Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Evolution of Blogging and Citizen Journalism in Asia: Posing the Question “Can everyone be a journalist?”

Source: http://www.nataliedee.com/123107/ugh-journalistic-integrity-is-BORING.jpg

With the advent of the Internet, nowadays it seems very easy to publish information on the Internet’s popular World Wide Web (WWW). The trends are here. In the face of new technologies, blogging and citizen journalism have increasingly played an active role in the delivery of news, leading to a debate that everyone can be a journalist. Determining a way to observe such assumption, I would like to use the SARS outbreak in Asia and the Asian tsunami 2004 as my case examples.

The reason for scoping out Asia is that several Asian countries have laws capable of limiting freedom of speech to their citizens. Like in North Korea, the right to freedom of speech on the Internet is suppressed by the National Security Law that ‘gives broad powers to the government to restrict speech and to prevent support or discussion of North Korea’ (Privacy International 2003). While in Malaysia, restrictions imposed on free speech are enshrined in legislation, Article 10 of the Constitution, such as ‘Sedition Law, Laws for Licensing of Newspapers, Defamation Laws, and Freedom of Assembly’ (Wu 2005, p.5). These laws are considered damaging journalism in the country. Therefore, blogs are believed able to ‘rout around laws restricting free speech’ because those laws seem meaningless in cyberspace (Wu 2005, p. 6).

Lih (2004, p. 6) stated that the year 2003 might have marked the beginning of an era in Asia-region web logs. It was indicated by the first Asia-region web log awards, conducted by Phil Ingram, an expatriate web logger in Hong Kong, of Flyingchair.net. Blogs slowly became attractive until the 2003 outbreak of SARS in Asia initiated a sudden brief increase in the number of blogs and blog readers who were searching for more information about a respiratory disease which is known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). In Malaysia, SARS became a major issue when the Malaysian Home Ministry ‘had officially directed all major English-language newspapers to “adjust” their reports on SARS’ by not mentioning fatalities (Wu 2005, p. 7). Due to ‘the government’s lack of transparency’, a Malaysian IT consultant, blogger, photographer and politician Jeff Ooi started to write information about SARS and the progression on his blog known as Screenshots...(Wu 2005, p. 8). He then discovered that the readers of his blog came not only from Malaysia, but also from some other countries. In this way, Jeff Ooi attempted to show uncertainty and confusion caused by mainstream journalism in Malaysia regarding the disease.

The extent of bloggers’ power became apparent in 2004, when an undersea earthquake on the Richter scale of 9.3 occurred off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia resulting in tsunamis that devastated coasts bordering the Indian Ocean in countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Burma and Somalia. This has been clarified by Wu (2005, p. 14) who stated that ‘within hours of the earthquake, the blogging community in Penang (the Malaysian island hit by the tsunami) … began writing about their personal experience on feeling the earthquake tremors and providing localised updates on the effects of … [the catastrophes]’. In this situation, many citizen journalists took their role seriously as reporters of actual news. They helped professional journalists gather news and information when they could not arrive at the same time as the event was happening. There were also some accounts from citizen journalists who were the eyewitnesses of the events, sharing ‘their very personal stories of survival, helplessness and loss’ in the Guardian (30 December 2004). Conclusively, bloggers and citizen journalists appeared to be an information source both for the public and for mainstream media.

However, the key to good journalism is reporting and ethical inquiry, becoming preoccupations in that profession. In this context, journalism is different from fictional writing that appears very dominant in blogging due to the abundance of information on the Internet. In discussing the issues in relation to the importance of reporting in journalism, it has been shown ‘reporting means observing the world and listening to the views of others with an open mind, and reporting those observations and views as accurately as possible’ in which ‘personal opinions and feelings are only a small part’ of what you must write (McGill 2007). In reporting, reporters also need to have good sources in which ‘good sources take care of reporters … and provide background information that makes their stories more authentic’ (Smith 2003, p. 166). Accordingly, the role of asking people for interviews appears difficult for bloggers and citizen journalists because they are not licensed to practice journalism like other professional journalists.

Two case studies presented above support an existing theory that the role of a journalist is changing in a multimedia world, and thus the interpretations of a journalist itself are various, showing that any definition of a journalist is not simple. Hence, everyone may be able to be a journalist, yet still they have not been able to become a professional journalist regarding accountability and ethics in real journalism. As the power and effect of blogging and citizen journalism increasingly grow, it is challenging for every journalist to heap the values of contemporary journalism. A journalist, therefore, should learn how to read, to think, and to write in a professional way; hence what defines a professional journalist.


Guardian 30 December 2004, ‘Scenes from a disaster’, viewed 10 November 2008, < http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/dec/30/tsunami2004.features11>.

Lih, A 2004, ‘Participatory journalism and Asia: from web logs to Wikipedia’, in 13th Asian Media Information & Communications Centre Annual Conference: ICT & Media Inputs & Development Outcomes Impact of New & Old Media Development in Asia, Journalism and Media Studies Centre University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, pp. 1 – 27.

McGill, D 2007, ‘The importance of reporting’, The LARGEMOUTH Citizen Journalism Manual, viewed 10 November 2008, < http://www.mcgillreport.org/largemouth.htm#anchor10>.

Privacy International 2003, Silenced – South Korea, viewed 9 November 2008, .

Smith, RF 2003, Groping for ethics in journalism, 5th edn, Blackwell Publishing, Iowa.

Wu, TH 2005, ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom: a Malaysian case study on blogging towards a democratic culture’, in 20th BILETA Conference: Over-Commoditised; Over-Centralised; Over-Observed: the New Digital Legal World?, British & Irish Law, Education and Technology Association, the UK, pp. 1 – 22.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


While doing this weblog, there was a series of actions directed toward a specific aim. As I have been adopting this weblog to comment on media and publishing issues, I needed to find out information that was relevant to the issue I was going to talk about and some articles and other theoretical readings to support my analysis of media and publishing issues. Therefore, I am acquiring a seemingly good blogging skill as I maintain this weblog as a form of commentary on some certain issues.

As Nielsen (2005) stated that ‘weblogs are also a special genre of website; they have unique characteristics and thus distinct usability problems’, correspondingly, I had a look at the usability issues to reach and attract my readers such as ‘no author biographies, no author photo and the calendar is the only navigation’.

Blogging is such a good form of communication for me. Also, as a blogger I find motivations for blogging simply because I can post and share my thoughts, discuss and put comments on some issues. The form of a blog itself is dependant on the individual who creates it. Therefore, bloggers need to identify the role and purpose of their blog, so that their blog could possibly be the ideal tool to communicate.


Nielsen, J 2005, ‘Weblog usability: the top ten design mistakes’, Useit.com, viewed 13 June 2008, <http://www.useit.com/alertbox/weblogs.html>.

Is Citizen Journalism Going To Revolutionise The Media?

The latest weekly wireless communications "Thinkernet" column on CMP's "Internet Evolution" discusses software and services for cellular phones and on the Web for facilitating citizen journalism.
(Source: http://www.mobiletelevisionreport.com/2008/03/citizen-journal.html)

The ubiquity of mobile phone cameras and video phones has turned everyone into citizen journalists. The tools of modern technology have enabled people to contribute to journalism. As stated by Bowman and Willis (2003), ‘we are at the beginning of a Golden Age of journalism – but it is not journalism as we have known it’; if we carry on like this, by 2021 citizens will have contributed ’50 per cent of the news peer-to-peer’. A fine example of this new media issue is the moment of London bombings in which everyday people got caught using camera phones to take pictures that illustrated the news coverage of the London terrorist bombings. As shown in an article ‘Why I have serious doubts about the “citizen reporters”’ on Guardian.co.uk on 17 July 2005, today’s technology enables the process of news-gathering. In the article, Naughton (2005) referred to this issue as ‘a democratisation of the news process’ and referred to the use of mobile phone cameras during the attack as ‘the true birth of the “citizen reporter”’.

In discussing the issues in relation to citizen journalism, Tremayne (2007, p. 239) stated that ‘in 1999, frustration with the “one-way journalism of the 20th century and the haughty attitude common in the Korean media” led to inspiration for one young Korean journalist’. Then, Oh Yeon-Ho started ‘a media revolution’ with the motto “Every citizen is a journalist”. As a result, OhMyNews, an online newspaper in which the majority of news articles and commentary are written by 727 “citizen reporters”, was released on 22 February 2000. However the notion of citizen journalism has already existed beforehand. As Glaser (2005) describes that ‘citizen paparazzi is not really a new concept, and the proliferation of cameras has continued unabated since the first point-and-shoot 35mm cameras took off right through cheap digital cameras’.

As we know that technology has grown dramatically. Commenting on this issue, I think it is advisable for us to concern about the use of gadgets such as mobile phone cameras and video phones as there are so many implications caused by the tools of modern technology for media and journalism.


Bowman, S & Willis, C 2003, ‘We media: how audiences are shaping the future of news and information’, The Media Center at The American Press Institute, viewed 12 June 2008, <http://www.hypergene.net/wemedia/weblog.php>.

Glaser, M 2005, ‘Did London bombings turn citizen journalists into citizen paparazzi?’, Online Journalism Review 7 December, viewed 13 June 2008, <http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/050712glaser/>.

Naughton, J 2005, ‘Why I have serious doubts about the “citizen reporters”’, Guardian.co.uk 17 July, viewed 13 June 2008, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2005/jul/17/comment.mobilephones>.

Tremayne, M 2007, Blogging, Citizenship, and the Future of Media, Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, New York.

Wikipedia Versus Britannica

Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia.
(Source: http://www.enriquedans.com/wp-content/uploads/blogger/uploaded_images/encyclop-716710.png)

As a free online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia is the web’s most talked-about source of information. Why is it so? Because the free-content encyclopaedia itself is not considered to be a reliable source for searching information in which millions of people are able to distribute information and edit the articles, including us. Consequently, the accuracy is open to many questions who is responsible for the content. Comparatively, Britannica is accurate and infallible. As described in the article ‘Britannica tops Wikipedia in accuracy stakes’ which was published on ZDNet.co.uk on 16 December 2005, many critics seemed to downplay the validity of Wikipedia and to consider Encyclopaedia Britannica to be ‘an example of an accurate reference’. Terdiman (2005) in the article maintained that the result of a study conducted by Nature showed that Wikipedia got 162 problems and Britannica got 123, including factual errors, omissions or misleading statements.

The findings of Nature were also provided on BBC News (2005), indicated that Wikipedia entries were unfavourably written and poorly structured by giving false information. For instance, it was reported in the article that the founding editorial director of USA Today blamed one Wikipedia entry for incorrectly naming him as ‘a suspect in the assassinations of President John F Kennedy and his brother, Robert’.

Credibility and accuracy are the most important concerns when writing for the Web. This is clarified by Morkes and Nielsen (1997) who stated that ‘when looking at a news story on the Web, one person said, “One thing I always look for is who it is coming from. Is it a reputable source? Can the source be trusted? Knowing is very important. I don’t want to be fed up with false acts”’. They also stated that Web users generally judge the Web’s credibility by looking at the quality of its content. Commenting on this issue, I would say that it is essential for Wikipedia to provide accurate information and credible content for users as ‘content is the most important element of the site’ (Reep 2006, p. 174). Even though I do not depend on Wikipedia for finding out information, but however I think Wikipedia needs to include links to other credible sources so the Web users find the Web content accurate.


BBC News 15 December 2005, ‘Wikipedia survives research test’, viewed 11 June 2008, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4530930.stm>.

Morkes, J & Nielsen, J 1997, ‘Concise, scannable, and objective: how to write for the web’, Useit.com, viewed 11 June 2008, <http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/writing.html>.

Reep, DC 2006, Technical writing: principles, strategies, and readings, 6th edn, Pearson Education, Inc., New York

Terdiman, D 2005, ‘Britannica tops Wikipedia in accuracy stakes’, ZDNet.co.uk 16 December, viewed 11 June, <http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/0,1000000097,39242334,00.htm?r=4>.

Given The Sack For Blogging

Delta Airlines flight attendant, Ellen Simonetti, was fired for blogging.
(Source: http://www.joi.ito.com/weblog/2004/10/29/delta-airlines.html)

Why do people write blogs? Some people might probably say that blogging is a form of communication. It is also a means of publication on the Web of personal thoughts and opinions for other Internet users to read. What if the phenomenon itself has led to employee blogging casualties? Employee blogging has become a major issue, increasing clashes between employers and employees. An article ‘Fired for blogging: blog-related firings prompt calls for better company policies’ on CBS News (7 March 2005) reported that flight attendant Ellen Simonetti and former Google employee Mark Jen were fired for blogging. Simonetti posted pictures of herself in uniform, while Jen speculated online about corporate secrets which were his own employer’s finances.

Reep (2006, p. 41) states that ‘people who use [blogs] to criticise companies or other people can face lawsuits for Internet slander’. This is why some people have lost their job because of blogging. As Broache described in her article (2008) to prevent it from happening, some certain companies such as Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo, Google and Dell have a blogging policy for their employees to disclose that they work for the company when they do blogging, social networking, Wikipedia entry-editing, or other online activities related to the company. For instance, Sun Microsystems has had its blogging guidelines since 2004 that prohibit speculating on non-public financial or operational information, including financial data, code, personal information about other individuals, and posting photographs, articles, or music without permission. (Click for PDF)

As a blogger, I find blogging helpful to record my activities and events and to document my life. This has been established by Nardi et al. (2004, p. 41) who states that ‘bloggers are driven to document their lives, provide commentary and opinions, express deeply felt emotions, articulate ideas through writing, and form and maintain community forums’. Also, employees might find blogs helpful for team projects and an exchange of information (Reep 2006, p. 41). However, we should know how to respect other people and to behave ethically when blogging to prevent from ethical problems.


Broache, A 2008, ‘Corporate employee blogs: Lawsuits waiting to happen?’, CNET News.com 26 March, viewed 10 June 2008, <http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9903070-7.html>.

CBS News 7 March 2005, ‘Fired for blogging: blog-related firings prompt calls for better company policies’, New York, viewed 10 June 2008, <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/03/07/tech/main678554.shtml>.

Nardi, BA, Schiano, DJ, Gumbrecht, M & Swartz, L 2004, ‘Why we blog’, Communications of the ACM, vol. 47, no. 12, pp. 41 – 46.

Reep, DC 2006, Technical writing: principles, strategies, and readings, 6th edn, Pearson Education, Inc., New York.

Google Sued For Copyright Breach

An example of some of the hand scans caught on Google books.
(Source: http://www.smh.com.au/news/web/book-scans-reveal-googles-handiwork/2007/12/06/1196812901631.html)

As the world’s most comprehensive search engine, Google has been facing copyright controversy. An article ‘Google’s Moon Shot: The Quest for The Universal Library’ which was featured on The New Yorker on 5 February 2007 reported that, publishers sued Google for breaching copyright. In the article, Google wanted to retrieve books from university libraries such as Harvard, Oxford and the New York Public Library, scan them and make the full texts available on the Google search engine (Toobin 2007). Because of this intention, two plaintiffs including several writers and the Authors Guild, and publishers who are also partners in Google Book Search, made an objection against the library component of the project in regard to an infringement of the copyright law.

Google might have dealt with a seemingly endless issue of breaching copyright. In discussing the issue in relation to copyright (OUT-LAW News 26 January 2006), it was reported that author and lawyer Blake Field ‘brought an action for copyright infringement, arguing that Google cache feature allowed web users to access copies of his copyrighted material’. As we know, breaching copyright is considered to be a violation. This is clarified by Reep (2006, p. 41) who points out that ‘it is illegal to violate the creator’s copyright by using these works for your own benefit without getting permission and paying the appropriate fees’.

We all know that Google has become the world’s best search engine and the most frequently visited Web site for searches. Because of its popularity, we often hear people refer to ‘google’ as ‘search for it on the Internet’. Nielsen (2006) argues that ‘people have begun using search engines as answer engines to directly access what they want – often without truly engaging with the websites that provide (and pay for) the services’. Nevertheless, Google will still be my favourite search engine to help me find out some information and do my school assignments on which I always rely. Furthermore, Google’s search engine service is free and easy to use, and usually offers relevant results and information for a given search term. However, it is probably necessary for Google to ensure that the copyright holders give permission for scanning their books from some libraries before continuing the project.

Nielsen, J 2006, ‘Search engines as leeches on the web’, 9 January, Useit.com, viewed 9 June 2006, <http://www.useit.com/alertbox/search_engines.html>.

OUT-LAW News 26 January 2006, ‘Google cache does not breach copyright, says court’, viewed 8 June 2008, <http://www.out-law.com/page-6571>.

Reep, DC 2006, Technical writing: principles, strategies, and readings, 6th edn, Pearson Education, Inc., New York.

Toobin, J 2007, ‘Google’s moon shot: the quest for the universal library’, New Yorker 5 February, viewed 7 June 2008, <http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/02/05/070205fa_fact_toobin>.

Friday, May 2, 2008

New Forms of Media Publishing

New media technologies today are radically challenging media forms. Popular forms of media publishing may be called by different names, and they may be used in different ways. As the idea of new media has often been debated, there are a few new forms of media publishing:

a. Device/media types of blogs:
• Moblog – mobile blogging, e.g. Seth Lakeman’s moblog
• Vlog – video blogging, e.g. Lonelygirl15
• Splog – spam blog, e.g. Casino Online
• Linklog – URLs (hyperlinks) blogging, e.g. Jennifer’s Link Log
• Sketchlog – sketch blogging, e.g. Karin Rindevall’s sketch log
• Tumblelog, e.g. A Shot of JD
b. YouTube
c. Online newspaper, e.g. News.com.au
d. Online magazine, e.g. Iconique
e. Online books, e.g. Read Print

In understanding the newest trends and issues relating to new forms of media publishing, we also need to study the demographic makeup of online media:

Web traffic to the blog pages of the top 10 online newspapers grew 210 percent year over year in December. The overall unique audience growth to these online newspapers was 9 percent year over year. Unique visitors to blog pages accounted for 13 percent of their December 2006 Web traffic, up 9 percentage points from 4 percent in December 2005 (Nielsen/NetRatings cited in New Media Institute 2007).

YouTube may become the most popular form of new media. During the US Election 2008, the number of videos online which are connected with US politics has increased followed by the increase of visits. One of the examples has been well documented (US Election 2008 Web Monitor 2007).

A similar situation also happened to the US Midterm Election in 2006. The below chart by Hitwise Intelligence (2006) shows YouTube's share of US internet visits on the left axis in orange compared with the percentage of downstream visits from YouTube to Politics websites on the right axis in grey.


Hitwise Intelligence 2006, YouTube the US midterm elections and UK politics, 6 November, viewed 2 May 2008, <http://weblogs.hitwise.com/heather-hopkins/2006/11/youtube_the_us_midterm_electio.html>.

New Media Institute 2007, Online newspaper blog traffic grows 210 percent year over year, 17 January, viewed 2 May 2008, <http://www.newmedia.org/articles/54/1/Online-Newspaper-Blog-Traffic-Grows-210-Percent-Year-Over-Year/Page1.html>.

US Election 2008 Web Monitor 2007, video, YouTube.