One thing that you’ll notice while reading this blog is a diversity of views that co-exist under the rubric of Serengeti Advisers. Here you won’t find a homogeneous worldview. Ours is a sensibility defined by a Negative Capability, that is we are able to entertain a multiplicity of views and opinions, even when they are in contradictions with each other. And on the issue of Old Media versus New Media, there has been a lot of heated discussions out here about the role and limitations of both platforms in our Tanzanian context. You’ve read the arguments for Old Media. What follows is a case for New Media:
- Blogging is more democratic- Journalists now have the alternative of working without having to endure the bureaucracy, whims and sometime incompetence of editors. Here is one example to demonstrate this point. Last year one of the biggest media stories in Dar es Salaam was the resignation of Sakina Datoo from her role as the Editorial Director of The Guardian Newspapers Ltd. However, the story went largely unreported by the mainstream press. But this news did not escape the attention of bloggers. And it is the freedom afforded by the internet that allowed that story to reach readers.
- ‘Blogs are not held to the same standards of integrity as traditional print media’- Actually, the opposite may be true. In the blogosphere, readers and other bloggers act as fact-checkers and watchdogs. And their reactions to sloppy journalism can be immediate and eviscerating. While newspapers have to wait for letters to the editors to arrive or print a correction the next day (something that rarely happens in Tanzania, if at all), a blogger has to contend with the swift response of his commenters and if a post is half-baked, his/her readers will let him know. So too will other bloggers. Therefore, what determines quality in this situation is not a number of hits, but rather the authority that comes from being respected by your readers and other bloggers who link to your site.
- ‘Very few Tanzanians have internet access so it’s pointless to focus our journalism there’- Research suggests that as of June of last year, 520,000 people in this country were at some level connected to the internet. And this number is growing everyday. If a blogger can manage to attract just 10% of that number to regularly read his/her blog then that would mean a daily circulation figure of 52,000, a number that dwarfes any newspapers’ out there. So the potential is simply immense.
- ‘Most Tanzanians are too poor to afford computers’- This argument is rather ridicilous. It’s like saying Tanzanians shouldn’t read books because they are expensive. No, people can go to libraries to get the books they can’t afford to buy. Similarly, those who are unable to own computers can visit internet cafés and enjoy the benefits of this wonderful new world of online journalism.
- ‘Printed material has some longevity’- Really? What about all those trees that had to die so that a newspaper could be published? But anyway, today’s newspapers are tomorrow’s ‘makaratasi ya vitumbua.’ Meanwhile, a blog post once published into the ether is eternally available online for any Google search to discover. Furthermore, something written in Tanzania can be read everywhere, from the urban streets of New York to the rural villages of China, by a simple click of a button. How many Tanzanian newspapers can boast such a claim?
These are just some of the arguments in favor of online journalism and blogging in particular. For more on the subject do read this brilliant essay by the British-American blogger Andrew Sullivan where most of the above points are deputised from. Also this piece by the writer Matthew Klam profiling the pioneers of political blogging in the US is worth a read. This debate is always going to continue here. We would love to hear your thoughts on it too. What do you think?