02 November, 2007

What's With Bloggers?

The interesting question is, would a similar trend be happening in the coming general elections? Would the websites and blogs become a "battle ground", even though the credibility of bloggers have frequently being disputed.


What's With Bloggers?


By Soraya Jamal

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 (Bernama) -- Recently the public witnessed students' elections being held at local public universities.

An interesting scenario in these elections, despite not being something really new, was the use of websites as the platform for campaigning.

The interesting question is, would a similar trend be happening in the coming general elections? Would the websites and blogs become a "battle ground", even though the credibility of bloggers have frequently being disputed.

When the Umno Supreme Council announced plans to appoint a special writer to deal with issues raised and deflect accusations hurled at the party and as part of the strategies to face the "cyber war", it is a clear sign that the threat posed by blogs is nothing small.

ON-LINE COMMENTARIES

According to Drezner and Farrell, a blog can be defined as a website that needs minimal editing.

A blog provides on-line commentaries which are constantly updated apart from providing hyperlinks to other on-line sources.

Almost all strata of the society are represented in the blogosphere.

That include education, medicine, commerce and public relations. It is estimated that a new blog is created with each second that ticks on the clock.

The three sectors that have used blogs to "add bite to their cutting edge" are business, traditional media and politics.

Public awareness has made the "blogosphere" - a collective term covering blogs and their networks, the latest and a potent challenge to the domination of the mass media and political communications.

What started as a mere social phenomenon, the blog has turned into a sort of "a close confidante" even though out of the millions of individual blogs in existence, only a few merit reading. WHO ARE THE BLOGGERS?

Despite much has been said about blogs, does one ever stops to ponder on who are actually the bloggers?

For veteran writer Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, who called himself a former conventional journalist and who tries to be a blogger, those who are at the crossroad between traditional journalism and blogging are labelled as the "go-blogs".

"The issue is that many of our leaders are mixed up between the bloggers and go-blogs," he said at a recent seminar organised by Universiti Teknologi Mara's Centre of Information and Media warfare.

Kadir said there have been many misconceptions on the profile of bloggers.

"They are not simply small groups talking about each other. A blogger can be anybody, right from a small child to a politician".

INTERACTIVE, CHEAP, EASY AND INDEPENDENT

For Kadir, a blog is attractive as it is interactive, cheap, easy and independent.

During his newspaper days, Kadir received the average of six letters for each of his write-ups.

However for each of his blog entry, Kadir now receives 20-30 responses that debated the issue at hand, where each has its own views.

"My readers are free to express their views as long as there are no slanders and they refrain from using abusive words. I evaluate each comment but I will not edit it, only either accepting or rejecting," he said.

Kadir said a blog is a media tool that is more democratic than any of the existing media.

He said the mainstream media has inadvertently popularise the blog when it reported news on bloggers who were brought to court, detained by the police and others.

"This has indirectly gained publicity for the bloggers as the action initiated the public's interest in the blogs. They would want to know what's in the blog and who is its blogger".

He said the threat posed by the blogs has been acknowledged and this can be seen by the setting up of a panel by Umno to deflect issues created by bloggers with the general elections being seen as round the corner.

ANYBODY CAN BE A JOURNALIST

Another veteran writer, who has been in several controversies as well as being the editor and joint founder of the Malaysiakini.com, Steven Gan, said the existence of blogs challenged the notion that only those who are professionally trained can be journalists, as in the virtual world anybody can be a writer.

According to Gan, technology does not alter the news contents but this development does not necessarily provide readers with better choices, only more alternatives.

Gan said there is nothing to be concerned about bloggers as only time will tell only the dedicated and trusted can last.

"Bloggers, in one aspect, check bad journalism, monitor unethical and inaccurate reporting, and can provide alternative views to mainstream media but they still need to adhere to the journalism standard, said Gan.

He said there are bloggers who have better viewpoints as they are experts in the respective fields of write-ups. This adds value to the field of journalism.

Collaboration between the journalists and bloggers can really "shake up" the media world, he said, adding that both move in tandem but at present the two parties are still grappling to understand the meaning of their respective roles.

BLOGGERS ARE NO JOURNALISTS

Controversial blogger, Zaharin Mohamad Yasin, or popularly known as "Sang Kelembai" said bloggers are no journalists and will never replace the task of journalists in writing news reports.

"Bloggers do not report. They only say or provide information that can be turned into news by reporters," he said.

Zaharin what makes people like to read blogs is that the newspapers do not allow "much changes", capitalist in nature and is controlled by a certain class.

He also warned the public not to be confused with the "anonymous snipers" who would usually leave irresponsible remarks and comments in their respective blogs without making their identity known, unlike the genuine ones who made their identity known.

Zaharin agrees that action should be taken against bloggers who threaten national peace and stability apart from creating splits among the country's plural society.

"But bloggers are no threat to the country, they are only a political threat," he said.

Zaharin said any move to scare bloggers would not be effective as these people know the risks they are facing.

He said there is no point in trying to curtail the blogs but among the steps that can be taken by the authorities is to create a blogger site.

"All bloggers can make this site as the principal website, so that the origins of the respective blogs can be traced. At the moment we are based abroad".

A BLOG'S IMPACT

A political blog's impact is actually not due to who the blogger is, but from those who read it.

To influence the news agenda, the bloggers must get the attention of the class A readers. But it should be remembered that most of the readers are the key opinion leaders.

Blogs are not only read by the younger generation, despite their target being those who are aged below 25 years old, -- the generation who did not experience the difficulties in achieving independence.

The blogs enable the people to communicate at two different levels. First, by focusing on a small group of opinion leaders to gain support for an agenda.

Secondly, they can try to get in touch with as many readers as possible in the hope of getting individual opinions.

The politicians are showing their keen interest on blogs as this tool can be a great alternative to the traditional media in disbursing news and information.

In fact there are many instances where bloggers, instead of the traditional media, were given tip-offs on breaking news.

In this era of information technology, it is really impractical to impose restrictions on bloggers.

Furthermore bloggers have close collaboration, networking and camaraderie among their fellow writers.

The crystal clear fact is that bloggers reflect the people's thinking.

The question is, are bloggers really thorns in the flesh or are we scared of our own shadows?

In a survey conducted by the BBC, Blogging is the #2 activity of really sad people, next only to admittedly voting for Bush. (Uncyclopedia)

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