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Rules for warriors of truth

12 Jan

I’m known to be a despot about books. While I am totally against book banning, I have no reservations about slamming a book down someone’s throat.

There are books that I will demand my friends read, to the point of taking said book, handing it to them or literally smacking them on the heads with it.

“You. Have. To. Read. This. Book.”

There is one book I think all journalists, editors and yes, even bloggers must read. It is called ‘The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect’.

http://www.journalism.org/node/71

On the subject of bloggers, it would be nice for you to read it but it isn’t absolutely essential if all you blog about are personal subjects. Now if you’re one of those so-called sociopolitical bloggers, then I probably will hit you on the head with it. WIth a lot of force because most of you piss me off that much.

Two excerpts from the reviews of the book:

“Don’t even think of becoming a reporter, editor, columnist or influential blogger without reading this modern classic.”

-William Safire,

The New York Times

 

The Elements of Journalism…belongs on the shelf of every citizen who reads the paper or watches the tube.”

Roger Mudd

Wall Street Journal

It angers me to read a lot of the reporting on the current hot topic – the Allah issue – as there is a lot of sensationalist, ridiculous speculation going on. I was hopping mad when one online publication reported rumours as fact.

Irresponsible journalism is unforgivable. Journalists are purveyors of truth, after all. It made me even more angry to see text messages being sent out that claimed cars were burning in PJ and Christians must remove all their religious paraphenalia and PROTECT THEIR CARS.

No, not look after yourselves, be careful, or pray. The message is ‘LOOK AFTER YOUR CARS’. I am disgusted with the abject selfishness and materialism shown by these so-called  Christians. If you were a Christian, you’d know you don’t own anything. God does. It’s His car, not yours. Pray for your country, its people and not your damn cars.

Back to the book, here are the elements of journalism as espoused by said book:

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
     
  2. Its first loyalty is to citizens.
     
  3. Its essence is a discipline of verification.
     
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
     
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
     
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
     
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
     
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
     
  9. Its practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience.
  10.  

  11. Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news.
     

Do our journalists and publications follow those elements. For the most part, no. Our newspapers are mostly glorified party newsletters. Or worse, patsies of advertisers. The press should serve the people but they are now beholden to the people who actually pay their salaries. Hint: it’s not the people.

No wonder circulation is down. It’s because the public no longer trusts in the mainstream media. Journalists no longer know how to be journalists and the public doesn’t even know what they should expect, no, demand from them.

Standards of reporting are down. Standards of writing are down.

It’s everyone’s fault, really, for allowing those standards to drop.

Then we have bloggers and those who Tweet. I believe in a right to free speech and expressing opinons but some of these people are just plain irresponsible. Some silly girl on Twitter was claiming that no Malays offered help to rebuild or protect churches.

Who are you, little girl? A journalist? Were you on a church board? You didn’t check your facts, but instead made hateful comments and worsened the situation. You complain about Malay/Muslims being racist but take a good long look at the mirror and tell me what you see. Would God really be proud of your self-righteousness and blatantly ignoring the truth?

If you refuse to be part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

As a writer and occasional blogger, I am beholden to the truth. My personal stance is that I refuse to be anyone’s mouthpiece. Not BN, not Pakatan nor any religion.

I belong to God, not religion. I believe in His mercy, His compassion, His grace. But I will not be any religion’s mouthpiece, nor push any agenda that does not place truth at the heart of it.

So please, before you forward any moronic SMS or hate Tweet/post/email, think. Is this the truth? Can I prove it is the truth? Will I really be doing good or harm by spreading these words.

Think. Pray if you do pray. Ask. Verify.

Else you will just be part of the problem.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Engaging bloggers for (PR) dummies

6 Apr

So this PR person (not a Textie) asked me: "How do we engage bloggers?" Part of me wants to say: if you have to ask, you shouldn’t even try. That’s the cynical, mean part.

But I suppose I should add my own two cents to the blogger/PR debate which blew up oh-so-nicely last week. Before I joined PR, I was a rarity – a journalist who also happened to be a blogger. It’s certainly an advantage for me in my current job. I can honestly say to journos and bloggers that I know where they’ve been and where they’re coming from. It also makes me rather peevish when I see clueless PR blindly attempting to ‘engage’ bloggers and making a right royal flub at it.

Bloggers are not journalists. While journalists can be bloggers as well, the reverse does not hold true. You do not ‘pitch’ bloggers the way you do journalists. But there are certain things you do with journalists that you can do with the New Media crowd:

1. Find out their niche. What do they cover? What are their interests? Don’t just send any pitch or release willy-nilly. An example of what not to do? Send Paul Tan a pitch about hydrophonic plants instead of about cars, and you deserve to be tarred and feathered.

2. Politely make contact, introduce yourself and what you do as well as who you represent. Don’t wait until you have something to pitch to make New Media friends. Importantly, ask them how they would prefer to be contacted. When I was an editor, I preferred IM or emails. If a PR person had to, then call me at work. My mobile phone was off limits except for absolute, dire emergencies. Press releases and invite attendance did not fall into the latter so I did blow my Fiery Editorial Pissy Breath on clueless PR person. Don’t get me started on the Kaspersky rep who called me at 8pm at night.

3. Work on building a relationship. Don’t treat them like one night stands. Use, abuse, chuck. Malaysia’s small. The media circle is small. Heck, even the PR industry in Malaysia is pretty tiny which is how my appointment got blown up as big PR industry news. Make the effort. Play your cards right and you’ll be regarded a reliable source at best or at worst, angry bloggers won’t be crucifying you on their blogs.

What you don’t do with bloggers which you can with journalists:

1. Send them unsolicited releases. No, no, no. Yes, Gmail may give you lots of storage space but most bloggers do not want releases from absolute strangers in their inboxes. Get in touch with said blogger first, ask politely if blogger would like to receive news about your client, then send them. Just don’t bother sending releases to Shaolin Tiger unless you want to see him do a Hulk Rage. He blogged quite a few times about receiving unsolicited PR writeups. And he’s still getting them, the poor sod.

2. Invite them for events and expect them to write about them. Journalists are obligated to write about news or if your client advertises (sad but true) but bloggers are free agents. You want a nice big writeup on their blogs? Contact Nuffnang or Advertlets for blogger advertorial rates. If you call up a blogger and ask him what angle his blogpost is going to have, quit your job now. Please. You’re the type who makes the rest of us look like morons.

Bloggers aren’t a different race or breed of people. Heck, even Tun M blogs. Treat them like people, relate to them, reach out to them and don’t just consider them a ‘means to an end’. What if the shoe was on the other foot? A journo I knew once said this in passing about a PR friend: "Pity she isn’t more useful." Ouch. What PR needs now is authenticity, sincerity and earnestness. The days of spin and fakeness are over. I’ve said this before – I believe there is a way to be good again. Even for us so-called PR flaks.

Of Diorshow mascaras and ads

13 Nov

So I had a nice lunch with one of my favourite PR people, something I do often so I can understand the state of the game. The game is PR and media interaction – something I enjoy more than not.

There are many public relations outfits in Malaysia, and I make a point to try and spend time with reps who understand what PR means. It’s not about kissing my boots or cringing when I yell at them for asking me if I’ve received their faxes. It’s about them understanding what message their clients are trying to put across and helping me understand or at the very least, interpret them correctly.

I tagged along to a Christian Dior function. Rarely do I get invites to non-tech events and it was fun celebrity watching at the Diorshow Iconic Mascara launch. Ning Baizura was there as well as past and current beauty queens while the super chirpy Marion Caunter played emcee. And there were Nuffnangers galore!

Dior claims its Diorshow Iconic mascara is so much the bomb that you don’t need a separate lash curler to get longer, lush lashes. To test that out, I took these before and after pictures for your benefit.

Before: No makeup, just my droopy panda eyes.

nomas Scary, hor?

After: Concealer, powder, liner and heaps of Diorshow Iconic Mascara.

dior Even Paris commented on the stunning difference you could see after a few swipes of the Dior mascara.

My personal take? Well, I think it works a treat for those with shorter lashes that are stubborn about curling. You want volume and length? The Diorshow Iconic delivers. But I wasn’t crazy about how the mascara actually felt on my lashes because I prefer the lighter feel of my L’oreal Telescopic mascara. I already have long thick lashes but my eyes water easily, so I need something that doesn’t clump much, separates my lashes without my needing to resort to an eyelash comb and yet highlighted my big panda peepers.

clean More natural, certainly not as dramatic as Diorshow. But I like, so there.

In other news, am experimenting with ads on the site. I doubt I’ll earn much but hey, every little bit helps. Recessions yada yada pancake. But no, there will be no pop-ups, pop-unders or my endorsing anything I don’t personally think rocks my socks. Here’s to my finally giving in and joining the monetising bandwagon. Sigh.

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Refugees – only finding home

10 Nov

et Working for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) literally saved my life. I’d been diagnosed with clinical depression, and struggled with thoughts of suicide and the side effects of my medication.

It helped put my own sorrow in perspective to be surrounded by those who had lost so much – home, family and a sense of belonging. My half-year stint there tested the limits of my empathy and compassion; for that I’ll always be grateful to the refugees and my wonderful colleagues at Bukit Petaling.

But to a lot of people, refugees are considered the human equivalent of vermin.

Parasites. Burdens. Potential criminals.

Go home.

We don’t want you here.

Malaysians are just as guilty of mistreating or even patently ignoring the plight of these ‘unwanted guests’ of ours.

Do you know that our police regularly beat or extort refugees for money? That our immigration officials have no qualms about dumping migrants at the border or deporting them where they face imprisonment or torture?

Refugees all long for a place called home, and given the choice would not leave their homelands. They flee and find refuge elsewhere because they simply have no choice.

Knowing my passion for refugee causes, Irene helpfully pointed me over to the latest Bloggers Unite endeavour. Today, November 10, bloggers from all over are helping spread awareness about refugee issues.

unite

Kudo as well to Angelina Jolie for using her star power to get publicity for the UNHCR.

107mnunangelinajolieb400

If you’ve got spare change, why not donate to the UNHCR online? And yes, I put my money where my mouth is and have been donating for the past year. Autodebit for the win. Even the boyfriend’s asked me just how he can donate to the cause as well.

Even if you don’t personally donate to the UNHCR or aren’t up to volunteering time to the cause, at least be informed. Understand that refugees are merely displaced individuals who cannot remain in their countries, due either to war or the threat of persecution for political/religious/racial status or views.

Malaysia still refuses to ratify the UN Refugee Convention, and when not locking them up in detention camps, letting our policemen harass and harm them, pretends they don’t exist.

I hope you won’t. Because in our uncertain political climate, who knows if you’ll know someone who might find himself running for his life to another country. It could be your priest. Your local social worker. Your father, mother, brother, sister. And perhaps, it could even be you.

Tricking out my Windows Live Writer

8 Oct

Zemanta snap in Windows Live Writer

One requirement (OK, maybe a strong suggestion) to blog at Blorge is to use Windows Live Writer. At first, I found the tool rather unwieldy but after a while, the tool’s rather grown on me.

Think a stripped down version of Microsoft Word, but optimised for blogging. It also takes the pains of uploading via Movable Type’s sluggish image upload interface away, allowing you to preview how images look on your page. I’ve grown so fond of WLW that I now use it to update my personal blogs as well as Blorge.

I’ve only recently discovered the joys of adding plugins to WLW and one of my favorites is Zemanta.

Zeman-huh? It’s this cool app that suggests pictures, tags or links to add to your blogposts.There are even plugins for WordPress, Drupal and of course, add-ons for your favourite browsers. I think Zemanta’s a work of genius, frankly. It saves you time Googling the Web for links and helps round out your posts by letting you see related links.

Besides the coolness of Zemanta, I’ve added video and Twitter plugins too. WLW comes with built-in support for tags as well and as far as blogging tools go, I haven’t seen anything that comes quite close to what WLW can do and for the best price: free.

*Note: the image I used in the post is actually snipped with Windows Vista’s handy Snip tool. I can’t believe I haven’t been aware it existed. *

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Blogs overwhelming – the end of the multiple blog experiment

7 Oct

After barely a few weeks of attempting to keep multiple blogs, have decided to just stick to this one…and a separate blog for Warhammer Online. That’s because I don’t really want to bore people with my online gaming journal. It does make more sense to just consolidate all my interests in a single blog rather than attempt to spread myself too thin.

I think perhaps I’ve been influenced by reading too much problogging propaganda and forgotten why I have a website in the first place. It’s nice to have readers. It’s great to have people randomly drop by and comment; I like the attention and I like the opportunities being online creates.

But my vanity and energy has its limits.

It’s nice to have an audience but blogging is supposed to free you up from giving too much a damn about your audience. The SEO experts would say no! You must make sure your content is targetted! That you maximise your visibility, make posts easily picked up by search engines and news aggregators!

I’m not giving a damn anymore.

This is my blog, after all. I’ll write what I like, when I like. And the people who liked reading what I wrote in the first place will stick around. Hopefully.

Stumbling on secrets

23 Sep

Traversing the Internet on a whim (I am awesome at creative procrastination), I decided to Google my father’s name. Well, I found a few blogs detailing my family tree.

The last thing i honestly care about is my genealogy. Seriously.

But I’m a compulsive Web digger. After all, I boasted in university that “if it’s on the Web, I can find it.” So far I’ve lived up to that idle boast but now it’s no longer an achievement. The question now isn’t what’s on the Net, but what’s not.

I peer, I hunt, I slip and slide with Google’s algorithms and I find a few scattered accounts on various sites, his IC number and finally the jackpot – his blog.

Yes, my father has a ‘secret’ blog. Well, dad, you really shouldn’t have linked to it on your social networking site profile. It’s anonymous and it has links to quite a few other blogs including our ex-PM’s. Ah, my father is still Tun M’s man after all these years.

He doesn’t blog anything personal – it’s all politics and current affairs. There’s the odd photo here and there, commentaries on religion and a few links.

But I read this one post where he waxed about books and mentioned one that left a lasting impression on him, to the point he remembers where and when he read it decades ago.

And it just happens to be my favourite book…which I never knew my father had read.

Well, I guess I really am my father’s daughter, after all. 

Dad’s articulate and he even talks about how much he loves prose. It’s also disturbing that we share the same opinion of Anwar. Won’t say the exact words because I know someone will bloody Google it and find his blog. But if someone does find the URL, it’s not going to be me who leads them to it, Dad.

We’re so alike in a lot of ways, but despite us both being somewhat proficient with the written word, we’re horrible at saying what we mean to the other person in real-life. There’s always this awkwardness, this odd discomfort and the long, stony silences when I’m with him.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because talking to each other is too much like talking to one’s self. And despite our rather introverted natures, we both love to talk…to other people.

I love my father. He’s my personal yardstick for integrity, the gold standard for morals. He’s everything you wish a politician was, but honestly could never be. A truly good man could not survive politics and all its Machiavellian manoeuvrings. And I hope one day, that at least people know my father was a good man who raised a good woman.

And so I keep hoping.