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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Journalists as bloggers - David Dizon


Friends, Spartans, brothers in the blogosphere, lend me your clicks. I come to praise the blog and not bury it. As sources of commentary, blogs provide a smorgasbord of opinion that mines the collective experience of their authors, whether they are students, bankers, techies or, yes, journalists.


A few weeks back, an article by reporter Carmela Fonbuena "Journalists urged to blog, set examples online" caused an upheaval of sorts in the Pinoy blogosphere. The perceived fault line and source of all the hubbub was the comment of UP professor Luis Teodoro who encouraged "journalists to consciously go into blogging to set examples."

"Many of those who post information online are irresponsible," Teodoro was quoted as saying. "Sometimes, it becomes damaging. It disrupts the democratic dialogue."

Finally, he also proposed that there should be self-regulation in blogs. "Journalists should be models online," he said. Be it a blog on political opinion or personal lifestyle, "the principles of journalism should apply."

Days after the story came out, one blogger (Talk About Kettles Calling the Pots Black) virtually pilloried Teodoro by calling him a CPP-NPA front man and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility leftist. Another blogger (Confessions of a "New Media" Heretic (or, the jester-in-exile throws yet another gauntlet before the MSM "priest caste")) asked Teodoro to "get off your high horse and tell your peers to clean up your stables before you come online and tell us how to live our lives." And finally, one blog (Challenge of the blogs) castigates the professor "for not finding anything good to say about blogs except that they pose a challenge to mainstream media."

Other blogs that jumped in on the conversation can be read here (Si Prof. Luis Teodoro at ang pananagutan sa blogging at peryodismo), here (Luis in the Sky with Dean Bocobo), here (Blogging and journalism) and here (Sounds like Hitler).

Old debate

Friends, Spartans, brothers in the blogosphere, lend me your clicks. I come to praise the blog and not bury it.

There is nothing new about the debate on blogging vs journalism, the old media vs new media and such. As sources of commentary, blogs provide a smorgasbord of opinion that mines the collective experience of their authors, whether they are students, bankers, techies or, yes, journalists. The immediacy of the blog, its lack of editorial constraint and interactive component are just some of the things that make the new media endlessly fascinating.

Bloggers can actually engage in random acts of journalism whenever they report on events that they actually witness first-hand or offer analysis, background or commentary on a newsworthy topic. Some bloggers have posted news items that were later used as leads in our news reports such as Gang Badoy's first-hand account (Tired Brave Heart?) on Senate witness Jun Lozada taking refuge after his NAIA abduction and the defacement (Internet Hacking and Warfare (IHAW)) of local Web sites by local hackers.

During the fourth annual blogging summit at UP Diliman, journalist Luz Rimban even said that come the 2010 elections, traditional media will not have enough manpower to cover the whole archipelago, which would create a void in the reportage of events - a void that bloggers may very likely step up to fill. Columnist Manolo Quezon said citizen journalists would have a greater effect at a much later date, in the 2016 elections.

Citizen journalism

So has blogging made mainstream news media obsolete? Maybe not soon unless we see all 2.3 million Filipino bloggers (Study: Philippines has 2.3 million bloggers) realize the full potential of the new media and start reporting on the news as it happens. The success of OhMyNews in South Korea and ABS-CBN's own Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo election watchdog campaign in the 2007 polls shows that citizen journalism CAN be done here. As bloggers report on news events with increasing accuracy, they gain credibility as a source of information the same way that a journalist gains credibility through the strength of his reportage.

Can journalists become bloggers? Of course they can because no one's stopping them yet.

Here in ABS-CBN, we have several reporters and news anchors who maintain blogs including Julius Babao (Julius Babao's Multiply Journal), Ricky Carandang (Ricky Carandang's Website), RG Cruz (RG Cruz's Website) and Adrian Ayalin (Adrian Ayalin's Blog). All bring with them the usual commentary found in other blogsites with a unique twist - it lets readers in on the workings-on in their respective coverages in an insightful manner unhindered by the constraints of a three-minute news clip.

Some of their recent posts on the abduction and eventual release of fellow ABS-CBN reporter Ces Drilon and others give a human touch to these reporters who are often seen giving the cold, hard facts on primetime TV.

As commentary, the journalist who blogs may have a slight advantage by having more access to information that isn't available to other people. On the other hand, some bloggers may have an even greater understanding of the story simply by his proximity, experience or even personal advocacy on the topic.


Can we then say that journalists will make better bloggers? Maybe. But only if they bring the same standards of responsible reportage in the newsroom to their blogs without losing the flavor and dynamism that makes the blog so exciting in the first place.

Should there be self-regulation in blogs? Only if the journalist-blogger wants it especially since by identifying himself and his media organization, he has an even greater responsibility to ensure that his stories or comments are grounded in fact and do not violate a journalist's ethics.

This does not mean that every blogger should follow the principles of journalism. In the end, it is still the blog's author who determines what standards he will adhere to in writing his posts and it is these standards that will be used as a gauge by his readers to determine the relevance of the blog as a source of news, opinion, information or even entertainment.

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