The Kathmandu Post celebrates its (and Kantipur’s) 21st anniversary today by publishing a 16-page pullout on Nepal’s social media scene. The supplement, titled “Platforms of Change“, explores how Nepalis are using the Internet and its various platforms mainly to express themselves and to connect and share and debate. In the lead article ‘Teleprinter to Twitter’, Editor-in-Chief Akhilesh Upadhyay talks about the impact of technological changes (and a constitutional provision that guaranteed press freedom) in impressive expansion of Nepal’s media.
I was interviewed by the Post’s Weena Pun on my political blogging and journalism days.
When the then-king Gyanendra imposed his authoritarian rule in February 2005 and later clamped down on all private media outlets in Nepal, United We Blog became the go-to site for delivering uncensored political news. One of the two co-founders behind the blog, Dinesh Wagle, a former journalist with Kantipur daily, quit blogging for the site in 2012, after seven years of running it, but still blogs on his personal site. Wagle talked to the Post’s Weena Pun about his days as a journalist/blogger.
What is United We Blog?
It is a political blog—Nepal’s first—founded on my personal web domain in 2004. Initially it started as a forum to express private feelings and the daily grind lived by journalists and included stories by my friends Ujjwal Acharya and Deepak Adhikari and myself. Later, the site was hosted on blog.com.np and soon became the only uncensored source of political information in Nepal for a while in 2005.
Why did you decide to blog?
I was excited by the new medium of expression. In 2004, I had been a journalist with the mainstream media for seven years, and at that time, the new media was still very new in Nepal. Blogs were the ‘social media’ of that time. They provided additional and unlimited space for expressing ourselves, as opposed to limited print and air space of the old media. This ‘limitless’ space was the second reason for me to start a blog.
What has been the difference in your posts before and after the thenking Gyanendra clamped down on freedom of speech?
Before the royal coup in February 2005, our posts were mainly about what we did in our daily lives, whom we met and how we felt about the developments in our not-so-public lives. After Gyanendra imposed restrictions on freedom of expression, our blog posts became more political in nature and were aimed at challenging that stifling atmosphere and advocating for the restoration of democracy in Nepal. For us, freedom of expression and independent journalism became a mission. Soldiers patrolling newsrooms to impose censorship was a strange sight for us, and we expressed our dissent on our blog.
What is the difference between your work as a blogger and as a journalist?
I talked about the limits of space in mainstream media earlier. This limitation (or lack thereof in the blogsphere) certainly makes for some differences in writing. But in both mediums, one writes by keeping the audience in mind, which means an article cannot go on and on just because there is no limit applied to the number of words. As a reporter with magazines and newspapers, I felt most articles were somewhat formal, devoid of certain information that the mainstream press considered too informal. But I liked those bits of information. So I used to write a blog post that included the information that I could not include in a newspaper story. But I always believed, as I do now, that a blog post, like a piece of journalistic work, needs to be factual and truthful. Just because you are the reporter, editor, publisher and owner, as I was of United We Blog at one point, you can’t hit the ‘publish’ button indiscriminately. To be able to publish is a sort of power and with that comes responsibility—which is common to both journalism and blogging.
Have you done exclusive stories for your blog that the mainstream press hasn’t covered?
Yes. Some were done because the mainstream media was not able to defy the censorship, and we were left to carry those stories on our blog. After the censorship was over, we continued to blog on important political happenings, sometimes well ahead of the mainstream press.
Even when blogging became ‘mainstream’ in the Nepali web world, we continued to blog stories from various parts of the country that mainstream media either ignored or didn’t have space to cover.
Can you describe a typical day when you were running United We Blog?
I was primarily a fulltime journalist with Kantipur daily. But I somehow managed to give about eight to 10 hours a day to blogging during my peak bloggingtime. Mornings began with me moderating comments and responding to some. In the office, the newsroom would be abuzz with political stories. I would go with photographers to cover political rallies for the blog and in between, I’d do some reporting for the newspaper. In the evening, I would edit stories for the paper, look after the Arts page, which I was the chief of, help design it and go home at around nine. In between, I’d maybe upload a blog post or two. At home, I would continue blogging and uploading photos until midnight.
Why did you switch to your personal blog? What is the difference between a blog like United We Blog and a personal blog?
Because of its popularity, United We Blog became a mainstream outlet in itself. It also became too political. I could no longer post personal entries like I once did. This made me realise that it had become a different forum altogether. The audience was too large and with an interest on issues that were not my daily personal ramblings. That’s why I decided to take my more personal stories onto my own personal site.
When Twitter, the microblogging site, is all the rage, are blogs still relevant? Why do people still write blogs?
It’s human nature to express and want to express oneself fully. Twitter is a great medium but the limitation of 140 characters is too stifling. An argument, with the full context and necessary background, cannot always be made in 140 characters. That’s why people still blog or read long articles that appear on the Post’s On Saturday.
Why didn’t you ever monetise United We Blog?
We tried to, occasionally, but it was never my priority to make money off the blog. I was earning a living from my journalistic work and I ran the blog as a hobby. Whatever we earned from displaying some ads on the blog was used to pay for hosting and maintaining the site.
Not so long ago, many blogs were not unlike LiveJournal diaries: all personality quizzes and LOLs, but the form is versatile, it’s developed, and some bloggers are getting serious. Very serious.
And outside of the West, that change has been fast. A good example is given by Dinesh Wagle, who set up Nepal’s United We Blog! resource.
Of blogs & bloggers (2011)
by SHREYA THAPA
KATHMANDU, Feb 13: With the Internet becoming an integral part of urban life in Nepal, online activities have increased significantly expanding the span of Nepali blogosphere.
Blogging has been in Nepal for under a decade now and, although early references linked blogs with socio-political implications, contemporary blogs boast a dramatic shift in the range of activities in the blogs and those who post it.
Pioneer blogger and journalist Dinesh Wagle (wagle.com.np) started blogging because he was discontent about not being able to express himself in the magazine where he was working. “The magazine, like all mainstream media, wasn´t interested in printing my feelings, frustrations, anger, happiness and sometime unnecessary blabbering. So I thought about creating a forum where I could write about those things,” he said.
And so October 1 of 2004 saw the birth of United We Blog (UWB). Continue reading
On this occasion, I want to celebrate the expansion of the social media scene in Nepal with the Post by sharing links to some of my old articles on Internet and social media. These articles originally appeared in the Post and Kantipur.
The Twitter World Cup #Football (2010)
Every World Cup tournament is a watershed in the history of football. With the stunning display of human emotions and talents, the game rejuvenates millions of people around the world. Those who watch the games will talk about that magical goal by that particular superstar for months and years. Those goals or missed chances, in many ways, define that particular World Cup. I am not sure, as of now, what will define the 2010 edition: vuvuzela or Twitter. These are the two things whose association with the game evokes contrasting feelings in me. I dislike the “stadium horn” as much as I like the express-in-140-characters social networking site.
मेरो इन्टरनेटसँगको भेट (2011)
त्यति प्रस्टसँग होइन तर इन्टरनेटसँगको त्यो पहिलो जम्काभेट म अझै सम्झिन्छु । सन् १९९७ तिर कान्तिपथमा एउटा साइबर क्याफे थियो जहाँ म अन्य दुई साथीसँग पुगेको थिएँ । ब्राउजरमा खोलेको पहिलो साइट याहु.कम थियो र सर्च बाकसमा त्यतिबेला एउटा सिरियल खेलेर चर्चित हलिउड अभिनेत्रीको नाम टाइप गरेका थियौं ।
नेटपाली बानी (2008)
त्यो निम्ता रंगीन डोरीले बाँधिएको गाढा रातो खाममा आएको थिएन। त्यसमा लामो भूमिका बाँधिएको पनि थिएन। ‘विषय’ भागमा कालो बोल्ड अंग्रेजी अक्षरमा प्रस्ट लेखिएको थियो– ‘दीनबन्धु लंकेशले तपाईंलाई हाई फाइभमा साथी बन्न अनुरोध गरेका छन्।’ त्यसमा क्लिक गरेपछि देखिने मूल भागमा दीनबन्धुले सारमा यस्तै भनेका थिए– उनले हाई फाइभमा प्रोफाइल बनाएका छन् र मलाई साथीका रूपमा थप्न चाहन्छन् ताकि हामी तस्बिर साझेदारी गर्न सकौं र हाम्रो सञ्जाल बनाउन थालौं। पहिला म हाई फाइभमा सामेल हुनैपर्छ, त्यसमा भनिएको थियो, जसबाट मलाई प्रोफाइल बनाउन, तस्बिरहरू साझेदारी गर्न र साथीहरू खोज्न मौका मिल्नेछ। (विस्तृतमा यहाँ छ ।)
वितेका केही बर्षहरुमा इन्टरनेटका नेपाली प्रयोगकर्ताहरुको संख्या ह्वात्तै बढेको छ जो इमेल या सस्तोमा विदेश फोन गर्नमा मात्र सीमित छैन। वेब २.० भनिने ब्लग, फेसुबक र ट्वीट्टर जस्ता सघन अर्न्तक्रियात्मक साईटहरुमा बढ्दो नेपाली सहभागीतासँगै त्यहाँ नेपालीहरुका अनेकौ भावना र चाहना अभिव्यक्त हुन थालेका छन्। साच्चै, त्यस्तो अभिव्यक्तीका लागि सार्वजनिक मन्च नेपालीहरुलाई इतिहासमै कहिल्यै मिलेको थिएन। इन्टरनेटले विश्वलाई खुम्च्याउनुका साथै पहाडको फेदीमा बस्ने नेपालीलाई समतलको किनारमा बस्ने नेपालीसँग जोडाएको छ। इन्टरनेट नहुँदो हो त तिनले जिन्दगीमै कहिल्यै भेट्ने थिएनन्। आज ती फेसबकुमा एउटै अभियानमा सामेल छन् या फरक लक्ष्यका लागि विवाद गरिरहेका छन् । (विस्तृतमा यहाँ छ)