By Rebecca Wanjiku and Mantsha Nkayi
The blurred lines that differentiate blogging and journalism were exposed yesterday, at a discussion on whether bloggers are columnists or columnists are bloggers.
The discussion was spiced up by the presence of Freddy Khumalo, a columnist who thinks bloggers are not necessarily journalists/columnists and Vincent Maher, who is of the opinion that newspaper columnists are “dinosaur bloggers.”
One of the lingering questions was; who do bloggers speak to and who is their audience?
Khumalo took the opportunity to trash some bloggers as mere diarists who do not follow any code of conduct. He argued that some blogs are dedicated to pets and may not make much sense; however, he admitted that some blogs contain important and informative material.
“When am writing a column, I have to take time to consider the impact of what am writing about and whether it has been said before and under what context. With the blog, it is easy, and there are no such considerations because there is no code of conduct,” said Khumalo.
But Maher a former head of the New Media Lab at Rhodes University argued that bloggers have filled in a space that was not previously addressed by the mainstream media.
He was supported by journalism trainer, Roland Stanbridge who added that 50 per cent of the women in the Middle East are blogging and addressing issues considered as taboo and not addressed in mainstream media.
“Blogs are giving people voices, whether it is eroding morality in society is not the issue, it is a place for the people to air what they feel. Maybe the people want a change to such standards of morality,” said Maher.
While supporting the argument that newspaper columnists are dinosaur bloggers, Maher invited participants to evaluate the development of communication from newsletters to newspapers and to letters to the editor-through snail mail.
He argued that blogs give an opportunity for feedback and connection with the communities, which is vital for any media organisation, and he also mentions that blogs are personal web pages.
But the main question that was not satisfactorily answered in the discussion was: given the challenges of technology and information penetration in Africa, can one claim to be blogging for the public while they have no access to internet or computers? Is blogging elitist?