Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Orwell Prize for Blogging

I'd never heard of it, but the (now defunct) cop blog, Night Jack has walked away with the first Orwell Prize for Blogging.

The prize caused a bit of ripple on the left - mainly because the ubiquitous
Iain Dale made the shortlist. Given Orwell was a man of the left and an investigative journalist and Dale is, erm ... neither, quite a few bloggers let their objections be known.

However, the criteria for the prize was much more broadly defined. One does not have to travel the 21st century's roads to Wigan Pier or write dispatches from conflict hotspots. It's all about the writing:
The Orwell Prize rewards those who achieve George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Entries should therefore be of equal excellence in style and content.

‘Political writing’ is defined in the widest possible sense, and encompasses subjects including (but not limited to) party politics, social issues, public policy, the media, conflict, public services, history, economics, the environment, local government, and international relations.
In this regard, my personal favourite from the shortlist would have to be Alix Mortimer of the LibDems. Leaving aside her politics, Alix offers some of the best writing in British political blogging.

But really. Seriously. Should anyone in their right minds give a fig about blog award ceremonies and contests? I mean, is there anything more introverted, geeky and, well, irrelevant?

On one level I suppose so. No one among the scores of socialist blogs out there think the revolution is going to happen online - though when it comes it
will be blogged and twittered. I can see it now - comrades taking time out from the barricades to jump on their laptops, phones and blackberries. But in the here and now we're stuck with the battle of ideas, and blogging is one arena among many where this is fought. So any contest that draws attention to political blogging should be seen as an opportunity by the blogging left, and especially the far left, to win over new audiences. This is difficult with something like the Orwell prize, which is judged by a panel of worthies drawn from the old media. But that potential is there for the more "democratic" blog awards, such as the Bloggies and Iain Dale's the Total Politics Top 100.

This is what it's about comrades. Good rankings in these contests stroke the old ego. But blogging and big audiences are not ends in themselves, they are a means to our socialist ends. In my opinion it would be a mistake to stay away from contests that funnel traffic our way. And I'm sure Orwell would have agreed.

7 comments:

nightjack said...

I used to be low profile.

Reading and understanding 1984 and Animal Farm were two of the good things that happened during my education.

If the Orwell Prize marks one thing, it is the ability of political bloggers to make some wider impact.A revolution may not come on line but if there ever is one, "online" will be part of what drives it now.

Phil BC said...

I suppose ... but wasn't the Orwell longlist self-nominated? Or did someone throw your hat into the ring for you?

Congrats nevertheless.

Confused of S. Yorks said...

Congrats to Nightjack.

Phil, I must take issue with one point you raise:

Given Orwell was a man of the left and an investigative journalist and Dale is, erm ... neither, quite a few bloggers let their objections be known.The criticism surrounding Dale's presence on the shortlist had nothing to do with his position on the political spectrum. Nor was it based on the fact that he wasn't a journalist.

The objections were purely based on the fact that, on the whole, he doesn't write very well from a stylistic perspective, and a lot of what he writes lacks intellectual rigour.

Now consider the objective of the award, namely to achieve George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Entries should therefore be of equal excellence in style and content. That's why there were objections.

andy newman said...

I agree with the criticsm, I lost interest in the whole thing when dale reached the short list.

he is a poor writer, with no depth, who recycles gossip and tittle tattle.

his inclusiom seemed to be a desperate conservative desire for conformity and validation from the judges that rather discredited them in my eyes.

Phil BC said...

I see.

The inclusion of Dale did seem to me as an attempt by them to get publicity among political bloggers. First I heard of it was after the nominations had closed - so this was probably a smart move from the narrow point of view of increasing the Orwell prize's profile.

andy newman said...

"First I heard of it was after the nominations had closed -"

It shouldn't have been , because I emailed you and recommended you enter.

Phil BC said...

Ooops! Must have slipped through my net or something. Oh well, next year!

But before then it's the Total Politics awards. Now there are so many excellent blogs about on the centre and far left I'm looking forward to seeing Iain Dale eat his 'right wing dominance' thesis.