Blogging as a delusion of journalism

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When I saw Primal's suggestion to nominate my modest reflections on living in Ireland in the best "Blog by a Journalist" category for Irish Blog awards 2008 I was obviously flattered. Hell, yeah.

Of course, as Primal admits, you can have doubts on whether I could qualify. I have some doubts as well - I believe out there, in the Irish cyberspace, there must be more journalists with more articulate English and plenty of time to ponder about zillions of issues. Yet it is up to you to decide and come to a conclusion in a debate what criteria define you as a journalist in this era of blogging, Current TV, You Tube, etc. Do you have to belong to the mainstream or can you be a voice in the wilderness while remaining independent? If everything goes well and I have a bit of luck, as of September I might plunge myself into a more academic research on this subject. Or continue a life of a mongrel with occasional posts on this blog...

On the other hand, Primal mentions the fact that there are not many non Irish journalists working in Irish media.

Amelie Mouton in her story "Why no news isn't good news for Ireland's ethnic journalists" published in 2006 in the annual magazine of Metro Eireann - Ireland's multicaltural newspaper - points out that the National Action Plan Against Racism asks for "positive actions" towards the recruitment of journalists from cultural and ethnic minorities. Yet a well-known Irish journalists, who's name is not disclosed, observes in the story that "Irish journalism does seem to be drawn from the white middle classes nearly exclusively - unless you count Protestans and Scots, there are not ethnic minorities represented in my staff".

In a way it is understandable - a little more than 20 years ago Ireland was almost exclusively Irish. I remember and Irish woman once told me that when she went to London about 25 years ago she was startled by the variety of people over there - never before she had seen so many shades of skin and heard people speaking English in so many different ways.

For the past five years Irish society has been experiencing vast changes. About 10 percent of the population today are foreigners. It is widely seen in cafes, "Penny's", construction sites and supermarkets. But not as much in the media.

Of course, immigration issues are being covered. The usual ones: possible layoffs, abuse of immigrants as cheap labor force, accidents, caused by drunk Eastern European drivers, other criminal offenses, etc. Yet apart from these clich├ęd news there is so much more worth feature stories, photographs, broadcasts and documentaries.

Seamus Dooley of the National Union of Journalists in a story mentioned above said that the main barriers preventing the mainstream press from taking on ethnic journalists are language barriers and a possible lack of knowledge about Ireland's socio-political background on the migrants' behalf. I'll tick for the language, yet many migrants have experienced that socio-political background themselves, therefore the last argument could be disputed. On the other hand, why not give a chance for foreigners trained as journalists and with previous work experience to gain more knowledge of that kind while they carry in-depth research? Many of them speak more than one language and know plenty of personal stories. Besides, we all know that journalists are jacks of all trades, yet masters of none and they all learn as they go.

I'm no expert in immigration and I am not a typical immigrant myself. A virtual friend of mine in Lithuania expressed a wish for a blog that would describe emigration process from day zero in a foreign country. As she said, the first slap in the face and the first applause.

A blog of this kind would be immensely popular. There are still many myths associated with emigrants in my country: hearsay about pay, living conditions, Irish, etc. If blogged honestly (therefore probably anonymously), it would offer the best chance to satisfy virtual voyeurism. If blogged in proper English, it would be phenomenally popular in the British Isles. Either way stories we - virtual voyeurs - would like to hear would probably never reach that blog. If blogged honestly and in the native language, most likely it wouldn't come from some mushroom factory. Even if internet access was available, blogging still requires some sort of ability to write. As another virtual friend of mine has observed, ability to write quite often does not coincide with the capability to tell something and vice versa. In terms of blogging in English, although I am convinced there are more people capable of doing that than we encounter today (non-native speakers), again those things we would like to read - everyday immigrant stories - would probably never make it to such a blog, just because they wouldn't happen to somebody who emigrates with more than basic knowledge of English. It would become a boring blog - with no bad news.

At first my blog was an attempt to highlight some of the issues Eastern Europeans have to face in Ireland. I should probably write more about the likes of my friend who came over to Ireland in November. For the past three months she had been working in an Eastern European grocery shop for less than the minimum wage, doing about 60 hours a week and without a single pay slip. I could also mention that they sell spirits from behind the counter and whoever speaks Russian can ask for a pack of 200 cigarettes for half the regular retail price. But I'm sure these stories will get to be covered someday by those who thoroughly know Ireland's socio-political background.

On the other hand, as I say in my profile, getting stuck in the topic of migration is easy, therefore I try to cover other issues as well, resisting the temptation to become too serious, too issue-focused. I'm learning to respect the readers - the second keyword bringing readership to my Lithuanian blog is "boobies" (because of a story about a character played by a Lithuanian actress doing it in "The Tudors" , shall I say, in a very open way - my suspicion was no English actress would have signed up for it). Therefore you might encounter more juicy material in the near future on this blog as well.

Whichever was the reason, a few weeks before Christmas I received and email from the deputy editor of Metro Eireann deputy editor offering to write about Lithuanians in Ireland. She said she had found my blog and thought it was very interesting. It wasn't all in vain, I guess... :)

If you think this blog deserves the spot in the nominations for the Irish Blog Awards 2008, mention me in any of the categories you think I qualify for. Or otherwise, please come back. Thanks for stopping by.

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