... a social and networking gathering with a preliminary brainstorming session between the 4th and 5th estates to embrace and engage the blogging phenomenon in Malaysia.I was late so missed some of the speeches, but those I did hear were very interesting indeed and well worth going for.
According to the messy notes scrawled on receipts and scraps of paper from the bottom of my bag (disorganised blogger not amounting to a journalist!) and with apologies for the speakers I missed, and even more apologies if I misquote anyone:
Sonia Randhawa of the Centre for Independent Journalism spoke about how it is governments in countries where the media is suppressed who seek to censor cyberspace. Governments in 26 countries are blocking or filtering political or social content on the internet - Malaysia (happily) isn't among them! (Yet?)
She said that the mass media in Malaysia does not have the credibility that bloggers have, but it isn't the media's fault since the press has limited freedom. While the newspapers come across as anti-blogger, she said, individual journalists are supportive of bloggers, and the National Union of Journalists came out in support of bloggers on World Press Freedom Day.
Marina Mahathir - a relative newcomer in cyberspace (6 months) but a longtime columnist (17 years) talked about the differences of writing for a newspaper vs writing a blog which gives more space and editorial control and involves the blogger actively making choices about how to present and slant content. I agreed very strongly with what she said about other people's comments adding knowledge and value to your writing. (Love you guys!) And she admitted that she was so addicted that blogging is messing up her life. (Join the club, dear!)
Citizen Nades (real name R. Nadeswaran) is deputy editor of the Sun and a prominent columnist. He reckons that a lot of bloggers don't yet know how to appreciate their new found freedom. He said that he does censor what he writes in his columns. He lost two friends on May 13th and is concerned to write nothing that causes racial hatred.
Jeff Ooi commented (very quotably!) that the role of bloggers is to initiate conversation rather than to sell your philosophy - and that this diversity of thought "leads to a collective intelligence".
Raja Petra Kamarudin of Malaysia Today made an impromptu speech. He reckons it takes time for a blogging community to develop a maturity. He said that although there appears to be a lot more freedom of speech these days, that's because there are actually just a lot more people saying things.
Then the most important part of the evening - the food (just kidding!) But it was really nice, especially the roast lamb.
And then I looked around to see who I knew, and not knowing very many decided to listen to the See Ming voice in my head and network like crazy! The trouble with a gathering of bloggers is that whilst you sort of know or at least have heard of quite a lot of people in cyberspace, you haven't a clue which body goes with each online voice!
The person who looked least like I imagined him was Desi (of desiderata-ylchong) who chaired the gathering. I'd imagined him as a wild-eyed, long haired young poet and met a ... slightly older, very cheerful guy who very kindly signed his first collection of poetry for me.
I picked up lots of name cards and will be fun visiting some new blogs and finding out just what you guys get up to.
A very big thank you to Omar Lee and his friend (whose name in my totally blur way I have forgotten, aiyoh!) who gave me a lift home ... and were all the while missing the FA cup final in a pub with a big-screen somewhere. I pray that they aren't Man U. supporters, but fear the worst.**
Below is the only semi-decent pic I took all evening, but I did manage to cut Jeff Ooi out of it somehow.
Glossary - "the fourth estate" is the press and the history of this intriguing term can be found here. "The fifth estate" is a term of recent coining and refers to citizen's media including blogs.
** It's only just struck me why most folks went home when the night was still young!! And i thought you disappeared so that you could be first online with your reports of the event!