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Too much of a good thing? (Miriam's bill expands the umbrella of media)

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"Journalism is a profession. I am just an opinionated BUM."

For years, journalist organizations have struggled to trim of their ranks of those who want the label but not quite the job. Now, blogger Dean Jorge Bocobo -- who's also often invited as an analyst by current affairs television hosts -- says thanks, but no thanks.

"I don't want 'Govt protection for bloggers'," says Bacobo on Twitter. "Before you know it we'll get Official Guidelines and become LURKERS."

Bloggers will probably not thank Bacobo for his generosity. But then the irascible teacher/pundit does not claim to represent them or other digital communicators.

Senate Bill No. 455, now pending in the Senate plenary, amends the Penal Code provision on murder. A release from Santiago's office notes: “There is no reason why only members of the broadcast and print media should be included in the proposed law. Due regard must also be given to practitioners of the ‘digital media,’ or those whose mode of communication is the internet and mobile phones.”

Santiago points out that many media practitioners use digital media to relay information, citing the country's major newspapers and broadcast stations that have websites and multi-media ventures. More from her release:

“Further, with the popularity of blogs and video-sharing websites such as YouTube, there are now a lot of people who regularly post sensitive political commentaries online, with content similar to those traditionally published in newspapers or broadcasted over the television. Even though they are not traditionally referred to as members of the media, they may actually be exposed to the same dangers encountered by institutional media practitioners,” Santiago explained.

Santiago cited as an example the case of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who was reportedly subjected to harassment and threats after his website published sensitive and confidential information, including hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

The senator also cited the 2009 case of an online journalist in Russia who was forced to go into hiding after receiving threats for an article critical of the Russian government, which he published on his website.

Many print journalists, reporters included, transform into bloggers online.

There IS a distinction, despite what angry bloggers claimed the last time I ventured to say that on TV.

That distinction is not just due to rearguard action by haughty professionals who (supposedly) fear for their livelihoods in the face of a swarm of Young Turks. Nor is it in any way a reflection of one's gift of gab.

The difference is mostly rooted in economics.

A journalist's output is almost always the product of more than one person. Even a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter or photojournalist, for example, will be working with at least one of these folks: a) researcher; b) desk person; c) senior editor; d) proofreader. At the least, a major American newspaper will have a layer of fact-checkers -- though, admittedly, that has not stopped sociopaths from smearing hard-earned reputations with lyrical, funny, even brilliant but totally made-up stories.

Most Philippine-based newspapers will have a lean team of guardians at the gate. Most broadcast stations here have producers of various levels and skills, writers, editors, camera people and sound technicians, engineers and other technical staff who work so that the audience can laugh, fume, weep or retch as they eat breakfast or dinner or midnight snacks.

Numbers do not necessarily reflect the quality of output. I have chortled (or raged) over glaring errors of fact and grammar on the front pages of some newspapers or major news websites. We've all furrowed our brows, at one time or another, as some broadcast reporter with a gorgeous voice and even more gorgeous face chatters "live" with no rhyme or reason. Indeed, the comfort of a crowd can make us lax, lazy or arrogant.

At the other end, there are very skillful lone rangers. We all probably have favorite bloggers, ranging from the "I_amHolo" with his gentle-funny wit, the professorial Danilo Arao, Ellen Tordesillas and other investigative journalists, outrageous Reyna Elena, and the very angry bunch over at anti-pinoy.com

Sometimes they're brilliant, sometimes they're juvenile; even the best will have their bad days.

I am a journalist. I am also a blogger. THIS is a difference: As a journalist, I submit my work to peer review (and/or have peers to help me prepare a report). As a blogger, I am answerable to no one.

Whether writing for a newspaper, a magazine, a broadcast script or a dotcom analysis, I try my best to abide by the ethics of journalism and all those other hard lessons. That does not change the fact that as a blogger I am accountable only to myself.

Having said that, I recognize the need to protect people's right to expression. That protection starts way before the act of expression -- whether on print, on stage or the digital page.

By Inday Espina - Varona

 




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