Existential Question

From time to time we like to pose the question. To blog or not to blog. Are Maltese blogs useful? Why is there not the blogging frenzy that can be seen in countries like the US and France – and to a lesser extent in the UK and Italy? The nature of the blog is also put into question. What kind of blogs are we talking about? Opinion blogs like this one, Thermidor or Lanzarote? Journals of hobbies, pastimes and other personal delights? Literary gems like Immanuel or Pierre?

Some time ago J’accuse bit the bullet and expressed its displeasure at the state of the Malta Journalism Awards. We do not think we are lacking in respect in any way when we criticise the classification of Wired Temples as a journalistic blog. True, it provides a service to the internet community who want to track the mention of Malta and all things Maltese on the ethernet. Probably we are not completely correct when we say that it is not “journalism” of some kind. But does the award truly reflect an awareness of the blogging world? What does it tell us about the state of the blogosphere in Malta?

The reason for these reflections is not, as some will undoubtedly assume, some sour grape mentality at not having been considered. We hesitated to mention the fact that such “awards” in Malta are based on an in-house assessment and nominations by people who are probably not fully aware of the reality on the net. The in-house promotion is not to be underestimated nor criticised since it has to be examined on the basis of the Maltese reality. Look at the Maltamedia structure. I mention it because no one else will except in silent asides in private. The glaring absence of references to the “rest” of the Maltese reality in daily posts and blogrolls (save the gargantuan list of Maltese blogs) does say something about the mission to promote the shifting blogosphere. The loosely assembled network must be commended for carving its niche in a new medium taking advantage of the hiccuping attempts of the traditional heavyweights of Maltese communication since the introduction of pluralism. PN and MLP have a long way to go before establishing a credible presence on the net. What worries me is the sense of protectiveness that can be perceived from without. The insecurity that is demonstrated by the persistence in acting as though Maltamedia alone exists on the web.

Positive criticism this may be, though I am not sure it will be easy to swallow. Hell, we are here to discuss and provoke. The truth if I lie – that’s our original motto here.

Which brings me back to the question. It was provoked once again when reading the results of the French Socialist’s election. Coming so soon after the American midterms one could not resist comparing and contrasting. One point stood out. Blogs were crucial in opinion forming and in passing on the messages that needed to be passed on. True they were also involved in one of the dirtiest campaigns in American history. But citizen involvement it was. And blogs were (and still are in the limelight).

One thing that set me thinking is that it appears that blogs have more of a role in these two democratic systems because of the way they are structured. The politics of France and America allow more for the use of such a tool than that of say, Italy and Malta. It could be because of the adaptability of the citizens to the new forms of information. It could be because the mainstream media in the two countries have long ago settled comfortably in bed with blogs by appropriating them and challenging the private blogs with blogs of their own. Look at Le Monde. One of the first reviews of the Socialist election is a review of the blogs of the candidates and of other blogs. What people are saying does not come through only through dumbed down polls or the mouth of politicians. It is democracy in action. Bottom up.

Which does not bode well for Malta. By now a series of five or six articles have appeared over the last year advertising this or that blog. true we get that occasional hiccup of hits like J’accuse’s 547 a couple of days ago. But the truth is that the “value” given to the content is still not big enough. I am speculating here. We do commit a few sins ourselves. We are (mostly) irregular and can be inconsistent. We do not always deal with Maltese politics with the same regularity as a French blogger would daily comment on goings on in the hexagon. But I still feel that part of the blame on the lack of attention paid to blogs in the long run is due to the fact that their potential effect on the system and mentality is either (a) not being sufficiently mined or (b) never will be able to happen because of the way politics work in our country.

Comment please. (and insults will be accepted)

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3 responses to “Existential Question

  1. Justin Borg Barthet

    Whether the winners deserved it or not (which is just a matter of opinion of course) one thing is clear: the e-journalism nominations were all mainstream media people who have in some measure gone electronic. Whoever made the nominations seems entirely unaware that there is now a world beyond the mainstream media clan. You are cocky about this of course, but there is definitely some truth to your ‘probably the most popular blog’ or whatever it is you say. Whether or not this is a bag of grapefruits (as Baldrick would say) the awards do seem to be another case of keeping it in the family.

  2. Jacques, I read carefully your comments and agree with you. I think that until this very day, no one (the establishment you mentioned to me some time ago) is giving too much importance to the Maltese blogosphere. Of course its nice to hear that people follow the news just be reading our blogs since they hate doing this from newspapers. But its a fact that we are a far cry near the countries you mentioned. I dont follow US blogs but I do follow british ones.Robert Micallef`s blog is totally different from yours and to a certain extent from mine. The purpose is different and so are the readers that follow them.what needs to be done is to distinguish and draw the dividing lines between one blog and another. then awards should be given according to these segments.

  3. I was going to write a whole blog entry about this… but a comment seems to be more appropriate in this case.

    To be quite honest, I don’t think that blogging in Malta can ever have any considerable influence on public opinion.

    Several articles about blogging were written – but yet the amount of active Maltese blogs seems to be decreasing. Also, I think I’m correct in saying that the current most active Maltese blogs are run by the Maltin ta’ Barra – which as far as I’m concerned is a sign that most people currently living in Malta do not care (or know) about the existence of blogs.

    Still, just by looking at internet forums about Malta, you will soon notice that only a handful of regulars take part – with a few visitors popping up every so often. Maybe, the internet in Malta is still regarded as only a shopping mall or 24 h library for research. Maybe readers and prospective bloggers do not feel comfortable with publishing their views on the internet for everyone to read.

    Regarding awards, some blogs are journalistic in content – I think it is only fair to include those blogs in the e-journalism awards. However most blogs are opinion blogs – which makes them quite difficult to judge and give an award to, without being accused of political bias.

    Still, the state of the media in Malta, and the sorry state of public opinion and discussion leave much to be desired and any initiative which will increase and promote more plurality of ideas should be encouraged and promoted.

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