Self-referentially, this blog is going to be about blogging. And a bit about porn. And the Hungarian media law, which is back in the news because it looks as though Budapest has agreed to abide by many of the European Commission’s list of complaints about the controversial law. According to reports, the Hungarians will no longer require media outlets to register with the new media regulator, won’t levy fines on foreign-based media who violate the law; and will restrict the ban on “offensive” media content to alleged cases of hate speech.
There’s a piquant side to this story too. It came out recently that Annamária Szalai, the head of the Media Authority, edited a short-lived girlie magazine in those carefree days of the early ’90s (when this green young immigrant was shocked at the displays of hard-core mags laid out on tables at his suburban Prague metro station). That’s the excuse for the tastefully doctored photo on this page (the original is here). In fact Ms. Szalai’s prior career interests me even less than Silvio Berlusconi’s taste in women. But I like the fact that a former pornster is now pushing for family values and state control over the media.
And yet, on one point she and I may not be so far apart.
I have an old-fashioned belief about blogs: If a professional journalist publishes a “blog” in the pages of her or his publication – especially if paid for it, as many are – it’s not a blog. It’s an article, or column, and as such should be treated no differently than the fully fledged news stories and columns in the same issue.
If a political reporter wants to write about his favorite restaurant, or a sportswriter yearns to expound her theory of intelligent design, and not have any pesky editors breathing down their neck, fine. But not under the aegis of their employer. Let them start their own blog on WordPress and fight for a niche in cyberspace along with all the others.
That’s why my eye stuck on the “balanced reporting” provision of the Hungarian media law. The Media Authority has the power to punish media it accuses of publishing unbalanced news, but it seems Budapest has now agreed to drop this in regards to blogs. I’m waiting to see how they define blog – in light of what I’ve just been saying, it may not be easy to find a universal definition.
Blogs began as a way for non-professional writers to broadcast their thoughts, then gradually evolved, some of them, into something never before seen: not standard journalism, certainly; a new form that has become an invaluable new resource above all in countries where professional journalists are persecuted, under-paid, inexperienced or all of the above – and there are a lot of countries like that in TOL-land.
So I’m willing to make an exception for these kinds of bloggers, those who provide a real service. But I still say, if they are acting like real journalists they should be treated as such. At least they should be in a perfect world, one where journalists and all writers are free from persecution and under-payment.