Some of the country’s most prominent bloggers have joined forces to cover the 2010 elections and help raise public awareness through a news website called Blogwatch.ph. The group aims to tap the burgeoning blogosphere in the Philippines to provide different perspectives on the elections apart from that of traditional media.
The effort is spearheaded by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado, who was part of the first batch of trainees in a PCIJ’s seminar on covering the 2010 automated elections in Laguna. She was the first blogger to have undergone such training. She wants to help in voter education efforts, in particular to shed light on campaign spending by candidates in the upcoming elections. This is an issue she feels hasn’t been covered enough in mainstream media, and she intends to do it using the help of the Internet.
Kristine Mandigma of Vibal Publishing opened the launch with a discussion of the evolution of media. She noted that while there have been mass layoffs in traditional news organizations, there are 120,000 new blogs being created each day. This is in line, she says, with observations from Clay Shirky about how the news industry is involving.
Next, the PCIJ’s multimedia director Ed Lingao spoke about how traditional media and new media can complement each other. Traditional media, he said, still can continue its role as the primary source of new information, while new media can help provide fresh points of view. He also underlined the need to work together to enable both camps to move forward.
Blogger Marck Rimorin, winner of the 2009 Philippine Blog Award for Best Commentary, spoke about the importance of this project for bloggers. Rimorin, who joined the second PCIJ election training session in Subic, framed his talk on the opportunities for new media to uncover new stories.
Afterwards, Dado presented the history of the project and the roster of bloggers, before unveiling the website. She noted how most of the bloggers involved do not usually write about politics, but they were thrilled to be part of the project nonetheless. She discussed how they will use social media tools to spread the advocacy and reach people who wouldn’t otherwise be reading the news.
In a Q&A session afterwards, Rimorin and Juned Sonido answered questions about the commitment of bloggers to provide accurate information for their readers. Rimorin pointed out that bloggers can go through the same meticulous process of ensuring accuracy in their write-ups, just like traditional media outlets. Sunico pointed out that bloggers stand to lose credibility in the community and readership if they post inaccurate information.
Dado also explained how she recruited respected voices in the community to be part of the project, and that she made sure that the bloggers involved are impartial. She also talked about the importance of getting bloggers from all over the Philippines, pointing out that it’s bloggers who know their locale. She said she is working on potential partnerships with various groups to provide bloggers with more access to candidates and to showcase their content to more channels.
Blogwatch.ph already has several interesting articles on the upcoming elections. Rochelle Sy Chua wrote about the new PCOS machine that will be used for the automated elections, while Jane Uymatiao took a look at the new ballot. Dado, meanwhile, posted an initial installment on campaign spending that examined the laws involved in the process.