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Blogs and me

Usha tagged me with the following questionnaire:

1. Are you happy/satisfied with your blog, with its content and look? Does your family know about your blog?
I am quite satisfied with the content.
I wish I knew a bit more of technical stuff, so I could improve its looks. On the plus side, blogging has given me opportunity to learn a lot of tech stuff which hitherto I didn’t know. The learning process is continuing.
Yes, my family knows about the blog.

2. Do you feel embarrassed to let your friends know about your blog or you just consider it as a private thing?
No, not at all. I don’t consider blog as a private thing. Blogs are very much in the public domain, even if the contents are private.

3. Did blogs cause positive changes in your thoughts?
Yes, in some ways. Reading blogs has exposed me to diverse lines of thought, many of them refreshing, positive and encouraging. Also, blogs have been a steady source of information for me. Today, I search blogs as much as or more than websites.
As a professional journalist, I am also, in some ways, expected to keep going through blogs to know the pulse of the people.

4. Do you only open the blogs of those who comment on your blog or you love to go and discover more by yourself?
I often hunt for new blogs based on the topic of interest. It’s almost becoming a past time. Of course, I also have list of blog buddies, whom I visit regularly.

5.What does visitors counter mean to you? Do you care about putting it in your blog?
Yes. Besides the number, it is a pointer to the type of subjects that attract readership, and also the regions where most of my readers are.

6. Did you try to imagine your fellow bloggers and give them real pictures?
An image of the blogger’s personality does indeed get formed in my mind as I keep reading her/his postings over a period of time.

7. Admit. Do you think there is a real benefit for blogging?
I find blogging a much better method of making friends than most of the networking sites that have sprung up of late. Blog is nothing but another medium of communication. It has its advantages and pitfalls.

8. Do you think that bloggers society is isolated from real world or interacts with events?
Yes to a great extent. Not just the absence of get-togethers, many bloggers are pseudonymous. It has its advantage, because some people are able to though express themselves better that way. With many bloggers exchanging emails and also keeping in touch over phone, besides the occasional bloggers meetings, the isolation is breaking down.

9. Does criticism annoy you or do you feel it’s a normal thing?
Criticism does not annoy me, except when it is personal.

10. Do you fear some political blogs and avoid them?
No, I neither fear them nor avoid them. Sometimes I look out for them.

11. Did you get shocked by the arrest of some bloggers?
Earlier I used to; not now. Because I have reconciled to the fact that blogsphere too its share of saints and sinners like the real world.


12. Did you think about what will happen to your blog after you die?
No. Though I won’t be able blog, the URL will survive, won’t it?

13. What do you like to hear? What’s the song you might like to put a link to in your blog?
We Thank Thee by Jim Reeves:


We thank Thee each morning for a new born day
Where we may work the fields of new mown hay
We thank Thee for the sunshine and the air that we breathe oh Lord we thank Thee
Thank Thee for the rivers that run all day
Thank Thee for the little birds that sing along the way
Thank Thee for the trees and the deep blue sea oh Lord we thank Thee
Oh yes we thank Thee Lord for every flower that blooms
Birds that sing fish that swim and the light of the moon
We thank Thee every day as we kneel and pray
That we were born with eyes to see these things
Thank Thee for the fields where the clover is grown
Thank Thee for the pastures where cattle may roam
Thank Thee for Thy love so pure and free oh Lord we thank Thee
Oh yes we thank Thee Lord…

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Today, it’s exactly two years since this blog began. One point in the first post here was how US President George Bush had, in a way, joined the war against terror which other countries were already waging, though he was calling upon other countries to join him.

Immediately after 9/11, there was a lament, quite justifiably, that had the US been perceptive to small-scale terror in different parts of the globe, we all would probably not have reached this stage. Remember, how Kandahar hijack was no issue for the US, which for whatever reason showed no signs of having seen the growing trouble.

But five years on, my views have amended. Laments make no sense. It’s time to learn a few lessons; from the US. Not from the war in Iraq; but from how that nation has transformed itself post-9/11.

One deadly sting, the whole system was shaken up. Top administration officials were intensely questioned. There have been debates, discussions, and brain-storming sessions. Most importantly, the administration implemented corrective steps.

Contrast that with India. Soon after 9/11, India implicitly told the US, “Look, we have been here long before, you have just woken up.” True, terrorism is nothing new to India, unlike the US; but five years on, who has moved ahead – India or the US?

How many terror attacks have taken place in the US after 9/11? And, in India? The answers speak volumes.

May be the number of US soldiers killed in the post-9/11 wars is now almost equal to the number of Americans who perished on that tragic day. But the country has been well-secured, at least in comparison to India.

Probably the only significant change here is that: incidents which were categorised as “communal” are now “terrorist”, rightly or wrongly. Malegaon is the latest example. Still, there is no change on the ground.

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The debate is all over again.

The trigger is Charles Johnson’s expose on his blog Little Green Footballs on Aug 5 of how a photograph of Beirut — after an Israeli air strike, taken by Adnan Hajj — was significantly manipulated before being published, a serious breach of journalistic ethics.

This issue has been discussed in The Guardian by Patrick Barkham, and in The Christian Science Monitor by Randy Dotinga.

When we didn’t have the benefit of today’s technology, people had only the conventional media to look up to when they needed information. Now, the scope and dynamics of mass media have expanded by exponential proportions. Thus, the extent of reliance on newspapers or TV for news has been reduced with the advent of mobile phones and blogs.

But to run down the conventional media as biased is not correct. Journalistic practices have remained essentially the same down the ages. Today because of improved technology, the few genuine mistakes that journalists commit and the few black sheep in profession are exposed much easily and widely.

Let us not be overawed by the phenomenon of blogs. It’s another medium of expression with its own inherent advantages and disadvantages. It’s wholly wrong to assume that what is on a blog is the ultimate truth. If a blog has to be credible, its author has to work hard in the pursuit of information. Whether you are a professional journalist, citizen journalist or freelance journalist, the journalistic work is exacting, it takes pains and effort.

The Lebanese photographer Hajj may have doctored images. Reuters immediately acknowledged the error, once it was brought to its notice. And, it removed the photographer immediately. It’s commendable that a blogger like Charles Johnson could detect that. I am sure has worked hard to get to this truth.

One Adnan Hajj does not discredit the entire conventional media, just as one Charles Johnson does not mean everything that appears on millions of blogs is the ultimate truth. There is nothing like absolute objectivity. Everything is seen through someone’s eyes. A blogger can distort information and doctor images as much as anyone else. Only that blogs are not under so much of scrutiny as conventional media.

The tendency of some bloggers to be “holier than thou” vis-à-vis conventional media is not healthy and must be curbed. Citizen journalists and professional journalists have to draw from each other so that technology-facilitated mass communication becomes more comprehensive and serves the purpose it is intended to.

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The following is a piece I wrote for The Times of India, Bangalore, dated July 22, 2006:

Bloggers are referred to as “citizen journalists”, as different from “professional journalists”. But a survey in the US has found that only 34% of them consider their activity as journalism and 65% said it is not journalism.

At the same time, a majority of bloggers engage in practices generally associated with professional journalism, like giving credits, quotes, checking facts, etc, says a survey conducted by Pew Internet and American Life Project, a Washington-based non-profit research centre studying the social effects of internet on Americans.


Fifty-seven per cent bloggers give credits in the form of links to original sources and 56% spend extra time trying to verify facts they want to include in a post. Forty per cent quote other people or media directly in their posts, while 20% of bloggers said they seek permission before posting copyrighted material on their blog.

Thirty-eight percent also posted corrections in their blogs. This was more prevalent in bloggers over 30 years and with college degree, the Pew study showed.

Most bloggers are also keen followers of current events, and also use blogs as a source of information. Ninety-five percent of bloggers said they get news from the internet, compared to 73% of all internet users. Bloggers were also found to be more dependent on technology for social interaction.


“My life and experiences” was the most preferred topic (37%) for blogging, 11% cited issues of public life like politics and government, 7% picked entertainment related issues, 6% sports and 5% news.

Twelve million American adults, or 8% or internet users, kept a blog. While 54% were under 30 years of age, 55% used a pseudonym and 84% described the activity as a “hobby” or “something I do, but not something I spend lot of time on”. While 59% of bloggers just one or two hours per week on their blogs, while 25% spend 3 to 9 hours.

While 70% said they blogged only when they felt like, 22% did it on a regular basis.

Access the full report here

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More edits on blog gag

Two more mainstream newspapers have carried editorial comments on the ISPs’ arbitrary act of blocking webpages and websites.

The Hindu, in its editorial, An Assault on Free Speech, says:

“The action apparently followed a request from the Intelligence Bureau on security grounds. The order itself does not, as is the usual practice, invoke the authority of any law, nor is it clear why access was denied to the whole class of bloggers who are reported to be at least 40,000 strong…

“Blogs have indeed revolutionised the dissemination of information, particularly in times of crises such as the tsunami of 2004 and the recent Mumbai blasts. They have given ordinary people a voice that carries far. But to collectively view them as a threat to civil order appears to be a gross exaggeration.”

Deccan Herald, in its editorial, Bloggers Win, says:

“Despite the removal of the blocks, bloggers still plan to go ahead with their PILs questioning the right of the government to block freedom of speech in the first place…

“Blogging in the cyber world serves as an expression of free will and commercial enterprise and it is this freedom that the government tried to curb. In a democracy this amounted to impinging on the constitutional right of freedom of expression. Censorship in any form in a democracy is abhorrent and condemnable and should never be attempted again.”

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The Times of India has editorially commented on the blanket shutting out all blogs. In today’s first edit, “Cyber Gag“, TOI says:

“For a nation that’s supposed to be IT savvy, this ham-handed attempt at censorship betrays little understanding of either technology or security…

“What makes the blanket ban more appalling is that a site that rendered public service by listing phone numbers of hospitals where victims of the Mumbai blasts were taken, was also blocked by it…

“What’s needed is to be able to anticipate threats to security, and work out coherent short- term as well as long-term strategies for meeting them.”

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Blog ban to be lifted?

Rediff has this news that the arbitrary blocking of blogs will be lifted in two days. Let’s hope so!

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BBC blog: The Editors

I’m an addict of the BBC. I grew up listening to BBC Radio. BBC was one of the elements that nurtured my interest in journalism. During my childhood, there was just the radio. I could miss Radio Australia, VOA, SLBC (Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corpn), Radio Netherlands; but I could never miss the BBC.

Today, because of too much of radio waves in the atmosphere (thanks to mobile phones), it has become very difficult to tune into shortwave broadcasts during the day time. Of course, the BBC World (TV) is there. But ever since it became a pay channel, our local cable operator has stopped transmitting it. But I don’t miss BBC. Thanks to technology, today I listen to it on the web also. It’s on right now: a programme on World Cup Football. Reminds me of the days when my little transistor on the study table used to be tuned into the BBC.

Much has changed, including the format of the news itself. I used to listen to South Asia Survey at 7.15 am, The News at 7.30 am, Radio Newsreel at 7.45 am; then the Hindi News on AIR at 8 am, before going to school. Outlook which used to be broadcast at 7.30 pm was one of my favourite. In the night, I used to take my dinner break with BBC News at 8.30 pm, and AIR Hindi and English News after that. And, in music there was the John Peel Show. Those were the days!

Mark Tully’s voice was associated with accuracy and authority. The famous news break on BBC on Oct 31, 1984, when the whole world, including Rajiv Gandhi, got to know of Indira Gandhi’s death from the BBC. He was and still is more of an Indian than all of us. I read somewhere that he refused a transfer to London with promotion, since he wanted to be in India. He used to relentlessly push positive stories from India with the desk in London which in those days had only an image of poverty and bullock-carts when it came to India.

It was a pleasure listening to Paddy Feeny’s presentation of Saturday Sports Special. BBC stopped broadcasting the Test Match Specials, with veterans like Brian Johnston, Don Mosey, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Henry Bloefeld etc. Now thanks to Internet, we can listen on to BBC Test Match Special on the web.

Tim Sebastian (who is now famous for Hard Talk programme on the TV) was the Warsaw correspondent during the strike by Solidarity trade union at the Gdansk port in Poland. This was in 1980, and his reports inspired me a lot. So too Alex Birdie’s reports from Iran, during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88).

BBC continues to change, but still retains its high levels of professionalism. It gives lots of importance to development issues: very often we can see poverty and health issues of Africa taking the lead slot in the news bulletins.

Now, BBC too joins the blog bandwagon. How could it remain out when many similar reputed institutions have blogs of its own! Better late than never! Incidentally, it is not the BBC doesn’t have an interactive programme. What was earlier the “Phone-in programme” is now called Have Your Say“. Till recently it was called “Talking Point”.

BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson says he doesn’t think blogs will necessarily change the world, but does believe blogs will offer a fresh way of turning the traditional roles of writer and reader into those of people having a conversation.

BBC News has got together to start its own blog, called The Editors, which was launched yesterday. The hope is that it will become a discussion forum for all sorts of issues and dilemmas surrounding the BBC news programmes. Now, this will become another medium for me to follow the BBC.

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Blog power

Where blogs stand in the vast canvas of mass communication is often not clear.

On the one hand, what is published in a blog is in the public domain, and to that extent the author of the blog is fully accountable for whatever is published. It is definitely not a “write whatever you want in your blog” sort of case. The writer of the blog is fully subject to laws of the land like libel, defamation, contempt of court etc.

On the other hand, it is a highly personal and completely unmonitored medium. Whatever written is not gone through by a second person, and once published goes straight into the public domain. The highly personalised, unedited nature of blog postings is seen as its strength and weakness.

The different forms media complement one another, and blogs have become one more source of information. The most dramatic demonstration of the power of blogs was during the US presidential campaign in 2004, when bloggers landed the celebrated CBS news anchor, Dan Rather, in serious trouble.

Monday’s Detroit Free Press has carried an article on how bloggers ensured the defeat of the longest serving commissioner of Birmingham in an election. The article also talks of how a blogger was once sued for defaming his city’s fire force chief by accusing him of teaching during business hours!

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Whither blogging

The Financial Times Magazine, London, has carried a well-written and comprehensive article by Trevor Butterworth, a writer based in Washington DC, on blogging. It discusses how the nascent medium has grown, where it stands vis-à-vis conventional journalism, and the economics of the medium. A unique thing the magazine did was it opened a blog to where readers could post their comments on the article.

Some salient points of the article:

** Even in the US, the blogosphere’s superpower, most internet users — 62 per cent according to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project — aren’t exactly sure what a blog is.

** At the close of 2002, there were some 15,000 blogs. By 2005, 56 new blogs were starting every minute. As I type this sentence, there are, according to technorati.com, 27.2 million blogs. By the time you read this sentence, there surely will be many more.

** One of the conventions that happened to work in blogging’s favour was the way the media take a new trend and describes it as a revolution.

** That established journalists were blogging gave the revolution a dose of credibility that it might not have had if it were in the hands of true outsiders. And then, just before the presidential election in 2004, blogging had its Battleship Potemkin moment, when swarms of partisan bloggers rose up to sink CBS’s iron-jawed leviathan Dan Rather for peddling supposedly fake memos about Bush’s national guard service.

** Isn’t the problem of the media right now that we barely have time to read a newspaper, let alone traverse the thoughts of a million bloggers?

** Some experiments have gone awry. When the Los Angeles Times decided to try letting readers insert their own ideas into its editorials online last year, the trial ended within days after obscene pictures were posted on its site.

** Blogging will no doubt always have a place as an underground medium in closed societies; but for those in the west trying to blog their way into viable businesses, the economics are daunting.

** If the pornography of opinion doesn’t leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium.

** “Mere potboiling,” wrote Engels of the more than 500 articles he and Marx wrote for The New York Daily Tribune, “It doesn’t matter if they are never read again.”
And that, in the end, is the dismal fate of blogging: it renders the word even more evanescent than journalism; yoked, as bloggers are, to the unending cycle of news and the need to post four or five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence.


A wonderful article. Go ahead and read it here.

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