Nepalese Journalist to Speak on Benefits of News BlogsJournalists protest the Nepalese government's announcement of new restrictions on the country's news media and radio stations on Oct. 21, 2005. (Courtesy of Dinesh Wagle/AsiaMedia)

Nepalese Journalist to Speak on Benefits of News Blogs

As online publications increase in popularity, critics question their credibility as sources.

Very seldom are journalists experts of what they write about. One day they write about the war, the next about a lost dog. Bloggers may actually have more credibility because they are specialists in what they write about.

This article was first published in the Daily Bruin.

By Saba Riazati, Daily Bruin reporter

In the world of Internet blogging, where personal entries go uncensored and a great deal of information is shared, an increasing number of journalists and self-proclaimed reporters have jumped on the blogging bandwagon, reporting news in a variety of different locations.

But blogging has sparked debate among scholars, journalists and experts, as the distinction between a journalist blogger and citizen blogger is blurred and the credibility of blogs is questioned.

Dinesh Wagle, a journalist from Nepal who has been blogging on behalf of the democratic supporters oppressed by the Nepalese government, will discuss these issues as well as the importance of news blogs in a talk today. The event will take place in Bunche 10383 at 3 p.m.

Wagle used to write blogs about cultural events in Nepal, but shifted his focus to political issues after King Gyanendra seized absolute power of the country in February 2005.

In light of the recent worsening of the crisis in Nepal, where Gyanendra has continued to increase security forces against protestors who demand the restoration of democracy, Wagle has come to UCLA to speak about the difficulties of being a reporter in a nation where journalists continue to face threats from their own government.

Individuals have long been able to make posts on the Internet, using formats such as online journals, message boards and personal Web sites.

Blogs in journalism have grown in popularity in recent years, both as a new tool for traditional media outlets like newspapers and magazines and for ordinary citizens who want to report on current events.

This technology can provide an outlet to people who want to write about news events but live under a government where suppression of dissenting voices is commonplace.

And though some have questioned the credibility of the information included in these blogs, AsiaMedia managing editor Angilee Shah feels differently.

She said credibility is not an issue when it comes to journalists in situations similar to Wagle's, since those writers are engaged in the event and are able to exercise the freedom that blogging offers.

AsiaMedia, which is hosting today's event, is a daily electronic publication that delivers news about all aspects of media in Asia.

Wagle has written for AsiaMedia, and Shah said his reporting has "given so much in terms of news when no one else can do it," with regard to representing the political perspective that has been suppressed in Nepal.

And for journalists in situations similar to Wagle's, some scholars agree that blogging bestows benefits where traditional news coverage is restricted.

"Technology can definitely override government censorship to some level," said UCLA communications Professor Thomas Plate.

Tim Groeling, another UCLA communications professor, said while some governments have the ability to censor Internet sites by scanning for keywords they have banned from usage, online writers have been able to get around censors.

"Blogs make it easier for journalists to circumvent restriction on the front end and it's much easier to get out the information (via blogs) if they lived in a place where there exists an authoritarian government," Groeling said.

For some experts, credibility is not the most pressing question regarding journalists' utilization of blogs to avoid government censorship.

But Plate said he is concerned about journalists who write news pieces in areas where the government does not suppress the news media, such as the United States. These writers fuel debate over the credibility of blogs and the biases their information may contain.

"I've never used blogs because I have a fundamental problem with them – I'm not sure they're real journalism," Plate said. "They are not rigorously fact-checked and reviewed by editors of established, credible publications," Plate said.

But Groeling does not agree with these claims, and said blogs may be more focused on important issues, while typical journalists cover several topics.

"Very seldom are journalists experts of what they write about. One day they write about the war, the next about a lost dog. ... Bloggers may actually have more credibility because they are specialists in what they write about," Groeling said.