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)