The Baghdad Blogger on Newsnight…

Watching the Baghdad Blogger on Newsnight this evening has been a vaguely dispiriting experience. It’s not entirely clear what his remit was or what the circumstances of the film were, but it looks like he was given a camera and very little support and left to try and drag a film together. The idiom was very webloggery – insight into the individual’s life and background blurring into commentary on life in Iraq. As an approach I think it’s very powerful – the most startling moment for me was his mother talking about watching Pop Idol and realising (yet again) how similar and connected we all are – but the implementation was terrible and – I fear – a bit embarrassing. The whole thing felt – yet again – like one of those blurred confusions between webloggery and journalism that journalists keep making that always seems to come out slightly badly for the bloggers concerned. Or maybe I’m being a little unfair…

6 replies on “The Baghdad Blogger on Newsnight…”

You’re being a little unfair on the film. The fact that you think it looked a bit shonky (if I may be so bold) is that you’re being defensive about weblogging. You even said it yourself: he’s an architect who recorded a diary of life in a city during a period of conflict. His “implementation” was hardly polished. Either the film should have been just like that – or it could have been an interview, complete with an army of pro technicians, through the lens of a professional journalist. Simply put: journalists and diarists/bloggers/columnists/whatever do different things and trying to compare and contrast is a bit pointless, really. But why on earth did you find it embarassing?

You hit the nail on the head for me Tom. His mother watching ‘Pop Idol’, how much he planned to drink over Ramadan, and the architectural history were diverting, but he couldn’t have been less illuminating. As for the handwritten signs… just a perfect example of how to blow your fifteen minutes. Couldn’t he have interviewed a freed prisoner or someone who lost a child? Embarassing is right.

It was potentially embarrassing because the webloggery style, which was telegraphed with those blurred link-shots of Salam typing into the Blogger page like Carrie on ‘Sex and the City’ was in my view very gimmicky. In other words, to the mainstream of Newsnight-watchers out there, weblogs are some newfangled gimmick. Even the way Paxman said ‘blogger’ after the piece was with a hint of disdain. Maybe I’m reading too much into that, but how and ever .. While undeniably powerful, the piece told us very little if any of how Salam Pax actually came to be presenting it – how his weblog gave ‘his’ story a gravity that others just don’t have – and the details of which make his story even more powerful. But that’s just my opinion.

It’s not all Salaam’s fault tho, he had a production team from Guardian films working with him. Their natural language is that of documentary film, so why it was such a dog’s dinner is a little confusing.

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