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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Opinion: The Future of Blogging in South Africa is disheartening - should Bloggers account?

In these fast moving times, the emergence of high-tech technological devices, the growing of the digital use in SA, we need to accept that everyone wants to be a blogger, everyone wants a platform to air their views and finally everyone will be termed a publisher.

A Defenition: A blog (a portmanteau of the term web log) is a discussion or information site published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first.

There is reasonably a number of blogs in South Africa, professional and unprofessional, but the matter at hand is how Bloggers tend to take cheap shots at their victims.

I went through a number of blogs that could not even be tracked back to the owner and that gave me a reason to fully comprehend why their content is so malicious, no responsibility could be attached to anyone and junk is being said about celebrities not limited to other related public icons. The above brings a question of, should we take South African Bloggers seriously? Of course looking at the level of professionalism.

There are Single Author Blogs (SAB) those tend to be very personal and do not care about brand management or reputation as they are owned by single noise makers. Then we have Multi Author Blogs (MAB) those tend to be very professional and the content goes under editorship. The MAB’s will at most compete with your local publication –  the slight difference is that personal agendas are not highly pushed like in your typical local newspaper.

Now, how do we then differentiate between these SAB’s and MAB’s? Who do we say you’re welcome and you’re not to? Alright! Most the SAB’s are for commentary and are handled in a very personal (using the personal pronoun I mostly) manner that tends to add personal favor to whom I want or not and mostly take their content from local publications for criticism, while the MAB’s operate like your local newspaper, take full responsibility of their content, provide you with proper channels of communication and finally, use proper reportage when writing stories.

Before I tackle the future of Bloggers in SA, I must admit Bloggers are powerful more than your normal media, why? Because their content is self controlled which makes it less restricted. There’s no limit of space in terms of how many words you must write. But the limit of space should change because Netizens don’t have time to read large amounts of text – they need visuals like your powerful photographs and video clips.

Into the light of the above, my agitation does of course come with future and existing ignorance that Bloggers will get from interview subjects because of the unprofessional Bloggers who tend to take economical shots on personalities. Because of the Bloggers that do not want to account for their content. Because of the Bloggers that do not know media law – like the difference between a private and a non-private citizen, hence these two types of people should be differentiated by all means.

A private citizen is the woman in Soweto that sits in her house and minding her own business, when reporting about them caution needs to be put into practice. If not so, the law will deal with such very strictly.

A non-private citizen, a prime example will be a celebrity or rather a government official. Bloggers also need to be careful when reporting about them because their rights are only limited in the public space, what they do behind closed doors is none of your business.

Now the question becomes, does a typical South African Blogger know this? No! With that in mind, how do we see the future of Bloggers in South Africa? Personally, Bloggers are emerging with no turning back force, I see the government putting regulatory measures in place or tag them under the press ombudsman. Yes, they are unqualified Journalists on their own right, but at least they must account like every journalist or medium. If they can publish a story/post, get readers, gets comments, then what makes them different?

Nothing makes them different, they must be ready go to court for the gibberish they write about people. With the emergence of the digital space and the fading of the digital divide we cannot not have such mouthful people negatively influencing the country’s young mindsets.

The government should put a policy in place that will help or rather compel every Blog registered with the owner’s details visible. A verification mechanism of some sorts. And that can be possible if the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) contacts all the blogging platforms and compel them to put such measures in place.

Otherwise the future of Bloggers in SA is bleak unless these are turned into some respectable brands. Account for what is being said and take full responsibility. We cannot change the fact that Bloggers are a complete part of the media, we can only see if a certain blog is run by professional Journalists or not. We need Bloggers who will care to earn respect as professionals and not taking cheap shots at people.

Well, if you didn’t know Bloggers are recognized in South Africa. We have the annual South African Blog Awards – for recognizing and rewarding best blogs in the country.

In conclusion I will also encourage business owners to start encouraging their staff to blog – by creating company blogs. The posts can be about company generated views promoting the company, opinion pieces of human interest that will increase readers' interests in the company and it will change your business for the worst if not well PR handled or to the best if well PR handled.

Can we safely say “Please allow the Bloggers to Blog?” without any regulation in place?

I relish

Proofreader & Content Manager
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