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Tuesday, June 17, 2003  

Back talk

*'Spear-wielding natives' revisited

I am not the only person discomfited by the way news from the Second and Third Worlds is reported sometimes. In an entry earlier this week I described the problems I had with an article about an attack on a Swedish manager by spear-wielding Indonesian workers.

What about this story? The foreigness of the manager is key to understanding the conflict. It appears the men are attacking a symbol of foreign ownership instead of seeing him as a person. Not saying he is Swedish would be misleading. I also can't think of a way to eliminate the use of spears from the lead and headline. The novelty of the weapons is what made this a story international wire services picked up. I would have let the story run pretty much as it is, despite my reservations about the image it projects.

Pork, the whole hog, is also intrigued by how the 'haves' versus 'have nots' plays out in the context of international news. He thinks I was too easy on First World media.

My own two cents on this story (so fresh, I can?t yet find it in the Indonesian papers): I?m not sure I completely agree when she says that the piece ?might be gruesome and conjure unpleasant stereotypes, but it is news.? Often these kinds of stories are mostly what the wires (increasingly the source of foreign news for U.S. publications that won?t invest in foreign reporting) provide and the papers print. If you read an ordinary daily paper in the U.S., the Third World comes across largely as a place for the weird, the exotic, the primitive and the catastrophic. Cogent analyses of international politics don?t merit as many column inches, so you don?t get much understanding of why such things happen ? and how the First World is also inescapably tied up in the problems. So the more readers see these kinds of ?contextless? pieces, the more disassociated they become from their actual involvement in the rest of the world (which they?d prefer not to think about first thing in the morning).

The rest of Pork's analysis of the issues is equally impressive. He brings first-hand insights to Indonesian labor problems and the riddle of how the rest of the world should be covered that very few bloggers can. Read his entry.

*When is a weblog 'new'?

Jaquandor at Byzantium's Shores also takes me to task. (Though not for causing the invasion of Iraq, though I wouldn't be surprised if someone did.) He believes I had an advantage in winning the Truth Laid Bear's New Weblog Showcase and that other newish bloggers who already have an audience will have a similar advantage.

There's a weekly contest called the New Blog Showcase , which is just that: a showcase for newly-started blogs, to help them get some promotion and traffic. (It's run by the same guy who administers the popular Ecosystem, on which I am now a "Flappy Bird".)

. . .What's my complaint? It just strikes me as one of those "There ain't no justice" moments that a blogger whose blog has, in all likelihood received more hits in less than two months than mine has in nearly a year and a half, has won a contest whose stated purpose is to generate traffic for newly-minted representatives of Blogistan.

I briefly responded in his comments section.

Actually, I sort of agree with what you are saying. I mentioned it to another well-situated blogger who did well in the showcase, Venoumous Kate, more than a week ago: Shouldn't a contest for Microbes BE for Microbes? Since Bear thinks otherwise, I entered in hope of attracting some new readers. I don't know if he can change the rules without offending people now. We will see what happens.

Is there a better measure of how new a blog is than when it was started? (By the way, that in itself can be misleading on Blogger Basic, at least. The 'start' date will appear to be the first day one set up a Blogger account and began to learn how to use it, so blogs appear to be older than they are. The day one actually published a blog for the public to read, is of course, the real start date. However, I am not aware of how it can be registered instead of the account date).

What about last week's entries in the contest? I was so distracted that I didn't have time to read them, though I had intended to. I will try to read at least a sampling of this week's so I can pass on my opinions to my readers. I will have to reconsider how to critique them if I decide to do so at all. Thin skins in the blogosphere have resulted in at least one person whose blog I critiqued setting upon me tooth and nail. Ironic, considering that my entry from Mac-a-ro-nies was belittled by some and I barely gave it a thought. Maybe it is because I am used to my writing being criticized, usually by people who do a much better job.


Several readers have inquired via email why I write about several different topics: journalism and the media, creative writing, legal issues, civil rights and most recently, the blogosphere. The simple answer is because I am interested in all of them. My sister looks skeptically on a tendency I've had over the years to be interested in multiple fields and calls it 'flitting.' I've also have had people criticize the trait as meaning I have a short attention span, a fear of success and a desire 'to know everything.' I don't believe any of those claims are accurate. In fact, I don't believe a person being curious about more than one subject area, and taking the time to become educated in several, is grounds for criticism at all.

With age, my flitting does seem to be settling into the writer vocation. So, I'm happy to accept that description as the one I value most.

9:48 AM