>Blog Overs – Citizens Called to Field

>“Blowing the whistle a little too late – bemoaning a crime that could have been averted” “Fashion Guru is a faggot, no less!” ;“20 different ways to beat the traffic in peak hour!” ;“Best store for used second-hand books ” ; “Movies connect to reality, movie stars don’t!”

The lines above definitely seem a jumble at first glance, if not gibberish. If we were to take a second look, it’s a disparate set of article/news headings, ranging from city-wise information to facts of life. And the topics shifting between expository to opinionated. This is typically the stuff that we come across in news pamphlets, blogs, newsletters, email forwards and the like. Of course, open spaces in newspapers and magazines for readers to contribute their thoughts are a mainstay. And this is how the literate public has started doing its own bit in news dissemination which has for most part been journalists’ bastion. Citizen/Participatory journalism, as you’d fancy it. The greater populace today is having its say in things and how! Well actually, citizen’s voices have always found a platform for expression, be it in Letters to the Editors of dailies and monthlies, college and corporate journals – albeit for a limited audience, or in news pamphlets on themes, say Racism, a la WLRIs regular update in the UK and Europe on issues of xenophobia. However this movement gained momentum in the late 1980s, aided by the disillusionment of the American media with the standard of reporting and the declining faith in the political system in general. It has since become an indispensable part of the process of change in the world. Shayne Bowman, formerly the chief of development at one of the big media companies in the US, published a white paper on Citizen Journalism, “We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information” which was regarded as seminal in many ways. The report says “the intention of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate and wide-ranging information that a democracy requires.” Of course, the role of citizens has moved beyond plain reporting, as evidenced in the first few lines.

Netizens are typically the ones who have created a good measure of impact on reporting today. Blogging is the word of course. And that about serves to spread news faster than most other channels. Technorati did a count and estimated the total to be around 113 million English web logs in the blogosphere as of 2007. Quite obviously, this number excludes the 70 odd million Chinese blogs, and these are numbers which are only growing by the day. So, if we were to put things in perspective, participatory journalism has never had it so good. The amount of information one has access to, is mind boggling to say the least. Hell, its overkill! It only goes to show that the process which started off as an alternative is now a staple for millions, and that people have taken to it with religious fervour. Some of the top news agencies and journals have their own blogs, which go beyond world news headlines. The Reuters blog, for instance, provides good insight on affairs across the seven oceans. And then you have plain news blogs like Newsbloke, one of the extremely popular blogs these days, which draws in feeds from most of the top news providers world wide. This is pretty much a convenience destination for people who’d rather have all top news by the masters at one place. CEO Blogs are a great bet on getting to see the other face of corporate top brass. Brian Clark’s CopyBlogger is considered as one of the best blogs today for writers. PassionForCinema looks at cinema as a religion and is a serious forum for anyone who simply loves movies. Some of the geniuses of the industry find respite in this blog, where they just open up, which they wouldn’t have generally. There is every chance that you get to understand a particular flick in a totally different light from all the trash that come in the name of reviews in dailies and tabloids. Blogs are there all over today, a trend which is simply irreversible. RapeCrisis purports to bring to the forefront the sad reality of rape victims throughout the world in the 21st century. HorseRidingLessons is a popular blog on you-know-what! Suffice to say, we have blogs of all hues and sizes. The channel has gotten so pervasive that authorities in different parts of the world are vouching for regulation on blogging, in order to ensure benevolent content in cyberspace. For instance, EU, which proposed regulation, was concerned that blogs could prove a useful tool for the ‘less principled’. We could take heart to the fact that such regulations are not a norm throughout yet.

Blogs are for sure a powerful rider on the information superhighway. They have been a big help in most cases and also gotten malicious in some. A classic example would be Gaurav Sabnis’ blog Kitabkhana, which made light of IIPM’s (a private business school) claims on it’s superiority over the IIMs and raised serious questions on the credibility of its programmes. IIPM is reported to have reacted in a puerile way, like burning all laptops of IBM, of which Sabnis was an employee. In this light, it is imperative that we take blogging in particular and citizen journalism in general to the next level. After all, every one of us has something to say about the state of things around us. Syndicate blogging or re-blogging needs to catch up, more conscientiously. Anyone who feels he’s responsible enough, or that he can add to the flow of the blog, simply needs to go and check out a particular post, add comments and build a thread. There are blogs where the discussion has exceeded several thousand comments. And that is a sign of activity on that subject. Armchair criticism could be avoided at all costs. If it’s really reporting that a person wants to do, perhaps a greater degree of patience in getting the facts right, by way of research, and wherever possible, shooting away to add credibility would do a whole load of good. A blogger on sport could perhaps patch up with a player to get a ring-side view of the game, and get the latter to add comments regularly. There are obviously countless and more alternatives one could ideate. None of us would want to keep at it till horizon. The idea is to underscore the importance of enterprise and innovation in people’s participation. We have journos working hammer and tongs on stories, braving the traffic snarls in the metros and toiling in the hinterlands, shrugging off contempt by powers-that-be. An approach that cries urgent and strives for results appears to be the need of the hour.