Journo Blogger Poser

Rocky of Rocky Bru says journalists should blog. Technically there is nothing stopping journalists from blogging. This is a medium of self-expression and it is really up to an individual to say what he wants to say and also face the reaction to what he says.

 However I do have some conflicting thoughts about this.

Firstly, journalists write for a publication. When they are employed, they usually have to declare that they are writing for only the employer and no one else. Of course, initially this was because employers don’t want you to moonlight for a rival publisher or something like that. However, blogs are often personal opinions on all things under the sun. Furthermore, people write blogs not for commercial gain. Now how is that covered in the current scheme of things?

Secondly, when working journalists start blogging on stories they are covering/have covered, this whole issue of scoop arises too. Say you worked on a story. You feel strongly about it and wrote a fine piece that alas was spiked due to reasons like these:

a) Bad press for an advertiser.

b) Your editor feels it is not strong enough to play up.

c) The story is of the buka pekung variety that will result in a lot of political flak for the publication.

d) The story is of the type to get the newspaper/magazine shut down under the Printing Presses and Publications Act, people arrested under the Internal Security Act, Seditions Act or the Official Secrets Act.

So, can you talk/bitch/moan/rant about it in your blog? The average journalist in Malaysia would cease to be that, if he does it. So that’s it. Buang Kerja! So of course the local journalists will not do it. Idealism is fine but one has to eat too.

The reality is, the few ethical journalists in the country committed to the integrity of the profession will not remain journalists for long if they did this and the rest are simply glorified sentence-writers who don’t give a damn about being a watchdog for accountability and other high-fallutin’ principles.

For some high-minded hacks who believe the truth should be told (I am firmly one of them) despite the daily attempts at intra-editorial censorship, politicians to jaga hati and advertisers to suck up to, I wish them a lot of luck.

Seasoned journos know the rules of information dissemination, they read between the lines and give us readers the benefit of informed opinion without being condescending about it. If The Star’s Davin Arul or Kee Thuan Chye were to blog, for instance, I would be an ardent reader. Or S. Jayasankaran who sometime ago had a satirical column called Speakeasy in NST.

There is an interesting blog called The Unrepentant Journalist where a foreign (I think American from the tone and the content) journo actually writes what he/she feels on a whole lot of topics he/she feels strongly about. Just to underscore my points above, I must say that this journo blogs anonymously.


8 thoughts on “Journo Blogger Poser

  1. You are specifically referring to a conflict of interest situation between work and blog. I sincerely believe you do one of the two and not both if there is a conflict! Cheers.

  2. I agree that only one course is open to the blogger. Also, a journo blogging openly has to be careful to avoid things he was directly covering, for practicality’s sake

  3. I believe if you want to air your very personal views about an issue, albeit in a position which you cannot possibly claim is consistent with your employer’s editorial policy, you should never do so in a manner that suggests you are doing it from the media organisation’s cloak.

    In this context, your professional and personal identity is and should be separate. You can’t have your cake and eat it as well. You can’t insist that you have a right to air your very personal views in a possibly contentious and uncircumspect manner, and YET if anyone should take exception, disagree or reject YOUR very personal opinion, stance and attitude [which is ENTIRELY your personal thing] – that someone is either against or attacking the organisation you work for. ALL gbecause of your personal stance and attitude.

    You need to take responsibily for your own words and actions. Don’t hide behind the employer’s cloak. It is grossly unfair, to say the least, to those people who have struggled, toiled and possibly suffered to make that formidable publication (long before you even showed up the fron door) what it is today.
    Please get your own security blanket.

  4. errata..

    Par 1: “… you should never do so in a manner that suggests you are doing it from BEHIND the media organisation’s cloak.”

  5. dear anu, i think the situation can be salvaged if journalists can keep away from covering events which they are directly involved in, for example, one who strongly supports and sympathises with the Opposition or UMNO should refrain from covering such events. The journo may argue she or he can remain objective. But alas, we are merely human, we cannot claim to be 100 objective when something we feel strongly about comes into question or is/are being attacked.

    Then there is also the perception of the public or readers, who know nothing about you, but can judge you by the things you say, and the things you do. For example, if you feel strongly against PKR and write a news report condemning PKR, plus later rant about PKR in your blog, readers who follow you closely are simply going to have zero credibility in you. Perception is everything.

    Steven Gan of Malaysiakini used to say: We (journalists) are a little like judges, we cant mingle with those involved in the cases we are preciding, because then our judgements would be questioned. I tend to believe him.

    Easier said than done. If we cant stop being involved in a certain event, party, etc, we can at least try to refrain from writing the news, or perhaps we can come clean and declare our allegiance. Perhaps that would be more honest?

    I am still learning….:-)

    Good post!

  6. 11 yrs in the industry n I must say i took great pains not to be in the news…yeah, so I agree with u there boiterro. We r kinda like messengers, we’re not supposed to be part of the news.

    Dear Susan,

    100% objectivity is not always possible in all issues. I learnt it first hand too. I take the view that one has to be fair in reporting both sides to a story.

    As to mingle, I guess u mean socialise. Now, many of us scribes actually tail and chat up these people for stories. But in the course of nosing around you do need to hob nob with everyone. Then what? Judges can take a step back more easily than journos; they make a living among the dead just like carrion crows, looking for pickings. it s a thin line.

    It is an issue that must face u too Susan since ur a journo/blogger. As to political allegiance, my stand is that an objective reporter cannot be a member of any political party and still hope to be seen as a neutral, objective deliverer of news or opinion shaper.

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