Africa: Text Messaging Delivers News

Technology & Convergence

Print newspapers must re-strategise if they wish to keep up with new information and communication technologies (ICTs) since their emergence is enabling citizens to access news long before media houses publish their newspapers.

Tanzanian blogger Ndesanjo Macha said this while delivering a talk on 'From Rock Painting to Mental Acrobatics' during the Digital Citizen Indaba (DCI) on Blogging held during the Highway Africa conference in Grahamstown, South Africa.

According to Macha who also doubles as editor for Global Voices, the future is with mobile phones, which, he added, are already in the hands of many citizens.

"Everyone is becoming a journalist today. With a mobile phone in your hand, you can record news events and text the same to your friends and newsrooms; or even better still download the same to a blog", said Ndesanjo.

"In June this year, a member of parliament in Tanzania passed away, at night there was a lot of mobile reporting, we were all reporters and by the time media houses picked the story, it was no news at all," said Ndesanjo.

He said bloggers are fully in charge of the social media and in the process share stories with citizens.

"The activity is a form of social and citizen media, bloggers find it difficult to keep to themselves information [because] they are storytellers and share stories as wide as possible," said Ndesanjo.

He stressed that blogs have become 'community spaces' where people in the diaspora can communicate with those at home. Nowadays, blogging is seen as a quirky activity that has been heralded for revolutionizing journalism.

Bloggers have taught mainstream reporters a lesson or two. Blogging played a pivotal role, for example, in the downfall of Trent Lott as Senate majority leader in 2002. The mainstream media might have missed Lott's remarks at Senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, but outrage in the ever-growing "blogosphere" fanned the flames until newspapers and cable news took up the story.

Today the popular online service Blogger, which allows you to create a modest Weblog for free, has reportedly over a million users.

Bloggers have been compared to 19th-century pamphleteers and to the 17th-century British diarist Samuel Pepys. Though criticized by mainstream news columnists like the Boston Globe's Alex Beam, bloggers have gotten their revenge by picking their critics apart online. It is generally agreed that the godfather of present day blogging, is the Internet gossiper Matt Drudge, whose role in the Clinton- Lewinsky saga resembles the role of today's bloggers in Lott's demise.

(Highway Africa News Agency (Grahamstown), 13 September 2007)