Thursday, March 09, 2006

Will blogs transform Philippine media?

Blogs have become so ubiquitous that it has captured the attention of mainstream media. Journalists and major news organizations are joining the bandwagon seeing the blog’s potential to reach a wider, more responsive audience. “Because access to the Internet is growing, blogs are potentially going to be a major source of information in the Philippines. Globally, especially in developed countries, it’s already a major source of information,” observes Professor Luis Teodoro (www.luisteodoro.com) of the University of the Philippines.

Last year, blogs started to make a mark in the Philippine politics. Dubbed as the year of Filipino blogs, 2005 saw the emergence of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s (PCIJ) blog which was instrumental in the exposure of the ‘Gloriagate’ scandal. Full recordings of the Hello Garci tapes along with supporting documents were made available from the site (http://www.pcij.org/blog). Shortly after, Sun Star Chronicles came up with its Citizen Watch blog (http://sunstar.com.ph/blogs/citizenwatch) which encouraged readers to post articles rather than just comments following the developments involving President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.

Politically, blogs could also be a forum to tackle important issues ignored by mainstream media. Lately, Philippine Commentary (www.philippinecommentary.blogspot.com) is getting a lot of attention for his well-thought out commentaries on the issues related to the Danish cartoons that inflamed the Muslim world. While, the mainstream media stood silent on the issue probably for fear of a violent backlash, Bocobo expressed support for Flemming Rose, the editor of the Jyllands-Posten, who published the 12 cartoons, and attacked the Philippine Daily Inquirer for its supposed advocacy of the “separation of the Church and Press.”

Bocobo in his February 19 post ruminates: “When a taboo on idolatry produces a far more virulent and violent reaction over Danish cartoons than the Bali Bombings, or Zarqawi’s wedding blood feasts in Jordan, it would seem they [mainstream media] could do with a little quiet reflection and criticism from journalists. Not fear and appeasement alone though, are what motivate the religious editors of PDI. It is a desire to protect the rights of DOMINANT religions in LOCAL habitats. The members of the Roman Catholic upper crust in the Philippines who basically control media and education, are sensitive and respectful and understanding towards the Islamist rage over the cartoons because both are protecting the current practices of religions (Islam and Roman Catholicism) that were imperial theocracies but today must bow to common Democracy, which demotes Religion from the status of wielding state power to that of "mere" form of free speech and expression. I have advanced the theory that what we have here is the "intolerant urging tolerance for other intolerants.”

Straddling print and broadcast?
“Blogs have the advantage of both print and broadcasting,” says Teodoro. If done properly, it can be speedy but not sacrifice accuracy. However, the former UP College of Mass Communication Dean laments the fact that the blogosphere, like most Internet- based mediums, has no set standards. What I don’t like about it is that there’s no way of self regulation. There’s no authority that tries to establish standards,” he says. Thus, information from blogs can be suspect. He stresses that while bloggers can be journalists and vice versa, both still have to adhere to the standards of journalism if blogs are to be vehicles of empowerment and contribute to healthy debate.

Whether or not blogs will ultimately bridge the gap between traditional news media and its audience remains to be seen. But the fact remains that Filipinos are getting into it with gusto. “You make something easy enough and people will flock,” says Chris (www.cianoy.blogspot.com), a confessed techie and writer.

The tension between public and private will continue to rage as technology churns out new forms of communication. Perhaps, for most Filipinos, the following post by Mindovervaginawonam sums up their blogging experience: “I am a writer at heart, a writer with an exhibitionist streak and hopefully not the other way around. I don’t come in search of friends or lovers or enemies. Everything here is carved to point towards things universal, where I am nothing but a speck of dust in. Writing is reaching out enough; comment boxes are the only things open.”

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