A Manifesto for Media Revolution

Bloggers Park contest, IRIS, IIM Indore has been used as an incentive to write the following article.

Circa 59 BC. The very first newspaper was distributed by Julius Caesar in Rome. Ever since newspapers have come a long way in the manner in which news are disseminated and in ensuring the accuracy of the information delivered. Back in those days the news were centrally published with the consent of the king or any other form of government that existed.

The concept of journalism was something that evolved as late as AD 713 (source: Wikipedia). The evolution of journalism pushed the whole microcosm of news into a dark abyss of endless debates. Various forms of journalism evolved which were masked with the intention of refinement in the journalistic styles. But the real reason, arguably, was that of limiting the reach of journalism.

Enter the internet era. The year 1997, during which free web-hosting started gaining popularity, marked the beginning of a mad rush to get a personal web site and have a visibility on the only medium that could reach out to millions, the internet. As more and more websites sprang up, a few enterprising individuals started putting up a diary online, which eventually evolved into much more than just a daily log of activities. Opinions and views about others and about the world in general took centre-stage. This was around the year 1999 when Peter Merholz coined the term “”blog””. At this point of time you can define a blog as a short history of nearly everything (with all due respect to Mr. Bill Bryson)

By the time blogs started picking up, eyeballs started screaming out for dynamic content. This marked the evolution of various technologies to buttress the huge wave called blogging. By this time various lingual terms were built around the word blog to mark the evolution of a whole new microcosm called, with much deserved pride, the blogosphere. By this time the bloggers started gaining popularity world-wide and instilled some amount of fear in the hearts of corporates and the cover-ups as they threatened with every new blog entry to bring in the era of free-press.

Circa 2005. As blogging has hit a plateau, it seems like the whole blogosphere has been just passed through a fine sieve and only the fittest have survived. These are the ones to scoff at conventional media and they threaten to bring in a whole new form of journalism by exploiting the Information Age to its fullest. This is the year that has seen the blogosphere being slapped with numerous libel notices and its image being tarnished. But the bloggers have remained united and seen through most of it. The cloud over blogging as an alternative to conventional media has only thickened.

Are blogs an alternative for conventional media? I say damn right they are.

Bloggers have the knack of extracting news from the areas where angels fear to tread. One primary reason for this being that, when the information is being published over the internet, ferreting for information becomes an easier task than when you are publishing a newspaper or airing TV news. The other reason is the fact that blogs bring out opinions and information in the most truthful manner. They have not yet been colored by the conventional media and by the politician’s chutzpah. Censorship in its stark nakedness is absent from the blogosphere. Censorship in here is a matter of mutual understanding and opinions. An article which has not gone well with the other bloggers is sometimes removed and sometimes the author may decide to keep it. This is the flexibility and open-mindedness with which this media works. Can we imagine a similar situation with respect to newspapers or lets say television news? I think not.

Now when we talk about journalism certain questions arise. Journalism has led the modern day conventional media which in fancier terms is called the Main Stream Media (MSM). Now coming back to the questions, let me ask myself a simple question; What makes a journalist? Is it some yuppie university card proclaiming someone as a Journalist? Or is it a simple passion for ferreting information and letting the world know the truth? These are some definitions and questions that have been blurred over the years and replaced by something on which you cannot put your finger on. A blogger in the most abstract form is no different than a journalist, the exception being lack of the yuppie card. Blogging to some extent does replace the MSM, because of its reach and the lack of censorship. But I wouldn’t go ahead and say that blogging should replace the MSM completely. As an alternative, certainly, it is a much more powerful medium if leveraged to the fullest.

Take the case of the Iraq war. Journalists, out on the fringe, traveling with the troops wrote blogs on their experiences and the progress of the war using the satellite connections provided by the military. This is the power of blogs. If it had gone the MSM way, then most of the time would have been spent editing and censoring the piece of news. And it still wouldn’t have reached everyone around the globe. By way of blogging, the article is available at all times on demand and across the world. All you need is an internet connection.

Technologies, that had stagnated over the years after the dotcom bubble had burst, began to raise their hood. With blogging, coders found a new hobby to create applications. Students found a vent for all their creativity and writing skills. Many companies have come up which capitalize on this phenomenon. It offers a gamut of business opportunities for entrepreneurs and the willing. Personal web-space and domain names have become something of a standard accessory for the net-savvy people. Innovations have started pouring in by way of new technologies and ways to blog. Take for example Video Blogging which has just been launched.

Nothing in this world is perfect and that’s why pencils have erasers. Lets have a look at the flip side now which might offer some solace to hundreds of journalists who feel that their jobs are at stake.

On the flip side

Bloggers, who have been around for quite some time, will definitely agree with me when I say that blogging offers no accountability. Irresponsible articles by some bloggers have at times ruffled a lot of feathers and raked quite a storm. Bloggers should understand this and should be willing take on all responsibility of their own articles. A paragon of responsible behaviour was set recently by Gaurav Sabnis, who stood by his words and now the world has sat up in awe and support was pouring from all corners of the world. It was an incident which united the Indian blogosphere in its entirety.

When new blog articles are published, its always difficult to judge the source and authenticity of information that has been used. Hence there is always that fleeting doubt eating the back of your head which does not let you believe in what has been written. This same problem is at times a boon for others. They take it as a challenge to find out more information on the same subject by way of net searches and reading newspapers and generally collating information. Hence this itself acts as a method of checks and balances for the blogosphere.

At times some bloggers indulge in acts similar to what we call yellow journalism. They try to create a sensation by giving out information without verifying it or even worse, deliberately giving wrong info. And then there are others who add fuel to a raging fire by inserting chunks of misleading articles. Quite often some bloggers indulge in unwarranted slander of a public figure or company. In some occasions this might be true but what happens here is that the party who is being slandered does not even realise this fact because of the deluge of blogs. Sometimes they do not realise that when they lie its like a boomerang that will come back to them sooner or later.

To the present day we have a come a long way from the time when the term blog was coined.

To cut a long story short

All this said and done, all I would say is that blogging is a great alternative to conventional media. Everybody has creativity and an author in them. This form of writing is the best way to let it out. For us bloggers all this is a blinding flash of the obvious, but for those who have never blogged, I hope this article serves as a stepping stone and clears all the doubts you ever had. I would say its just an accident of geography that millions of people around this world can now read this article.”

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