Blogging and journalism

A debate rages in the blogosphere about journalism and blogging, with partisans lobbing virtual grenades at Prof. Luis Teodoro.

Dean Jorge Bocobo leads the assault, taking pains showing the entire world the meaning of name-calling. Geez, methinks Philippine commentary (online or offline) would be better off without name-calling. For so what if Teodoro is/was a leftist? Does that disqualify him from expressing himself? Should we only have centrist or right-wing public intellectuals and pundits? Should we just jail or assassinate leftists or suspected leftists? I suppose the left has a place in the blogosphere. I am sure Mr. Bocobo will latch on this side-issue till the Second Coming, but I leave the blogosphere to judge name-calling, whether it is intelligent and whether name-calling is relevant in discussions such as this.

Good thing, Teodoro is a journalist and was part of the anti-Marcos resistance so we could safely assume that he knows how to take blows, be it as petty as name-calling.

Anyway, I just wish to focus on Mr. Bocobo’s main point in his tirade against Teodoro: Mr. Bocobo’s pride was hurt.

I never felt slighted by Teodoro’s remarks. I assumed those statements were made in completely good faith. Why? Because Teodoro seemed to have a clear objective: to ventilate the need for ethical standards that govern most professions and most areas of human activity. Whether journalists or, in the case of the Cebu perfume canister scandal, doctors fall short of their avowed ethical codes, we must gnash our teeth and demand accountability and urge conformity with the said rules.

Bloggers and blogs have grown from small to big, and help amplify the influence of the articulate middle class and upper strata of society. The blogosphere has become the tribune of these social classes that have felt excluded by the mainstream press and most especially by the lying official press. For most folks, the objective is self-expression — whether creative or political, technological or psychological. Blogs may be composed of text, audio, video,  photos or a combination of two or more. But the underlying theme is simply self-expression which, through comments and discussions, turn into forums for community expression. Example: this response to the ongoing debate and the rebuttals and argumentations elsewhere.

Whether Mr. Bocobo felt alluded to in Teodoro’s pointed words about irresponsible blogging, I do not know. But what is certain is that Teodoro did not say anything as direct as to condemn bloggers or blogging in general. He merely wished that since blogging and journalism are close relatives — both aim to report the truth and to comment on it — then they might as well share basic tenets like those dealing with honesty. Some people don’t buy this argument, like The Jester in Exile.

I think it is saddening that some assume that the blogosphere is or should remain a modern Wild West where no rules govern individual and community self-expression. Of course, there are rules. These rules or codes of conduct help keep discussions going, and adherence to these rules uphold the integrity of both blogs and bloggers as opinion-makers or journalists in their own right.

Let me cite examples of these rules: Flaming is always a no-no. Its a no-brainer. For how can we all countenance flaming when it is by far among the worst ways to carry on discussions on blogs or other online fora. There are also iron-clad rules against sexism and racism. How about spamming? There are also debates about sponsored posts — since some question the credibility of blogs filled with such posts. Ads also play a role in the blogosphere whether Mr. Bocobo who quietly advertises for Blogger by planting his online tent with a blogspot address. He may not be pasting ad banners but he gives Google free advertising, no doubt about it.

Also, consider the following statement from Mr. Bocobo:

[T]he blogosphere is freer, more open, democratic and inclusive, so our demographics are more truly reflective of the citizenry, and less prone to be controlled by narrow vested interests pretending to be objective or neutral. The blogosphere does not have to answer to the bottom line of the craven owners or the dictates of advertising.

Hello!? Earth to Philippine Commentary. Napaka-assuming (o adelantado) naman ng ganitong pagtingin.

The tragedy of some in the middle class is that they have left the Parliament of the Streets and gave endless “second chances” to the rotten Establishment, thinking that it is better than to engage in radical change. Feeling exhausted, frustrated and afflicted with grave cynicism (partly because their gamble with “second chances” continue to fail), some have used the blogosphere as their exclusive intellectual platform. I see no problems with that, really. I actually admire and applaud all bloggers of whatever politics, gender, creed or class for taking steps of reclaiming the internet as a public domain.

But to say that the the blogosphere is “freer, more open, democratic and inclusive, so our demographics are more truly reflective of the citizenry” is altogether a sweeping generalization — propaganda again. The blogosphere is right now open only to Filipinos who have the time, means, and therefore — social pedigree — to go, sit down, browse, read and analyze. The genuine majority of farmers, workers, small entrepreneurs and professionals simply have no time left apart from working their asses off to keep the middle and upper classes live a comfortable life. We bloggers speak only for ourselves and our own blogs.

There are certain exceptions, though: We see it and really feel good about it when the middle class sets aside its vested interests of being upper class and become articulators for the genuine majority.  Think Gawad Kalinga. Think First Quarter Storm. Think Edsa 1 and 2.

I don’t know if I’ve veered away too much from the topic. But what I know is that the bloggers and blogging will attain popular acceptance and support if and only if we turn away from ourselves, use our skills to advance the good causes of our people, and help articulate what our people’s needs and aspirations.

In doing so, we do our share of being truthful, accurate and fair.

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