Friday, 20 May 2005

A Blogging-Journalist's Rant on Blogging

Warning: Preachy and long-winded post about blogging ahead...

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I don't blog about blogging often. But this post has been simmering on the surface of my Star-Wars-obsessed mind for a while now, and now, I really think I should just get it out and get back to blogging about Star Wars.

It's a strange monster, this blogging thing. Some people are so passionate about it that they blog every other hour.
  • Some blog because they know people are reading and feel obligated to post because of that.
  • Some blog because they want to get their thoughts out, without caring whether anyone reads them or not.
  • Some blog to update friends about their lives and how many wives they have.
  • Some just blog because they think blogging is the next greatest thing to happen to freedom of speech since gossip columns.
  • Some blog because they have nothing better to do.
Why do I blog then? My job already involves a lot of writing, and I've been asked, 'Wah, you don't write enough during your work ar? Still want to blog some more?"

So why DO I have this Eye on Everything?

Well, I really don't know for sure.

Well, like I've said before, I really like writing. And to me, blogging is a way for me to write the things I don't or can't write about when I'm working. Also, it gives me a chance to experiement with different phrases, different nuances, different styles, and be slightly more unorthodox, unconventional or slightly more relaxed or 'loose' with my writing. You certainly won't see me writing 'Lah' and 'mah' or 'wahlau' in my work articles. Well, not much anyway.

But the lines between my blogging-self and my work-writing DO get crossed sometimes. What I blog about tends to be what I experience, and when three quarters of your time is spent in front of the computer at work, its hard to write about anything else OTHER than work. But I do try hard to make sure the two don't clash. In fact, I've even taken some stuff from this blog and submitted it as work.

Some people claiming that it is the next step of journalism, that conventional journalism will no longer be needed. Well, blogging DOES give everyone to the chance to say (or rather, WRITE) what they want, whenever they want without being subjected to laws (to some extent) or (gulp) editors.

Out the window goes correct grammar, proper spelling, and sensitivity towards other people, cultures, religions, environment and other topics that normal journalists have to tread lightly around.

You don't see a newspaper carrying stories about sex, religion or race. You don't have reporters reporting on how the new Pepsi flavour or the time he got drunk and danced the strip tease in the middle of Jalan Sultan Ismail. Neither do you read in the newspapers about the personal relationships, heartbreaks, and challenges in the reporter's lives.

But then again, look at it the other way. While newspapers are limited in what they can or cannot say and cannot touch or say things that a blog CAN say, there is also something really scary about potential influence a blog can have.

Imagine if a newspaper reported that turtle eggs are good to eat, and even includes a recipe on how to COOK those eggs in the paper. Imagine the dire consequences that would have on the turtle eggs. People would rush out to buy turtle eggs. Demand would go up, turtle populations would go down.

Personally, it's alarming to me that after so much reporting, writing stories, and trying to educate the public on environmental issues, it could potentially all be undone by a single blog post.

As both a journalist AND a blogger, I find that SOME lines DO have to be drawn somewhere. The lines between ethical journalism and unethical blogging are becoming more pronounced than ever.

As a journalist, I feel bound by an unspoken code of ethics (well, at least thats what naive little me thinks) that compells me to get a message across in the best way possible, while thinking of a positive bigger picture at the same time. And when I DON'T do that in a story, I have editors who realise the threat.

It may be called censorship, it may be hindering freedom of speech. But it's safe.

ONE single misquote, ONE wrongly reported story, and ONE sensitive issue on the front page of a newspaper can bring down a nation.

Sure, the reach of a blog may not be as impactful as a mass-circulated newspaper (in which a really sensitive issue reported badly can bring dire consequences), and maybe only a handful of the major population is affected by what the blog says. But imagine if blogging really DOES spread to a wider audience (like certain prominent bloggers have been predicting) , and the ENTIRE nation reads blogs.

Take the Sumatra earthquake, for instance. When people in Malaysia felt the tremors, there was panic. Kudos to all the bloggers who "REPORTED IT FIRST!" so that everyone can take the necessary measures.

HOWEVER, when those blogs that "REPORTED IT BEFORE NEWS AGENCIES!" also telling people to 'move out for a while', 'don't go to work the next day', or 'don't go to the seaside because of tsunamis', then there is a line crossed somewhere. That's not reporting an event anymore. It's spreading paranoia.

Imagine what would happen if ONE prominent and widely-read blogger decided he didn't like a certain person and started a campaign against that person.

Some time back, a certain prominent blogger in Singapore blogged about a friend whose Blogspot-nick was taken by someone else. And all the 'supporters' of the prominent blogger went to that someone elses' blog to flame and throw insults at the 'nick-stealer'.

That REALLY doesn't seem right to me. After all, everyone has a right to blog right?

It may be very well to say that your blog is what you want it to be, and you can damn well write whatever you want on it. Hell, I'm all for that.

Blogging is a fine activity. But like everything else about the mass media, the blogger should also be responsible for what they write about. Every action DOES have it's consequences.

Lines HAVE to be drawn somewhere.

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PS: OK, end of serious stuff. Enough preaching. Back to Star Wars!

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