June 05, 2007

Well, this is amusing

Initiated into the blogosphere.

I have recently cottoned on to the fact that some people have long been posting insults about me on their blogs

Well, I haven't, mainly because I've never heard of you, but I'll take a stab at it here.

I should point out here there really is no period after "blogs" in his opening sentence, showing once again why blogs are so inferior because they don't have editors like the mainstream media does.

Fate, my dictionary tells me, is “a power regarded as predetermining events inalterably”.

Ah, the time-honored method of using a dictionary definition to augment a column. I'm guilty of the same.

I dwell on fate because it seems to sum up what happened to me last week. As I walked into the office, a colleague gave me a knowing smile, and told me she knew my secret. She knew that I was the one writing a blog under the name of Silwane. “It’s got your touch,” she said. “It’s gotta be you ...” or words to that effect.

I told her I didn’t know who Silwane was. Worst of all, I didn’t really know what a blog was. I knew it had something to do with cyberspace.

Brilliant deduction, Holmes!

It was only after a few agonising minutes that I remembered that one of my friends had told me not so long ago that his cyberspace name was Silwane kaNjila.

Okay, he's taking a bit of time to zero in on a point here, but I'm patient.

Needless to say, I hadn’t visited his blog as I didn’t know how to find it.

*blink, blink* What?

And I’m afraid it never occurred to me to Google it! Duh! Apparently the word “duh” is an essential part of blogosphere lexicon. Sadly, my dictionary is silent on this matter.

My friend, you can hide behind "duh" all you want. If you're a journalist, and you didn't know about blogs, or how to find a particular blog by Googling "Silwane kaNjila," until May of 2007. . . well, let's just say you're so far behind the times, you'll need a Flux Capacitor to catch up. Seriously.

You see, I surf the Net for entertainment and research but I’ve never had to visit someone’s blog.

I'm sorry, but this simply stretches the imagination. Time Magazine named Powerline the "Blog of the Year" back in 2004! The same said magazine named ME, and you and everybody else, the Man of the Year for 2006, primarily because of the ubiquitous nature of blogs and MySpace and FaceBook and YouTube. newspapers around the nation and around the world have adopted their own in-house blogging arms.

Those who feel they have something to say to me have forwarded me stuff from their blogs. As a result, at the time my colleague accused me of being a blogger, I wouldn’t have recognised a blog even if it hit me in the face.

Okay, I'm trying to absorb this from far different perspective. I've been covering information technology stories since 2001, and blogging since 2002, so I'm obviously coming to this from a journalistic perspective that's arguably a bit more informed, technologically-speaking, than this guy. BUT STILL! To be in journalism and not have at least a passing knowledge of what blogs are, or about MySpace, frankly boggles an already boggled mind.

But I have since become enlightened and know exactly what a blog is, what with some bloggers dragging my name into cyberspace.

Okay, wait. Just. . . wait. You have a column that appears online. Therefore, BY DEFINITION, you're dragging your own name into cyberspace.

This is thanks to Business Times columnist David Bullard, who wrote a scathing piece advocating tough action against some bloggers.

Ohhhhhhhhh, THAT GUY!

I’ve since been receiving mail from obviously angry bloggers, who think I am part of the crusade against bloggers.

Let’s recap. In his inimitable style, Bullard wrote in his column last weekend: “Most blog sites are the air guitars of journalism. They’re cobbled together by people who wouldn’t stand a hope in hell of getting a job in journalism.”

And now, perhaps as proof this guy is actually being honest that he never heard about blogs until last month. . . HE CITES ME! ME! He cites a blogger (sorry, ThunderJournalist) who is most famous for posting a picture of his own butt! I mean, I'm flattered, really, but still!

To which one blogger called Ryan (http://ramblingrhodes.mu.nu) retorted: “I’m willing to bet a good chunk of those 70 million bloggers don’t even know what a columnist is, and some might even think columnists build Roman-style pillars for a living ... Many probably don’t even know what journalism is.”

And I stand by that. Oh, sure, there are obviously bloggers who know full well what columnists and journalists are, but I think there's a larger chunk of bloggers who are blogging more to expound about the wonders of dog ownership or what their favorite boy band is than they are interested in breaking into the mainstream media. For many bloggers, the concept of journalism is probably as alien as Spock.

This last bit came to me as a relief. I can assume that because they don’t know what journalism is, quid pro quo I am not expected to know what blogging entails.

Well then, not only are you woefully uninformed, you're also logically handicapped. An 11-year old girl blogging about her Barbie collection is not under any obligation to know what journalism is or what columnists are. Likewise, a 19-year-old frat boy who blogs about the partying bender he went on last weekend doesn't have to care one can of Budweiser about what Tom Friedman or Paul Krugman have to say.

But yes, you, as a journalist, had better damned full well know what blogs are, and about MySpace and FaceBook and every other venue for personal online publication that's redefining the rules when it comes to disseminating information. Here you have an explosion of online personal expression that has the mainstream media scrambling to keep pace, lest they fold due to obsolescence, AND YOU WEREN'T EVEN AWARE OF IT UNTIL LAST MONTH?!!! Hey, I have this cool thing called a microwave I'll sell you for $14,000. I assure you, it's state of the art.

I am “so like yesterday”, as my son always reminds me when we talk about anything cyber-related.

No, you're so like last Millennium, from the sounds of it.

Anyway, thanks to the Bullard- instigated fight about the blogosphere, I have realised that some people have long been posting insults about me on their blogs.

What does that tell you? Bloggers have been tearing you apart now for a long time, and you haven't been aware of it? I mean, I understand you're a South African news outlet, but I'm not sure that's an excuse. In fact, I'm SURE it's not an excuse. My mind continues to boggle.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column in this newspaper about our vacuous celebrities. I happened to use the alleged dancer Somizi Mhlongo as an entry point into the story.

Well, it's better than a dictionary definition-based segue, I guess.

I have found out that a blogger, responding to my column, jumped to this sad conclusion: “The message of the [Fred Khumalo] column, for many Sunday Times readers, would have been: ‘If a man dresses up in panties, he is a self-satisfied, deluded and pretentious fool.” Duh!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t respond to this tawdry bit of drivel as I didn’t even know of its existence.

Believe me, you don't want to start mixing it up with bloggers. Just. . . don't. Let the insults slide off your back unparried. Otherwise, you'll end up with a Nick Coleman-esque meltdown that would be pathetic if it weren't so entertaining.

But a respondent on the same blog wrote: “Maybe you can enlighten me as to why so many gay men feel the need to not just wear a dress, but go to enormous lengths to resemble parodies of ageing hookers and then make spectacles of themselves in street parades.

“Ridiculous wigs, bucketfuls of ghastly make-up, falsies hanging out of tarty frocks and the highest possible heels. It appears to me that this is how they see women, and — as a woman myself — I’m offended.”

That’s the only concern of mine about the blogosphere.

Oh, Gawd, here we go. . .

Since it is entirely unregulated, people post willy-nilly almost anything that takes their fancy — insults, pornography and so on.

Again, this is a South African newspaper, so I make no claims to know anything about their rules regarding free speech and free press, but this guy seems to have a problem with those concepts, which is always disheartening to read coming from a "journalist."

Make no mistake, I love a good fight, but I have to know what my adversary is all about. For now, I cannot sustain a fight with the blog community because I still have to come to grips with the mechanics of this terrain.

Yeah, good luck with that. A couple years of 24/7 research should just about bring you up to the present day, which of course means you'll still be two years behind, but that's better than the six years you're behind right now.

Some of the entries (do you call them entries? This is virgin territory for me, remember?) are so badly written and convoluted you have to guess what the writer is trying to say.

I call 'em blog "posts," but you can call them entries, if you really want. And, yes, there are literally millions of badly written and convoluted blogs out there but, by and large, those are ignored and often short-lived. However, there are other blogs that write circles around even the best of the mainstream journalists, and there are A LOT of them.

We communicate in order to be understood immediately and clearly and our communication, most of the time, must elicit a response.

In cyberspace, people speak above each others’ heads.

And, such places in cyberspace are pretty much ignored.

However, there are some blogs which are exquisitely written and worth responding to.

LIKE RAMBLING RHODES! Okay, maybe not, but on this point we generally agree: there are excellent blogs out there, and they're usually rewarded with high visitor rates and longevity.

My parting shot brings to mind an anecdote about Winston Churchill getting sloshed at a society party. Embarrassed by his awkward behaviour, the lady of the house sidles up to him and whispers: “Sir Winston, why don’t you get yourself together before you ruin your reputation entirely?”

The witty Sir Winston, replied: “My dear lady, I’m so embarrassed that I’m making such a fool of myself, getting drunk and all that. But when I get up tomorrow, I’ll be sound and sober. But you will still be as ugly as you are now, I’m afraid.”

Which is to say: although I am an ignoramus now, by next week I will know more about blogging and bloggers. But many bloggers — if blogger Ryan is to be believed — still won’t know what columnists or journalists are. Duh!

But bloggers don't HAVE to know what columnists or journalists are. The opposite simply isn't true, so get busy researching this newfangled blog thing, Fred Khumalo, your job just may depend on it.

NOTE: Also, I should mention that, although I appreciate when my blog is mentioned. . . anywhere, I do also appreciate, at the very least, an e-mail heads up when a reporter working for a mainstream news outlet deigns to quote my blog/ThunderJournal. Bloggers quoting bloggers is more informal, so I don't worry about that, but in this case, an e-mail would have been nice. Nevertheless, getting mentioned in a newspaper--particularly a South African paper--is always a treat.

Posted by Ryan at June 5, 2007 10:57 AM | TrackBack

It's also "cottoned to", "not cottoned on to". And you know what else I really hate is people writing "tow the line" instead of "toe the line".
What I don't know is if the period goes outside the quotes or parenthesis, or inside the quotes and parenthesis. Like "toe the line." Or "toe the line". Which is it? I don't know!

Posted by: donna at June 9, 2007 08:45 PM
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