Ka Edong: Blogging has become another way for Filipinos to connect


Edwin Soriano runs Technobiography, last year’s Most Informative Blog awardee of the Philippine Blog Awards. His site is among the best online source for Philippine telecoms news and reviews. Ka Edong has recently transferred Technobiography to his own web server technobiography.edongskey.com. Below are transcripts of my e-mail interview with him for my “See it, hear it, blog it” article in Sun.Star Cebu for the 2005 Cebu Press Freedom Week.

Max: Professor Jay Rosen of the New York University said early this year that the question of bloggers vs. journalists is over. He says the “question now isn’t whether blogs can be journalism. They can be, sometimes. It isn’t whether bloggers “are” journalists. They apparently are, sometimes.” Do you agree with his statement?

Do you see yourself as journalists in the mold of reporters producing original news content or more of opinion writers who comment on news items?

Ka Edong: I see myself more in the realm of opinion writers who comment on news items.

News is fine as blog content. It sends the message across many times over, more quickly. Of course blog news can be simple replication, linking or even gossip. Bloggers are quicker than the more formal media channels like newspapers, radio or TV because these formal media channels need to go through an editorial process.

But I think the art in blogging emanates from critical opinion and not speed of news transmission. I would rather be an opinion writer than one who just simply spreads the news.

Max: Editor Scott Rosenberg of Salon says: “journalists need to move away from the notion that journalism is a mysterious craft practiced by only a select priesthooda black art inaccessible to the masses. We forget the derivation of the word journalist: someone who keeps an account of day-to-day events.” Do you agree with him? Do you think blogging has shattered that perception of a select priesthood that defines what is newsworthy?

Ka Edong: Definitely!

Max: In a blogging conference early this year at Harvard University, participants agreed that “The acts of “blogging” and “journalism” are different, although they do intersect. While some blogging is journalism, much of it isn’t and doesn’t aim to be. Both serve different and valuable functions within the new evolving media ecosystem.” Do you agree with this? Do you see this happening in the Philippines or will blogging still be in the fringes of that media ecosystem because of the low Internet penetration in the country?

Ka Edong: The low Internet penetration in the country will be a challenge in making blogging a mainstream medium. What blogging has done, in the interim, is to develop a larger group of opinion makers who are not necessarily connected to any broadsheet, TV show or radio show.

Whether blogging will be in the fringes of the media ecosystem, I don’t think it is anymore. Blogging is no longer in the fringes. Blog reading and writing now comprise a large part of Internet usage and we couldn’t consider that fringe.

Blogging has crept in already, with blogs being the source of the Hello Garci ringtones, with blogs being the source of information for OFWs, with blogs being featured in TV shows, with blogs being quoted in broadsheets and online publications.

There’s no other way for blogging to go but up. Blogging is not a fad, blogging is here to grow and here to stay.

Max: Tom Curley of the Associated Press says there is a huge shift of balance of power in our world, “from the content providers to the content consumers.” He says “professional journalism is no longer sovereign over territory it once easily controlled” and that its influence in the public discourse is no longer singular. He says: “When 90 percent of the op-ed style writing was done on actual op-ed pages, editorial page editors had sovereignty over that region of public dialogue. With blogging and the online space generally, that rule is gone. Opinion in reaction to the news can come from anywhere, and the bloggers are frequently better at it than the sleepy op-ed page ever was.” Do you agree with him?

Ka Edong: Agree

Max: Mark Glaser, in a 2003 Article in Nieman Reports, says that “because of Weblogs, journalists are being brought down from their ivory towers.” He says that blogs provide an even bigger voice for non-journalist readers. He did say, however, that “the attention of bloggers can’t help but make journalists do a better job in their reporting.” Do you agree with him. Has this happened in the country? If not, do you see this happening soon? Did the “community conversation” in Philippine blogs on the Gloriagate scandal affect mainstream media’s coverage of the issue?

Ka Edong: Definitely! I think that event exemplified how blogs could sometimes communicate a whole lot more effectively than broadcast or print media.

Max: Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University, sees the difference between traditional media and Weblog communities this way: “The order of things in broadcast is ‘filter, then publish.’ The order in communities is ‘publish, then filter.’ The filtering is done through a Darwinian system of good blogs flourishing because readers keep returning to it. Do you agree with this statement?

Ka Edong: Yes. And rightly so. Who’s the best judge of what is relevant to people than people themselves? The world of media is changing and we need to help people to adjust to it. We call this information literacy. In the past, media chose for people what people read. Now its people themselves who have to learn to choose, to discern, to discriminate. This is something that needs to be taught and learned. Otherwise, people will drown in a deluge of information useless to them.

Max: Where do you think Philippine blogs are heading? Do you see it becoming a major part of the reading diet of Filipinos or do you think that the low Internet penetration rate will hinder it from becoming that? Do you see Pinoy blogs becoming as influential to society as their counterparts in the US are?

Ka Edong: Let’s talk in terms of what I imagine OFWs do when they access the internet. Undoubtedly, one of the first sites they visit is inq7.net. Then what?

At the speed that bloggers are putting up content, no other company or institution or agency can keep up with bloggers. There will come a time when more than 50% of Internet content will be in blogs.

I think Phlippine blogs will more and more be the connection of the millions of Filipinos around the world. I think that blogs are taking away some of the viewership of the most popular Philippine website: inq7.net. With the emergence of thousands of Philippine blogs, people are turning to sites other than inq7.net to get the type of information they want and need through blogs!

Let me illustrate. There is this popular Pinoy blogger, BatJay, who has a very personal blog named Kwentong Tambay. He blogs because he loves blogging. He blogs about his life and he tickles the funny bone like a pro. His regular readers, perhaps more than a hundred of us, have a connection with BatJay. I have exchanged a few emails with BatJay, we’ve traced a few common friends. People feel for BatJay. His readers know when he’s not happy, when he’s senti, when he’s just being silly (which he is most of the time). People know him through his blog.

Filipinos love connecting with others. Isn’t that precisely the reason we are the text capital of the world? That is what has made Friendster very popular among Filipinos.

Blogging has become another way for Filipinos to connect. It is a journal of life that we share with others. Through this journal, we get to know people and the way they think, the way they feel, the way they live. We will want more and more. That’s soooo Filipino. That’s what will make blogging very popular in the Philippines.

But it is true that the low Internet penetration will affect the growth of blogging in the Philippines. But here’s the thing. In the future, first time Filipino Internet users will be doing three things: surf around, check e-mail, and read or write blogs.

Max: How do you assess coverage of mobile technology in mainstream media?

Ka Edong: Mobile technology has a large aspect to it. Mainstream media tends to focus on news, on what’s new. We only have a handful of articles that come up with more in-depth reviews of products or services. That is the property of mainstream media. It cannot dive into too much detail that alienates a large part of their readership. They have to stay within bounds of relevance.

What I look for is concepts and analysis of mobile technology. Where is it going? How can the farmer use mobile technology? What values do mobile services bring to users? How useful are these services? These are questions that mainstream media do not involve themselves in.

This is the kind of discussion I look for. I do find some of these discussions on online email lists, but not on mainstream media.

This is the kind of discussion I try to create too. When I blog, I always try to imagine what a certain technology could do to serve people. Beyond the entertainment value, beyond the monetary value of a service, how can these technologies truly become useful for the average pinoy. Some of my ideas get some visitors to thinking. That’s all nice. But what’s really nice is when somebody walks up to me and offers to help make my ideas real. This has happened a couple of times. It continues to amaze me how ideas can become reality just by communicating them through my blog. That’s not just nice, that’s awesome!

Max: Do you see yourself doing a better job?

Ka Edong: Better job? I started blogging for myself. Just for myself. But I found that some people regularly visit my blog. I found in my blog a powerful communication tool that has opened many doors for me. Had I not been a blogger, there would have been many opportunities that wouldn’t have found their way to me.

Better job? I do have plans of creating better blog content. Content that continues to be useful for others. It’s an evolving process. I’m learning along the way.

Max: You said in your site you still have to get your first Google check.

Ka Edong: That’s right. I have yet to reach the US$100 mark as far as Google revenues is concerned. When I started blogging, Google revenues were nothing central. I just thought it was nice that through my blogging, a few cents come my way through visitors who click on Google Ads. But through the inspiration of other bloggers, notably Abe Olandres of yugatech.com, I am trying my hand at reaping more from blogging, not just regular visitors, not just comments from visitors, not just global opportunities.

Ka Edong: At the end of it all, I’d like to think about what blogging can do for the Filipino.

I think blogging is giving Filipinos a way to connect with each other. It can help us keep an open mind, what with the varying ideas and opinions we will come across through blogs.

It will also connect us with our past. On a personal note, it will allow me to look back and see how much I have grown in knowledge and in thinking.

I took sheer pleasure in reading the handwritten love letters of my grandfather to my grandmother, people who I did not have the chance to interact with. I am looking forward to the time when my own great grand children will have the chance to go back and read what their grandfather was doing in 2005.

On a wider perspective, blogging as a medium will be a chance for true democracy in speech. Where everybody can say what they want, no matter how silly or profane. But it’s up to readers to select, to filter, to judge for themselves what truth they will subscribe to.

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