Marr can’t seriously believe that many people nowadays think that bloggers or “citizen journalists” (whatever they are) are going to “replace” journalism, even if they have already changed it.
He seems to be confusing people who comment online with bloggers. These categories overlap, but aren’t the same. Marr is on to something in drawing attention to the unreadability of long comment threads. They’re rarely rewarding, many comments overlap, the sequence is incoherent and quantity of rewarding reads very low. As Marr says, it’s the anger that makes them off-putting.
I’d predict that newspaper websites in particular will start to look ever harder for ways of reducing the prominence of comment strings, moderated or otherwise, despite having strained so hard to generate them only recently. You can see the trend already in “Editor’s picks” which function as a short-cut through the ranting. Surely there will before long be software which enables comment threads to reduce duplication, get the best to the top and actually distinguish by value added? Perhaps it’s already out there and I don’t know about it.
But all that is to take an off-the-cuff blogger-type short rant too seriously. Paul Bradshaw of the Online Journalism Blog does not make this mistake when he plays Marr’s own words back at him. There’s a more po-faced defence of chatting to your audience from C4′s Krishnan Guru-Murthy.
Update 13/10/10: In a way he did mean it seriously, but his judgement may not have been unclouded at the time. The reasons why are summarised plus links by John Naughton here.