The Life Cycle of Blogs…

Noting the gradual slowing down of my blogging I post two articles really worth reading.

It’s more than a month since I updated Active Voice; I realize with mixed feelings that I’ve reached that point when you hit a plateau and blogging has lost the overwhelming fascination it once held. This seems to occur approximately five or six years after you begin (I started Active Voice in January 2008). At the time the blogs that inspired me were mostly Indian; I had come across them during the violent occupation of Bombay’s Taj Hotel in 2007. They had all been in existence for four or five years and some I noticed were beginning to taper off with a few like Sepia Mutiny eventually shutting down completely (A group blog, SM was my school for blogging, my role model that I looked up to and fervently wished to emulate). Sonia Faleiro moved from Mumbai to San Francisco and didn’t blog as often anymore (in fact her blog no longer exists) and the inimitable Sidin was updating his Domain Maximus  much less frequently as well.

So I’m just saying…there comes a time when blogs succumb to the natural rise and fall dynamic and I doubt that Active Voice will remain  immune to this curve.

But in the meantime we’re still here and just to show that there is still life in the old beast I post a couple of things that caught my eye.

The first is an awe-inspiring story about one of Jamaica’s celebrated athletes, Novlene Williams-Mills. After reading it I wondered why it had taken a British paper to break this news (or did I miss our local media’s coverage of it?). Especially in the wake of Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy, this story is relevant, inspirational AND its local. But alas, our media in general continues to fail at mining the gems in our own soil. Read on for the story of this indomitable runner and visit the UK Daily Mail for the full version:

On June 25 2012, Novlene Williams-Mills was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She told no-one apart from her husband of five years, Jameel, family and friends and then won the 400 metres at the Jamaican Senior National Championships that weekend in 50.60 seconds, booking her place in the Olympic team.

Williams-Mills finished fifth in the 400m at London 2012 and won a bronze medal in the 4 x 400m relay.

Courage: Novlene Williams-Mills won a bronze medal at the Olympics after being told she had breast cancerCourage: Novlene Williams-Mills won a bronze medal at the Olympics after being told she had breast cancer

 
Three days after the Games surgeons removed a small lump in her breast. She then had a double mastectomy, a further operation to cut out the remaining cancerous cells and reconstructive surgery. Her final operation was on January 18.

Last week Williams-Mills lay on the track as the Jamaican 400m champion after qualifying for the World Championships in Moscow this August by running 50.01secs.

‘I’m back,’ she thought. ‘I’ve still got it.’

What an incredible story. I hope Novlene beats her cancer and prevails in Moscow and at the next Olympics.

 

The other article i want to highlight is a blogpost about the late Jamaican writer C. Everald Palmer whose books are still used in local schools. Here’s the opening of @Cucumberjuice’s post about him:
The first book that I read by Cyril Everard Palmer (popularly known as C. Everard Palmer) was A Cow Called Boy.  It was fascinating to me, from the front cover until the last page.  What’s not to like: Josh’s farm pet follows him to school, disrupts school, is sold, and then Josh and his friends organize to get the bull-calf (read the book to find out why the title refers to it as a cow) returned to Josh.  We read it in grade four I think, sometimes taking turns to read aloud in class and always stopping to discuss what was happening and to learn new words.  Then came The Cloud with the Silver Lining and on my own I sought out his other children’s books.  Most of Mr. Palmer’s books were set in rural Jamaica, an environment with which he was familiar being born and raised in Kendal, Hanover.  His parents – Cyril and Vida – were “subsistence” farmers.  I’m a city girl, born and raised in Kingston and St. Andrew, so Mr. Palmer’s books exposed to me a side of Jamaica I knew very little about.  Then, before talking the Common Entrance Examination and in between the Nancy Drews, Enid Blytons, and Hardy Boys, it was just fun to read about what other children my age in my country could be doing; to learn about how my Grandparents grew up — things they didn’t talk about and that I simply didn’t ask.  I learned a good deal about what is probably now ancient traditional Jamaican life and living…people, things, and events about my country came alive on those pages to satisfy my growing appetite for reading.  Later on I discovered The Broken Vessel (1960), a slim riveting novel about making life in hot, vibrant, dangerous Kingston (informed by his work as a Daily Gleaner journalist covering crime in Kingston?).
For more click here.
Mr. Palmer’s story is a cautionary tale. By all accounts he was flourishing in the 60s, highly regarded nationally and in Canada where he made a life for himself. Yet a mere 50 years later the Jamaican newspapers hardly take not of his passing, according to this blogpost. The high profilers among us with much less to their credit than Mr. Palmer, please take note. Within a few years you will be forgotten.

 

In the meantime I’m keen to read The Broken Vessel. Wonder where I can find a copy of it.

True or False? Verifying internet reportage

Report on my appearance on BBC World Have Your Say, the Shirley Sherrod case

Yesterday was a busy day and there was more than one reason i was glad  i had the good sense to turn back from Reggae Sumfest and return to Kingston the day before. The following tweet should give you some idea of the first good reason:
endzoftheearth Organisers need to do something abt the mud! Stones, grAvel, cardbord boxes, plywood – something #sumfestismudfest.
Being rained on all night long in a mud lake i can do without.

The other good reason was that i got a good night’s sleep and was able to compile the first report on Reggae Sumfest Dancehall Night by anyone anywhere by 9 am on Friday morning. And the reward for that came in the number of hits i got on this new blog platform I’ve been trying so hard to get people to visit.

Shirley Sherrod

The third good reason was that i was able to accept the BBC World Have Your Say programme’s invitation to participate in their globally aired discussion on internet rights and wrongs emanating from the firing and subsequent re-hiring of American civil servant Shirley Sherrod. Sherrod had allegedly made ‘racist’ remarks in a two minute video clip that later turned out to have been edited in a way that removed the context of her 43 minute speech. Whose responsibility is it to verify the reliability of material such as this? On whom should the burden of proof fall and thereby the penalty for purveying such misinformation? Is information transmitted via social media such as YouTube or Twitter making us ‘jump the gun’ as Obama said when the White House was forced to apologize to Sherrod and offer her another job?

As Obama put it “we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles.” The word for this is ‘blogswarm’.

So does the internet make us too quick to judge? Or is there wisdom in the blogswarm? asked BBC WHYS and the discussion that followed was a rich one that i was glad to be a part of. Also participating were former journalist Nigel Morgan of Morgan PR from Redding,UK, UK Guardian columnist, American Mike Tomasky, who is also  editor of Democracy journal. Other participants included Andrew Keene, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How the Democratization of the Digital World is Assaulting Our Economy, Our Culture, and Our Values, blogger Lola Adesioye from the US and Owais Ehsan, student of mass media and a blogger at Pro-Pakistan, in Islamabad.

The discussion was a lively one and was further enlivened by a caller from Jamaica, Omar, who made the point that it’s not only national media or internet bloggers that are guilty of posting misinformation but also international corporations; in Jamaica’s  2007 general elections, he claimed the BBC attributed something on their website to then Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller without verifying the accuracy of their source.

It’s true that the rapidly proliferating use of social media frequently lends itself to distortions and misrepresentations. For instance in my blogpost on Reggae Sumfest yesterday in which i was relying on tweets from the location for information i think i misinterpreted a tweet about Bounty’s ‘state of urgency utterance, and presented it in a particular way because of that. I thought he was castigating the government for the prolonged State of Emergency and recommending that they have a state of urgency instead about other crucial unmet needs when it turns out that he supported the SOE and was urging the government to go further by declaring a ‘state of urgency’ “towards correcting the ills that had been meted out to the people of Jamaica by successive governments” to quote Gleaner writer Janet Silvera in her article Bounty preaches change.

Rodney ‘Bounty Killer’ Pryce displays his award at the Sumfest show at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay on Thursday, which was designated Dancehall Night. The organisers of the event gave Pryce the award for his contribution to Reggae Sumfest. – Photo by adrian frater

The point i want to make is that while social media may sometimes tend to be less than reliable, it also allows faulty information to be corrected before serious damage is done provided the source is above board,  has no ulterior motive and is willing to make the necessary changes. This surely would be the case with most bloggers, tweeters and others whose popularity depends on the quality of what they put out.

For the others, that is those who deliberately put out misinformation for propaganda purposes, and have no intention of retrieving the situation–in this case, Andrew Breitbart— a blacklist or some other form of aggressive disincentive should be developed.

Click on the following link if you want to hear the whole discussion. Does the internet mean we’re too quick to judge?