Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blog Readers Self-Segregate

"Blog readers gravitate toward blogs that accord with their political beliefs." So say these guys, and no doubt they're right in general about American political blogs, although I suspect that in the case of French Politics the draw is France rather than a particular political line. But I could be wrong. How do you readers see yourselves? Are you here to deliberate, gather factual information, and compare different points of view, or to suck up the party line of the Party of Moi?

I can say this about my own participation in the blog: I had more of a party line before I started writing it. I supported the Socialists because I think of myself, broadly speaking, as a social democrat. But following Socialist activities day-to-day has been such a depressing experience that, while I remain a social democrat, I have no desire to take a party card, not even for 10 euros. I had expected the blog to be a chronicle of the Socialists' response to successive defeats and of their efforts to regroup and rebuild. Instead it has become a record of un déraciné idéologique à la recherche d'un engagement impossible.

15 comments:

Scaramanga said...

I'm a Frenchman working for an American journalist based in Paris, so I come here most of the time to check out what attracts the interest of an American observer of French politics, fish out story ideas and get useful links...

Unknown said...

Can you tell us which American journalist?

Scaramanga said...

Yeah, I guess it's not confidential information... I work for Robert Marquand, of the Christian Science Monitor.

Unknown said...

Thanks. One of the surprises of blogging has been to discover how many journalists use blogs, or at any rate this blog, as a resource. It's a point I often make when asked about the relationship between blogs and "mainstream media." We rely on them, to be sure, but we have different priorities and interests, so they can also profit from us. Blogs aren't responsible for the decline of the print media, and the print media can enhance their product by opening up to the on-line world.

Unknown said...

Of course I realize that the CSM is no longer a "print medium."

Scaramanga said...

Yes. Incidentally, I've come to realize how circular the flow of information is, but that's a slightly different topic.
Informally, a blogger with academic credentials is considered quotable or trustworthy, I would say. Otherwise, the blogger must be quoted in other print or online media. Pretty much like an "expert."

eli thorkelson said...

I can't speak for anyone besides myself, but I read the blog because I'm an anthropology grad student writing my thesis on French university politics. So it's been great to have a quick guide to other parts of the political scene here (I'm in Paris this year). I must say that the foreign coverage of French universities is largely nonexistent and otherwise usually lamentable, and even the national media seldom has incredibly good coverage, so I've been particularly interested to see how that whole world surfaces here (as in that piece by Michèle Lamont posted a while back).

Anyway, I am sure that I don't read blogs to reconfirm my political identity! I think "comparing different points of view" would be a lot closer to it.

heathcliff said...

My interest is primarily to collect information about what is happening in France. This is one of several resources in English that I consult. I have a friend from France and I feel it helps me to be more informed/aware of current events.

Passerby said...

I do think that people on the internet tend to be drawn toward sources that confirm their own views. Try debate a creationist on a forum, an they'll almost always quote some obscure website, that you wouldn't knew existed if you didn't support that view (I guess this also means I don't go visit these contradictory sites too often).
But anyway nothing new here. After all Le Figaro & L'Humanité are fine examples of similar trends before blogs appeared.


Regarding French Politics, its audience is certainly more diverse politically, if you're looking purely at the Right-Left angle.
However I would assume that the vast majority of readers tend to be educated. Most commenters seem to hint a political preference, but nore seem to have extremist views.
Which makes sense. It requires some kind of appreciation for diversity to either:
1. keep yourself informed about a country other than your own.
2. reading about your own country from a foreign source.


As for myself I try to stick to relatively neutral sources (either foreign, or portals like Yahoo! presenting only headlines and redirecting toward all kind of sources).
But as I tend avoid medias with strong political lines, I'm not totally neutral.



On a side note: Whenever discussing "blogs" in general, I can't help but think about the eighties sci-fi novel Ender's Game.
I always found stricking that the author was presenting a future where most of the population would get their news from essayists publishing their comments online.

the fly in the web said...

French Politics keeps me aware of debate and French friends aso read it, so we have plenty to discuss.

satchmo said...

It seems inevitable that large numbers of readers self-select according to their views; it would be surprising if were any other way. It's the same way we select newspapers and other sources, etc. Readers will self-select for L'Humanité over Figaro or vice versa for obvious reasons.

But more partisan blogs or papers tend to be more noisy and less informative, imo. So for my own interest, I prefer those that have a higher degree of expertise and analysis, where I can find information that educates me, etc. Mainstream media does far too little of that, so I appreciate blogs like this one, Juan Cole, Brad Delong, etc. I have my own partisan and other idiosyncratic/local preferences of course (e.g., I always check the Progès Quotidien de Lyon), but in general I'm looking for intelligent, informed, analytic content and the chance to learn something new, etc.

Also, I think this particular blog has a unique niche, in that it mediates across a language barrier between two related but not necessarily conversant cultural spheres. It provides insightful openings onto Francophone doings for an Anglophone (or perhaps Franglophone? better describes the readership here) audience in a way that is kind of unique. So I'm not surprised to hear that journalists can better inform themselves here. Mainstream Anglophone media is often obtusely Francophobic, and this blog provides a welcome respite from all that.

Cincinna said...

Art, I don't regard your Blog has particularly partisan, even though you do express your own viewpoint.

I am a conservative, and I read your Blog all the time. Your knowledge of French politics, history, and what's in the air, set yours apart.

Congrats on your Biolay quiz. Quel scoop!

FWIW There is more interest than many would think on Conservative sites and Blogs. I run a Ping List for articles relating to France on Free Republic, a Conservative site. I have a membership list of over 500 people.

MYOS said...

I come to the blog to pick up on news I haven't found elsewhere and for another perspective on news. I also enjoy Art's analysis a lot. The diversity of viewpoints is evident - all people share an interest for France but all come from a variety of backgrounds - that adds to the blog's interest in my opinion.

Stephen said...

I'm a 4th year student at the University of Virginia majoring in European politics and French lit. I did a year at Sciences Po Paris and one of my professors (Bruno Cautres) mentioned the blog to me and I have been a reader ever since. I think it provides great perspectives on French politics. Everyday I am able to situate myself a little more comfortably within the world of French politics and this blog has been a great help. Thanks!

CJWilly said...

I'm a rootless Anglo-American who happens to have been born and raised in France. I went to uni in the UK prior to my political consciousness being really awakened. I read this blog as a way of getting back in touch with French news and politics. It gives you the context necessary for "the Anglo-Saxons" to be introduced to French politics. (Context which is lacking in French media for obvious reasons, and somewhat less obviously, also lacking in the Anglophone media.)