humour.  Googleads’ faithful algorithm  pops up at the bottom with two ads for companies offering child protection training. This time, though, there’s one difference: the author may have a point.

It’s made with a numbing, naive disregard for the reality not only of professionals but also for the children and young people who desperately need help before their lives are scarred permanently and who need the best possible services. Social workers first round up children who are then corralled into care by a legion of staunch experts (sorry, that should read “experts”).  The middle-classes are now being targeted by a new weapon of unsubstantiated non-scientific jargon. You would call it neglect. Minister Tim Loughton was moved to publicly discredit the piece.

Remove the bile, invective and unsubstantiated assertions (there won’t be much left) and a key question remains: are too many children being taken into care? There is no denying the large increase in care admissions, well-documented since the tremors of the baby Peter effect caused an upsurge in care proceedings. The aftershocks are still being felt and I’m not sure this is necessarily a good thing.

At least the growing debate is breaking out of the confines of the sector into the mainstream, including the political arena. In 2010 Barnardos commissioned a report from the thinktank Demos that concluded more children should be taken into care and at an earlier age. Their CEO at the time, Martin Narey, is now the adoption czar. The influential head of Kids Company Camila Batmanghelidjh feels the state should step in. In another piece from last week, Anthony Douglas, head of CAFCASS the over-worked court social work and mediation service, argues that taking more children into care can be beneficial.

Whichever viewpoint you take, it’s imperative that this is talked about as widely as possible. As Douglas says, “These children need as strong a light as possible shone on their lives.” Yet the context of this debate has still to be established and without it, we can’t progress. The balance between the intervention of the state and the freedom of the individual in regard to child care is fundamental to every household with children. Until this is clarified, social work will flounder at the mercy of shifting tides of opinion and will not be able to protect the children who need to be safe. Never mind the controversy in the Mail or elsewhere about where the threshold lies, we need to know that a threshold exists.

The boundaries are being established not by evidence, policy or government initiative but by the reactions of local authorities to two developments: baby Peter and the cuts. As a professional this makes me profoundly uneasy. I want to know what to do, how to apply the law together with my training and expertise. This has diminished value if  the threshold for care is dictated primarily by factors that have nothing to do with these fundamentals, let alone the actual level of need.

Good social work with children and families depends upon the practitioner having a variety of solutions available in any given situation. These resources range from preventive provision in the community through to the intervention skills of the worker and different types of placement. Hold on to your hats for the revelation that every child, every family, each situation is different so the professional needs to be able to choose what method works for this child, this family at this time. Steady yourselves, there’s more. Things change over time, so different resources might be needed further own the road.

The basic premise, as with so much of good care, is obvious. The problem is, those resources at one end of the spectrum have crumbled under a quake of a different kind, the spending review. Preventative services for children and families are fast disappearing as local authorities consolidate their precious scant resources around statutory duties. Surestart, parenting groups, family centres, section 17 money, therapy – slipping through the cracks into bottomless chasms of oblivion.

Fewer resources mean that children come into care later therefore their problems are more entrenched. Also, there’s more weight given to the option of care because there are fewer alternatives. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Then, once in care, we come across another element of the debate, the crisis in foster care as we struggle to  find enough high quality placements to address complex need.  To borrow Ermintrude’s recent remarks in regard to adult care, there isn’t a crisis in foster care. Rather, “there is a well foreseen and ignored gap in the funding and provisioning of needs in the sector.” And so care doesn’t work,. the system is failing children and we are trapped in a cycle of failure of our own making.

The Mail is the amongst the first to criticise social workers for not acting when children have been abused but this is more than the classic ‘damned if you do damned if you don’t’ bind that blights our profession. Social workers act on behalf of our society. We are public servants. If society isn’t sure what we should be doing, then neither are we and that is no good to anyone.

Rupert Murdoch and the Dying Croak of a T-Rex

This evening I had a damn good laugh after glancing at Rupert Murdoch’s Twitter, apparently set up in the wake of Hackgate to help him engage with new media.

So, how’s that going? Today, the Destroyer Of All That Is Good and Holy tweeted.

Tweeters who don’t like particular newspapers don’t have to buy them. Thousands of crappy blogs available.

MWAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!

Personally, I’m actually rather fond of “crappy blogs”, as Murdoch calls them. I like the idea of journalism and punditry becoming something that’s done as an act of citizenship rather than as a paid job. It strikes me as something that can be a tremendous force for good.

A few years back I set up the This Week in Mentalists round-ups to highlight good blogging on mental health issues, which became a collaborative, online endeavour by a collective of volunteers. Just a few months ago, I reviewed the New Media entries in the Mind Media Awards. In the running was an interactive site to promote men’s mental health, a video diary of a girl with trichotillomania, and the winning entry, the outstanding Confessions of a Serial Insomniac blog, the author of which was kind enough to invite me along to see her pick up her prize. I was impressed by just how much can be done to exchange ideas and information, and none of it behind a paywall.

While it’s true that blogging, vlogging and tweeting can be a bit of a free-for-all, there are numerous gems to be found, on innumerable subjects. They’ve also become increasingly a force for accountability and exposing all kinds of naughtiness. Not least in the way that Twitter users brought down the News of the World. No wonder Murdoch’s feeling uncharitable towards bloggers and tweeters.

Murdoch is basically a weak, dying T-Rex, robbed of his dominant position by the asteroid smash of new media. As with the passing of the dinosaurs, the fall from power of media dinosaurs is leading to an explosion of new, evolving forms. Keep your obsolete newspapers, Mr Murdoch. Vive la (r)evolution.