Anyone with an internet enabled computer or phone can become a global publisher. The Web 2.0 technologies have made it even easier for individuals with basic Information Communication and Technologies skills to come up with professional-like sites.
Blogs have sprung up in very amazing ways to serve different purposes. Just as their authors are individuals with different worldviews, their audiences are a mixed lot. The content of a particular blog determines their classifications. Although classifying blogs according to their content is one confusing criteria, several new media experts have noted a recurring characteristic among bloggers. The bloggers main aim is to share their personal views, observations, findings and convictions to the rest of the world. The most popular blog categories include: personal diaries, advocacy, breaking news and analysis, whistle blowers, photography, digital storytellers, fashion, hobbies and general blogs.
A site like WikiLeaks which was set up by Julian Paul Assange has been a great whistle blower worldwide. It has made the investigative journalists in established world class media houses look like toddlers. WikiLeaks serves as a site where whistle blowers from around the world can publish their findings and reports anonymously. In Kenya, Kahawa Tungu, Kachwanya and the crew have been in forefront in offering alternative news and analysis. Such information is frowned upon in mainstream media and therefore ‘killed’ at editorial level. Ibrahim Mutai on his blog itsmutai, has been highlighting corruption and misappropriation of funds and resources in various counties.
Over two years ago, one of the terminals at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport caught fire. Photos of the bellowing terminus found themselves on social media and blogs in minutes after the fire outbreak. The mainstream media was left to scavenge from the citizen journalists blogs. The blogs, both micro and macro have been the fastest platforms to break news. They have been hailed as turning ordinary citizens into own broadcasters and reach large numbers of people in unprecedented ways at trivial cost. Digital networking and crowdsourcing of news is becoming a must have concept in the mainstream media houses. Big brothers are now looking out on such blogs to get tips and on the ground information about newsworthy stories. This has been necessitated by the ever growing number of citizen journalists. Before even the big media houses publish or fail to publish stories, the bloggers will publish it swiftly and without any gatekeeping.
Apart from posting news, bloggers in Kenya have become synonymous with running gossip sites. On these blogs, what is considered vulgar, indicent and difficult to verify by the nationwide magazines is published. Blogs like Hapa Kenya, Ghafla and Kenya Today trade in such content. Such blogs have been running parallel showbiz magazines albeit online. These blogs feature colorful and interactive designs. Their target audience are the teens to adults in their mid-thirties. Most major newspapers with weekend pullouts are also operating blog like websites with similar content as the gossip blogs.
Looking at the content being posted and shared on blogs and citizen journalism sites, a grave issue props up, the observation of journalistic ethics and morals. Whereas professional journalism ethics and laws are well documented and to an extent observed in traditional media, the blogosphere and citizen journalism has no viable structures for such. The news values of news stories remain the same on both platforms but the delivery of it differs. Over 90% of both citizen journalists and bloggers are not trained/professional journalists. They are lay persons and/or professionals in other fields who happen to be in the business of news and content dissemination. The blatant lack of honesty, fairness, accuracy, respect for privacy and special groups’ rights and accountability makes them liable for misuse. With no clearly laid out code of conduct, the blogosphere drivers are easily turning to internet machetes. They have been used as weapons of mudslinging, rumor mongering, gossip and negative incitement.
The rush for scoop has brought up such issues inappropriate sharing of photos online. These includes sharing of photos of bloodied persons, dead bodies, persons in anguish, photos of children and pornographic photos. Blogging has also blurred the line between respect for individual’s privacy and public interest.
Read part one here: The Rise of Blogging and Citizen Journalism (Part I)