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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I will be attending the Global Voices Online summit on Dec 10th in London. Am on at this session :

"SESSION TWO 11:30-1:00 Best of both worlds

Much is made of the "blogging vs. journalism" argument. We believe there can and must be room for both in this world, and that the world will be better for having both. In this session we explore the potential for synergies between professional journalists and citizen-bloggers. How do journalists and bloggers interact in the world outside the US and Europe? How can bloggers become journalists and journalists become bloggers? How do the two learn to work together and respect each other? How can we combine the value of professional journalism with the power of citizensí online conversation to help all members of the human race understand each other better?

Led by Rebecca MacKinnon, with input from Jeff Ooi (Malaysia), Ndesanjo Macha (Tanzania), Dina Mehta (India), Georgia Popplewell (Trinidad & Tobago), David Sasaki (Americas Editor), Onnik Krikorian (Armenia), Ben Parmann (Eurasia Blog), and Dean Wright (Reuters)"

There has been much happening in India in a ' us vs them' way, with the most 'famous' controversies being Mediaah and IIPM, with bloggers swarming in full passion against attacks on other bloggers. And there is evidence that mainstream media is looking hard at blogging -- I see blogs being mentioned almost daily now in some newspaper, magazine or TV report here in India.

We know blogging is a very powerful tool, and I have lived with this realization since the Tsunamis struck. But power without restraint, responsibility and maturity can be really really dangerous. There is a case for more responsibility and ethics for bloggers - bloggers have been known to pass sentences in mob justice.

Darryl D'Monte one of our more respected journalists asks, are bloggers parked:

"When does a writer become a blogger? This is a question that is familiar to anyone who uses a keyboard these days, but the obverse question isn't as familiar: when does a blogger become a writer? At a recent workshop on effective writing on the web, organized by The New Media initiative of the Mumbai-based Comet Media Foundation, the inveterate blogger, Dina Mehta, asked this latter question bluntly, and implied in response that there is no difference between the two. Many old media hands and creative writers, however, begged to differ.

"....... At the same time, it is true that with the mainstream media dumbing down with a vengeance and looking to their bottom line rather than people who live at the bottom, bloggers are very much in business. They are telling it like it is, rather than what media barons decide is politically or commercially more convenient. In the US, the war in Iraq is condemned far more pungently in blogs. But blogs aren't about to destroy conventional media anytime soon"

And bloggers are turning their voices against mainstream journalists who are beginning to lift articles from bloggers without attribution, and then retracting in some cases in their online versions - but the damage has been done already in print. [Thanks Aparna for the links].

When asked, I always say I am not a journalist, I am a blogger. There are rubs - professional bloggers increasingly want to make some money off blogging. Still, the long tail of blogging remains quite personal for most bloggers, with the exception of a few. Then, there are more and more journalists who are becoming good bloggers - I think it helps them at what they do.

Yet, there is a distinction in my mind - blog media is about rub points and conversations, it is about writing out loud and learning, it is about reporting in real voices in real time. Blog media can be individual or group perspectives, most tend to be independent voices, the only community that is formed is in the links, whereas MSM is about reporting on facts or interviews within the context of a newspaper or station or media empire.

So are bloggers the fifth brigade? How can we co-exist with journalists, feeding off each other, with trust and respect? Is there scope to collaborate and not compete? Bloggers, by the diverse places from where they come, can report many more things in real time than MSM reporters can hope to reach - again, the tsunamis blog and wiki experiences exemplified this - how can this value be embraced as a strength? Aparna again points me to some MSM publications that actually have a link against articles that says something like - "Who's Blogging - read what bloggers are saying about this" - that's a great example.

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I'd love to hear you views on these issues, in preparation for the session. Do drop in a comment here, or send me your views by email.

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