interview: meet the bloggers (bbc radio 4)

BBC Radio 4’s Mark Savage has spent the past several months researching, writing and producing Meet the Bloggers, a new weekly radio series that starts at 9.30am on Tuesday (29 Aug). Some of the audio from the series, as well as a full running order, is available for download and Mark has also written an article about the series for BBC News Online.

In Meet the Bloggers, Mark speaks with some “A List” bloggers, like the people behind InstaPundit and GoFugYourself as well as lesser known – but I think potentially more interesting – bloggers who write about their personal lives in their blogs. I caught up with Mark, who coincidentally lives two streets away from my last house and not far from my current home, as he put the final touches on his program…


Robin: Before you started work on the programme, what experience, if any, did you have of reading blogs and or actually blogging yourself?

Mark: I became interested in blogs when someone sent me an extract from a blog written by a British woman in Iraq. I was bowled over by the writing and looked for other pieces on the same subject. That led me to Riverbend and some of the other bloggers in Iraq and I ended up making a documentary using their extracts to paint a picture of what life was like there both for the civilians and the military. These were voices I hadn’t heard before and I felt they were really refreshing.

What were your impressions of blogs before you started work on the programme? How have your views changed, if it all, now that you’ve spent time researching blogs for the series?

Mark: I hope I have learnt to guard against preconceptions, especially when it comes to the Internet. What I have come to realize is the tremendous intellectual and creative opportunities involved in blogging. Yes some people are snobbish about it and it is true that many are meaningless meanderings, but some are fantastic – not surprising given the huge number.

How did you find the blogs you looked at? How did you decide which bloggers to speak with?

Mark: I went to sites like technorati, britblogs and the bloggies but I soon realized the most popular blogs weren’t necessarily going to be the best. I used my own judgement and – I have to admit – taste. The blogosphere (not sure I am keen on that word) is so vast that you have got to have a few stars to steer by.

You’ve landed some real A list bloggers here – were any of them reluctant to speak with you or mistrusting of what bloggers often refer to as “mainstream media”?

Mark: Most were only too pleased to talk to me but I did encounter some problems. I had an elaborate courtship with one US milblogger who was extremely suspicious of me which sadly went nowhere. I also approached a couple of police bloggers – one in the UK and another in the US. I think both were worried about losing their pensions – even though I promised not to reveal their identity.

Did you get any sense as to whether some of the bloggers you spoke with are, or on the verge of, making a living out of their blogs? Was that the main motivation for them or did they, as I suspect, each have different motivations?

Mark: The money thing helps, but I don’t think it is the main motivation. What drives most bloggers seems to be their own creativity and an enthusiasm for the written word. Ego must come into it too.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in making the series?

Mark: The one aspect of blogging which I hadn’t really appreciated was the conversation. I am fascinated by the fact that you can write about something and then have readers come in with their own thoughts and ideas and propel the whole thing in an entirely different direction.

Now that you’ve done the series, do you think you’ll be taking up blogging in future?

Mark: Well I wouldn’t mind, but the truth is that I just don’t think I could keep up the pace day after day, week after week. There are too many things to do around here: the ironing, the shopping, bringing in the cat, taking out the children etc. But I do know that this will not be my last adventure with blogs and bloggers.

Meet the Bloggers airs on BBC Radio 4 from 9.30 – 9.45 each Tuesday starting the 29th of August.