Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bloggers, Citizen Journalism and The Truth

Uganda has had blogs for some years now, but it was at the peak of
riot season last year that we saw the most exemplary work of citizen
journalism. It was when the chaos surrounding the Mabira Forest
giveaway rocked the city centre. All over town people were worried and
afraid. A little less worried were those of us who knew about the blog
of a young Ugandan whose office was on the upper storeys of a city
centre building. He was posting updates every hour of what he saw from
his window.

The mainstream media is larger and more powerful, of course, than
amateurs with blogs, but like any large and powerful machine, it is
slow to turn. Bloggers are like quick zippy drones that can switch and
adapt quickly. That is why this sort of citizen journalism thrives in
moments of chaos. Such as the post election violence in Nairobi. While
the mainstream media focussed on the fighting in the streets and
villages, bloggers told us about the silent homes, supermarkets,
kiosks and bars; the mainstream media told us about thousand people
who died during those dark weeks and they are justly to be mourned,
but the Kenyan blogosphere also gave us an insight into the thoughts
of the hundreds of thousands more in Nairobi city who lived through
those weeks, and gave us a fuller picture of the situation.

But does this manoeuvrability mean that citizen journalism—blogs--will
ever replace the mainstream media? No matter how easy it is to be
excited about it, it is doubtful.

The mainstream media has a number of flaws. Being slow is one, but
being a business is another: Every media organisation that carries
adverts is compromised. The only question is to what extent. Plus,
competition in the open market means you have to pander to the
customers and give them what they want, even if it isn't necessarily
what they need. These media products also cost money in the cases of
newspapers and cable news, so they only inform those who can afford
it. It looks like tiny, independent, free blogs which are beholden to
no one, would be easily superior.

But for all its weaknesses, I still believe in the ideals of the free
press. I believe in its standards and its traditions and its methods.
I believe in impartiality, in full disclosure, in seeking both sides
of the story, in checking and cross checking and in training and
qualification. I even believe in the parts we don't like: I believe
bylines are not about ego- bylines are reporters staking their
reputation on their word. I believe in the photographer taking
pictures of the mob justice instead of trying to stop it. I believe in
putting the bad news on the front page before the good news. I believe
in all of it. Because when it works, when the principles are followed,
then it goes beyond just information being conveyed. A wonderful thing
happens: Truth is told.

But blogs don't have theses standards. They are not accountable to
anyone, not even themselves. With citizen journalism, you remove the
weaknesses of the traditional media, but you also remove its
strengths. Bloggers are notorious for spreading rumour and
half-truths, for being used by one party against another, for pushing
dark agendas. If you want examples of how the blogosphere can spread
falsehood and deceit, ask Barack Obama, who has suffered all campaign
long from smears and lies against him that spread from blog to blog.
Of course there are blogs that are run by responsible and competent
people, who uphold the principles of honourable newsgathering, but
dare we expect that these will change journalism in Uganda? Typically,
if anyone has the time, resources and skills to practice proper
journalism, that person already has a demanding full-time job
practicing proper journalism. The number of blogs started by Ugandan
reporters and editors that are only updated once in a months is
testament to the fact that the good stuff is still in the papers.
Meanwhile half-informed, conspiracy theorists and rumourmongers, and
even outright liars, continue to thrive under the pretext of
practicing citizen journalism.
And that underscores the difference between citizen journalism and
professional, dare I say, REAL journalism. Whereas bloggers can,
should and do write on their thoughts and views on whatever issue they
chose to take interest in, be it entertainment, lifestyle, religion,
business, technology or news, actual journalism is a calling and to
serve as a journalist you need to dedicate yourself. It will be a long
time before amateurs clicking away on their coffee breaks will be able
to usurp the position of the traditional professional media.
After all, I myself work at a newspaper, and even I find it hard to
get the time to do a post for my blog that can beat a published news
story in terms of information content!
This post is published on behalf of Ernest Bazanye, who (on top of being The World's Like Best Humourist) seems to have misplaced his password for getting into this here group blog.
~ The 27th Comrade

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Anonymous Ivan said...


September 10, 2008 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger gayuganda said...

Exactly, uh!

And cheat. this is not what you said you are going to blog about.

So, I have to go back and read it again. And then do my work of Devil's Advocate.

Dont worry. I will have the time. I will do it. Maybe in a month's time, eh?

September 11, 2008 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Baz said...

I don't know. How long have you been blogging? Do you understand "burying" a post?

Don't bother replying. No on is going to read this now.

September 11, 2008 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger DeTamble said...

Well I read it. And it was damn good. I saw post it again and screw GUG over.

GUG don't bury peoples posts, it's rude! You have to give us like at least 5 days to all read it, even a week or more sometimes.

September 12, 2008 at 3:38 AM  
Blogger DeTamble said...

And Devil's Advocate GUG? You're completely insane, I hope you do realise that. This post had nothing whatsoever to do with what you write about except for one small thing, you want your Blog to make a difference in the way gays are treated. But he already said they could so why are you being a pompous arse?

September 12, 2008 at 3:40 AM  
Blogger DeTamble said...

*say (not saw!)

September 12, 2008 at 3:41 AM  
Blogger gayuganda said...

Hi Buz,

you have vengeful family pulling for you.

Take advantage of it now, because, when she starts hitting you on the head for hitting me, she kind of gets very, very, err... high?

[Oooouch sis, not there!]

Oh, I will reply,

because I want to. Why shouldnt I?

And that shows the advantage of blogging over newspapers. I will reply!


September 12, 2008 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger antipop said...

call him baz...

just messing with you GUG.

but seriously, call him baz

September 15, 2008 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger gayuganda said...

Thanks antipop,

but, seriously, isnt it more fun to call him Buz?????

September 16, 2008 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Spartakuss said...

Baz i need to copy all of this post and load it onto my blog.
i was screaming every para as i read it and my office mates who are non -literary[they are all computer geeks] kept trying to peak but the sheer volume and the absence of pics just inundated them. thank you baz so much.
i knew there was always a reason why i admired you.

September 18, 2008 at 5:51 PM  

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