English Section 14/04/2016

The art of war-blogging

This new form of online reporting, that was particularly active during the 2003 war in Iraq --and still is, given the ongoing multitude of wars and crises; is gaining ground due to its enhanced personalization, audience participation and independent story-telling characteristics.
Δέσποινα Βαδουρίδου

In our remarkably complex, conflict-driven world a new post-modern genre of journalism marked its presence: war-blogging or the more widely known ‘weblog’. This new form of online reporting, that was particularly active during the 2003 war in Iraq --and still is, given the ongoing multitude of wars and crises; is gaining ground due to its enhanced personalization, audience participation and independent story-telling characteristics.

Like every new phenomenon, weblog emerged from a need. It firstly emerge in order to challenge the mainstream media’s presence, traditionally characterized by a lack of critical approach towards governmental and military actions and a repetition of the propaganda pattern of the involved stakeholders during warfare. Not for nothing has the Iraqi war been characterized by Kurtz as the “first time internet war”. But how weblogs are usually covering news and what news really constitutes of? Is it what society has on its mind; serving values such as timeliness, proximity and prominence or is it a series of choices and selections depending on the broader societal context?

Going back in history, news used to be a commodity for few and reliable sources were believed to be primarily political elites and economic leaders whereas the poor and powerless citizens were not given any chance of storytelling. However, later on news was believed to be a cultural product rather than the ‘mirror’ of reality, a sort of reproduction of the already existing power in society. Actually, the majority of news production today is in the hand of few giant corporations having as their primary goal profits (so be careful of what you read and who is behind it) while often news production is not focusing on providing information or enforcing democratic values, it aims on entertaining audiences instead. Nevertheless, thanks to technologic innovations, the current nature of news changed. The web contributed enormously in this transformation, giving shape to a new form of online journalism that de-emphasizes the inverted pyramid tradition of media and that re-conceptualizes the relations between reporters and audiences.

Weblogs are personal, with a do-it-yourself attitude but also a space in which unconventional voices can be heard without being censored and thus participate in a ‘we media’ rationale. This kind of journalism is comprised in a postmodern context in which reality is not fixed but it is rather created through language and interactions. It also usually focuses on small, local stories giving at the same time the necessary importance to human sufferings, especially those of civilians. Moreover, weblog gives less emphasis on objective data gathering once the audience is becoming more engaged.

Nowadays’ news embody broader societal changes, challenging the traditional news values of mainstream media. This new form of journalism gained its transparency and credibility due to its distance from power and its relationship with their audience. Actually, as controversial wars are taking place, there is no surprise that ordinary people want to talk about the issue. However, whether it constitutes a new form of journalism or not, the main question that we have to rise is if war-blogs are truly contributing to democracy or not, no matter its definition or its relation to modernity.

With the current conflicts taking place in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Israel/Palestine, Azerbaijan, CAR, DRC, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Burma/Myanmar etc it arises a need to read news from alternative –not conventional- sources and the only way weblogs can attain that is to provide the background information of the conflict/war/crisis trying to being as objective as possible (so that the audience understands what is it about), then to provide coverage from stories of witnesses by all sides while involving more actors on the content creation (specialists or laypersons) and finally to establish a mere, yet serious, debate platform without filtering comments according to the owner’s convenience. We should keep in mind that everybody is worth of be heard. This is the essence of democracy after all, isn’t it?

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