The Ethiopian online journalism in the struggle

News web logs, U-tube and Podcasting make up the new forms of journalism, a profession that looked quite different a decade or two ago. If anything that remains of the past, it would perhaps be the basic principles of journalism which are accuracy, truth telling, and faire and balanced reporting.

Many Ethiopians believe that Ethiopian journalism has been slow to develop distinctive forms in response to the new contexts provided by the internet. Hailu Hunduma a post-graduate student at Addis Ababa University who constantly searching for Ethiopian blogs on his desktop agrees with the fact that Ethiopian journalism has been slow to develop online form of journalism ‘That is true…a lot of people say that. We don’t know yet what the Net makes possible because we’re still asking how the journalism we’ve known and loved translates to the new medium – or doesn’t.’

Furthermore, one famous Ethiopian journalist as well as a blogger once (2007) has attacked Ethiopian newspapers for remaining ‘insanely stagnant in an interactive age’, failing to provide such minimal interactivity as reporters’ email addresses on stories.

However if you see people, sitting next to you in the internet café, in the school computer centers and other cyberspaces, they are so occupied with search of Ethiopian blogs like 4kilo,The Ameche, Rant, aqumada,Bernos Carpe Diem, Ethiopia Concept, The Concoction, Don’t Eat My Buchela! are among the few. Andrew Heavens, a journalist based in Khartoum, Sudan a blogger of Meskel Square says Africa’s specifically Ethiopia’s blogoshpere is a very exciting place to be. It is growing fast and people are writing some very interesting things. The best thing about it is that blogs are springing up to challenge the existing media who have largely failed to give Ethiopian proper coverage. Blogs are springing up in countries like Ethiopia that are largely ignored by the mainstream press.

Today, as Ethiopian journalism struggles to fit to the politically, economically and culturally globalized media landscape of the world, few may possibly disagree with the fact that the impacts of blogging may be considered as the kind of blessings the country’s journalism had been hoping for. Because blogs are also springing up in countries where the mainstream press are censored by the government. Ethiopia is a case in point.

Ethiopian magazines and papers those do not start blogging should consider blogging to build their legitimacy in targeted communities and societies. By entering the blog world, papers connect to new readers via sites like web sites. This is a way of building a new audience. BBC, for instance, being a big media player, is proud of being accepted in the blogosphere and referred to by other bloggers. This way, the magazine reaches readers it would not have otherwise. Blogs can build communities, whether communities of interest or of best practice. Magazines and staff can aggregate not news, but also interests, establishing forums for dialogue among participants and strengthening the bonds to its readers. Through blogs papers have a channel for niche content that otherwise wouldn’t have found its way to readers.

Andrew Heavens says that blogs are a way out for a lot of problems. He said ‘There are many reasons why it is difficult to set up a newspaper in Ethiopia – the expense, the small supply of qualified journalists, printing costs, pressure from the Ministry of Information, the effective monopoly on newspaper distribution, the relatively small customer base. Blogs let you bypass all that. They are free to set up. You can write it yourself. No one can tell you what to write. There are no printing costs. You can reach out to everyone interested in Ethiopia across the world – especially the diasporas in the US and Europe who are big internet users’.

One weakness of the Ethiopian blogosphere is that it is not totally representative of Ethiopians. The people who tend to blog are people with high incomes and good access to the internet. Many of them are also in the diasporas, not in Ethiopia itself. The days when we are going to hear from Ethiopia’s villages, small towns and pastoralist communities are still far off.

Ethiopia is still operating on survival mode, dangling on issues of food security, clean water supply and sustainable development, whereas the rest of the world is practically enjoying the luxury of exploring outer space. Ethiopia’s interpretation of blogging has come to be a pessimist one primarily because of ailments related to lack of basic infrastructure like that of electricity and telecommunications. Ethiopia has missed crucial phenomena of the world like the Industrial Revolution and the Information Revolution that have set up the era of digitalization of the media and hence blogging . It is in this setting that the unfortunate country is called upon to join the blogosphere of world.

Whether blogging promotes, erodes or doesn’t affect the practice of Ethiopian journalism is yet to be seen. However with the advance of digital media communication such as blogging or web logs, u-tube and podcasting, some beats or sections of and the practice and trends of Ethiopian journalism that normally run in print, publications and online would expand their audience as well attract new readers through blogging using fewer resources even out side Ethiopia

1 Comment

  1. I admire the fact that you could pretty put such a big subject in a subtle way. It is very interesting read. I have been around online quite for sometime. The growth of blogging is even slower than the internet penetration in the country.

    To start with the ethiopian journalists didn’t find a way to promote blogging. for one or more reasons it is a big negligence in this area whereas there is a high potential in this regard. I personally contacted ‘The Reporter’ newsletter via email 6 months ago. I was asking their stand about blogging. Does silence means no?

    Thanks for the article. Good eyes… good hands. Keep posting.

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