Before we proceed let me just say that I am at present a senior media consultant of the PCOO. My sole area of concern for the consultancy is the ASEAN. I have also participated in the talks and discussions on accrediting bloggers and social media practitioners. What follows below is my opinion and my opinion alone.
As I watched the 50th year celebration of ASEAN on my smartphone and television set happen I noticed there were two news items and a few tweets criticizing the inclusion and accreditation of blogger at the ASEAN in the media coverage. In one article it was mentioned twice that these bloggers were given materials and fed using the people’s taxes. What was conveniently omitted in that article was that all accredited media were given the same thing. Whatever reason it may be you could feel the bile and poison dripping from the keyboard of that writer. However, It does give us the opportunity to discuss the accreditation of bloggers, social media practitioners who are opinion makers and sharers.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF BLOGGING IN THE PHILIPPINES
I started out as a blogger and I have seen the development of social media in the Philippines. However, I do know that the word blogger is an archaic term for one important reason — There are now more and more social media platforms coming out and being used to create, post, share and interact information/mews/opinion. In other words aside from blogs there is FB, Twitter and a host of other things/platforms. All you need is a smart phone, internet connection and a social media platform to become a Social Media User. Then if you intend to go beyond using your social media platforms for advocacy, vocation or work you become a Social Media Practitioner. All bloggers are social media users and social media practitioners but not all social media users and social media practitioners are bloggers.
As a social media practitioner it is surprising to learn about the howls and criticism of some about the accreditation of social media practitioners to press conferences and government events. This is because of the following things that I have experienced in my years as a blogger and a social media practitioner in the Philippines:
One, Before the advent of Facebook and Twitter bloggers were invited to cover news events and press conferences. Initially these were in the technology, food, culture and arts. Then it began tp widen to other fields.
Two, During the elections bloggers interviewed candidates. Local political news also began to be shared with the rising social media platforms FB and Twitter.
Three, Social media practitioners began to get organized into groups in order to pursue advocacies or to professionalize themselves. Groups like Blogwatch, CBS and the Davao Bloggers were the first of these.
Fourth, Government agencies and embassies began and continue to invite social media practitioners to cover their events and press conferences.
Fifth, Scholarships and fellowships were given to social media practitioners by the US State Department under the International Visitor Leadership Program and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)
Sixth, In several Internet Governance Forum meetings several social media practitioners have become delegates and have been described as advocates or media practitioners.
Seventh, In our present landscape there are a number of social media users and practitioners who have a high following an more important trust rating. In some cases higher then those of media outlets. Granted there maybe those who bloat their stats but it does not diminish the clout of those with legitimate stats.
SO WHY INVITE SOCIAL MEDIA?
First, Effective Communicators and the Fifth Estate
The ability to create, post, share and interact has made social media a fast channel of communication. Similar to the printing press , the Internet has enabled the fast distribution of news and information. On-line everyone is a publisher-writer of his or her content. There are those who have become effective communicators and because of that have built up a following: subscribers. It would be foolish not to invite such social media practitioners. This what some people call the fifth estate.
All must have access to its government. The advent of the Internet and Social Media has led to a channel of information, communication and knowledge that can and be used by government to reach its people and its people to reach its government.
As to inclusion/accreditation of social media practitioners: Historically, It has long been practiced and done; In terms of information dissemination: It is the most practical and reaches those connected online ; And it is in line of opening up government to the people. However, Place qualification rules and regulations to weed out the corrupt. Make it inclusive: make it democratic.