They don’t need journalists behind the firewall

23 06 2008

Someone had stolen my shoes and we were days from the nearest town.

I was in a jungle in the Philippines reporting on an adventure race. Me, my notepad, my pen, my tent and, up until then, a good pair of walking shoes.

To write about teams hacking hundreds of kilometres through the jungle on foot, I had to get into the jungle myself and, to some extent, experience what they were experiencing. This now included trekking barefoot in the deep mud brought about by unseasonable rain.

In those circumstances everyone pitches in and, in the long hours of sitting around with little entertainment, you get close to people. I hooked up with an English team’s support crew, ate army-style rations with them and hitched rides in their jeepney, lumbering at elephant’s pace down rutted tracks for six-or-more hours at a time.

I may have shared powdered food and blisters with them but I wasn’t a member of the team. My job was to watch them and report on what I saw, to critique it and give a flavour of it to readers who weren’t there. (In Australia my story appeared in Esquire).

It wasn’t my job to make the team better, I wasn’t even going to be around to find out what happened to them. I was a reporter charged only with capturing the moment.

From that background, it’s an easy step into blogging: to maintain a journal of what one observes, indifferent to whether one’s observations affect the outcome.

Now I’m behind the firewall, the situation has changed so my perspective must, too. I’m a participant, now, not an observer. I have to get out of the stands and on the field of play because I am jointly responsible for the outcome: here to help get things done and to contribute to improvements, not just critique the status quo.

So my blogging style (inside the firewall, at least) is evolving and I encourage you to think about the same: are you reporting or contributing?

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