Shepherd accused of sensationalist claptrap

Jay Cross, someone who I respect immensely professionally and like as a person, has accused me, with some justification, of ‘sensationalist claptrap’. At a time when, in the UK, we are in the middle of the Leveson enquiry, which is looking at the ‘culture, practice and ethics of the press’, Jay’s comment hit home. No-one has been more angry than me as, every day, more evidence is revealed of the disgraceful practices of the UK tabloids, yet  perhaps, in my own small way, I am as guilty as any.

When I started blogging, I saw it primarily as an activity for personal reflection, a way of clarifying and externalising my thoughts. And when you start blogging that’s pretty well all you can do, because it takes time to attract readers. Over time, as more and more people followed my blog, it became apparent that what I said could have a positive or negative impact on other people, much like a column in a newspaper.

It soon also became clear that blogging had become the domain of a select bunch of die-hard enthusiasts and was never going to become a tool for the masses, for whom Facebook status updates and tweets are more than adequate forms of expression. As a result, I came to the conclusion in 2009 that blogging is journalism, pure and simple.

In 2010 I took this analogy a step further, when I posted why we’re all headline writers now:

“… we’re all becoming skilled headline writers, or at least we should be. With emails and blog posts, our messages will never get read if the headlines are not sufficiently enticing. With tweets, SMS and status updates, all typically short messages, the message itself has to become a headline. If not, it will be scanned in a microsecond and quickly cast aside.”

In many ways I preferred it when I could write whatever I thought on my blog and no-one noticed. But I have to accept and take responsibility for the fact that my blog is in the public arena and that, if I am just a little clumsy in the way I express my thoughts, I can hurt people.

My crime, by the way, was to suggest that you beware who’s selling informal learning. My point, slightly tongue in cheek, was that many commentators on learning and development, myself included, are getting on a bit, and have maybe forgotten how useful formal learning can be when you are a novice. Only a thought.

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