Are we all writers now?

Image from Agile Thoughts
Image from Agile Thoughts

I post this in response to an interesting essay published recently on the More Intelligent Life website by the Economist group. In We are all writers now, Anne Trubek avers,

Yes, we need to darken the line between what is verifiable and what is hearsay. The financial downturn and its disastrous impact on print publishing has led some to think we can do without trained reporters and editors–professionals who know how to check facts and strip the gloss off hasty pronouncements. We need this work, perhaps now more than ever. But not at the expense of silencing the new voices–an exciting new crop of self-possessed scribes–ringing all over our screens. There may be too much, but that does not mean it is unworthy.

Many would agree with me that content aggregated on Kottu today, while more varied than two to three years ago, is qualitatively poorer. Some of it is rank drivel, suggesting that the democratisation of publishing is also, too often, the production of content of very limited value at best. Well written esoteria have their niche audiences, but the proliferation of bad writing questions Trubeck’s assertion that “it is easier to cultivate a wide audience for tossed off thoughts has meant a superfluity of mundane musings, to be sure. But it has also generated a democracy of ideas and quite a few rising stars, whose work we might never have been exposed to were we limited to conventional publishing channels.”

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Wikipedia journalism in Sri Lanka

I found the reference in the Sunday Times of 14 June 2009 to Canadian Liberal MP Bob Rae’s alleged links to the LTTE, by way of a wikipedia entry, particularly disgusting. This is more than just bad journalism and technical incompetence, it is deliberately misleading the public in Sri Lanka.

It’s also a great case for revisiting MSM journalism ethics in a context where so much disinformation and misinformation colour web sources.

See my article published on Groundviews here.

As Asanga Welikala commenting on the story notes,

…if any serious newspaper anywhere else in the world used wikipedia as a basis of evidence… for the principal argument of its main political column, provided it passed muster of the sub-editors, then both the columnist and the editor would be facing the sack overnight. It is useless nowadays to talk about such things as ‘credibility’, and ‘professionalism’, so perhaps the shame of the charge of utter incompetence might be the thing that persuades The Sunday Times to issue a retraction?

Mainstream bloggers?

Indi and Dinidu are two examples of bloggers who transition easily, and arguably effectively, between new and mainstream print media. Indi’s just taken up a column in the Sunday Leader (as I have, more anon) and Dinidu was formerly with the Daily Mirror, helping them inter alia to set up a Twitter feed. Both write regularly on their blogs, treating blogs not as another chore but an integral part of their self-expression and work.

The three of us are perhaps the only bloggers in Sri Lanka that engage regularly with mainstream media (though authors such as David Blacker write the occasional piece). I have an on-going English TV talk show, write to Montage and Spectrum monthly, have just accepted to write a column in the Sunday Leader, blog here, edit and manage Groundviews, occasionally give input into Vikalpa, Vikalpa’s YouTube channel, archive websites at risk of being blocked or just dissapearing and am part of a many other web initiatives that seek to promote progressive, civil dialogue aimed at securing dissent and democracy in a violent context.

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Blogs and media censorship – Iran and Sri Lanka

“Given the repressive media environment in Iran today, blogs may represent the most open public communications platform for political discourse. The peer-to-peer architecture of the blogosphere is more resistant to capture or control by the state than the older, hub and spoke architecture of the mass media model.”

The very same could be said of the blogoshere in Sri Lanka today.

Read the fascinating study, Mapping Iran’s Online Public: Politics and Culture in the Persian Blogosphere, conducted by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society here.  

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