I read a nice piece today in The Gleaner, about certain aspects of blogging and use of social media in Jamaica, written by Dr. Marcia Forbes. First, it was about the sly move, it seems, of a mainstream media journalist, using that medium to promote his blog, and soliciting advertising funds. No problem with that, in my book: whatever works, and blogs do not buy groceries. It’s a spin on ‘nice guys come last’ or ‘you snooze, you lose’. Power to you, bro! Do what it takes to get your material out there.

Next, it looked at the matter of could one get some financial gain out of blogging. I didn’t find the logic compelling of trying to see a male/female divide in this. I know many male bloggers–myself included–who write for the pure purpose of self-expression, and money is not even a passing consideration. I have tried to monetize what I blogged, but it turned in a pittance, and the annoyance of having pop-up ads, for instance, was too much of a distraction. I could also put up some other philosophical arguments about ‘not working for anyone’ in any shape of form. I have been approached to write for pay, but the topics were not of much interest. I also know women who write and get paid for their blogging.

I think the real separation is simply the reason why you’re writing. Most of us derive enormous non-financial benefits from our blogs. I make clear that I have a thinking space that is online: if my ideas resonate, well and good; if they do not, well have at it with your own views. I’m not afraid of being ‘controversial’, if by that is meant that I come to my own conclusion about topics, and will say that I think something doesn’t jive or seems wrong, whoever the source. You have an argument, make your case. I’ll make mine.

Right now, I’m not worried about dying broke as a result of being an avid writer. One of my friends–a woman–got into writing by blogging and last year published her first novel. Are bloggers aspiring novelists or reporters? Maybe. Maybe not.

Though I was not mentioned, I felt connected to the subject matter, naturally. I had also given my view on the monetization aspects. After a few moments of disappointment at not seeing my name or Twitter handle in print, I calmed down. After all, print is passé. Online writing has taken the place of the actual printed word in many places, including amongst print media itself. I make my mark through my writing and through a certain level of interaction on social media.

I read an enormous amount on current events every day, but look only at two local printed papers, reading everything else online, from home and abroad. I am part of that world of online opinion-making. I say that not to be pompous. If one person reads my blog, that’s significant. If one person shares it, also significant. If one person comments, that’s a real bonus: I try to respond to every comment, unless I feel it’s a troll at work or spam. My blog has brought me into contact with people in other countries, some of whom sought me and my advice. I still get queries about Barbados, based on a blog I wrote during my three years there.

The ‘fourth estate‘ is the term used for mainstream media, especially, print media. Like so many categorisations, time and technological change make them redundant. Bloggers and users of social media have come to upset that cozy apple carts, and have been dubbed the ‘fifth estate‘. Our purposes are much wider than that of mainstream media, not least in that many do not seek to influence policy-making processes, even though many of us have very valid arguments that are worth noting in shaping policy. I’m always, amused, though when I read thing in the papers that have a canny resemblance to things I wrote on my blog, including certain pithy phrases, though clearly not impossible to create, seem odd to arise within days of my using them on my blog. Well, you know what they say about imitation.

Blogging has changed, and keeps evolving, and the evidence of the journalist branching out gives credence to that. Whether the person concerned will make a complete jump from mainstream to blogging is for that person. Some switch between. Some bloggers, with little intention of being part of mainstream media, get wrapped up in it by dint of their willing to write and give free expression. I have had the dubious pleasure of becoming a ‘columnist’ or ‘contributor’ simply because I put forward a set of well-reasoned views on topics. Editors liked what they read, and decided to grace their pages with my words. But, bloggers are not usually establishment writers. I was interested to see that Mark Wignall, a well-known columnist in Jamaica, has recently started a blog; perhaps, he was the subject that got Dr. Forbes’ attention. He now can write his views more frequently than in just a weekly column, and can be free to express things as he sees fit. He is his own editorial control. Really, that’s a wonderful piece of freedom. I’m not letting mine go.

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