News agencies lose battle on the internet
[b”>News agencies lose battle on the internet[/b”>
By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor
21 March 2003
The internet has democratised everything â€“ including being a war correspondent. “Air raid sirens in baghdad but the only sounds you can here [sic”> are the anti-aircraft machine guns. will go now.” And so “Salam Pax” (not his real name, but that is not revealed) signed off at 5.46am yesterday as the first cruise missiles headed for Baghdad, where he was sitting at a computer.
Quickly labelled the “Baghdad Blogger”, Salam (who seems to be an architectural engineer) is one of the growing group of “bloggers” â€“ people posting online diaries â€“ who can spread news as quickly as news organisations, without needing to excite viewers or win advertisers; they can just report the boring, grainy detail of real life.
“Today the Baath party people started taking their places in the trenches and main squares and intersections, fully armed and freshly shaven. They looked too clean and well groomed to defend anything,” Salam, who uses the Iraqi internet service provider Uruklink.net, posted at about midnight on Thursday.
If the 1991 Gulf War was the first one shown in full on television, the second is the first whose content and political ramifications are being fought out on both sides over the Web.
Though some people doubted that “Salam” was authentic, pictures on his weblog (at http://dear_raed.blogspot.com) of Iraqi TV, plus the tracking efforts of other bloggers back in America, suggest that he really is in Baghdad.
On the other side of the war, in many senses, is Kevin Sites, a CNN correspondent who posts a personal blog at www.kevinsites.net Based in northern Iraq, he shows images that suggest life is still going on as normal â€“ or was until Tuesday. Last night there had been no new posts since Tuesday afternoon.
Bloggers, who number in their thousands, have quickly become a force for those seeking information free of spin. In America, they showedtheir power by bringing about the resignation of Senator Trent Lott. His apparent backing of racial segregation ideas in a 2002 speech went almost unnoticed by the mainstream media until left-wing bloggers started piling on the pressure.
By contrast to the bloggers, some would-be official news media appeared to be having problems. The Iraqi news agency (at www.uruklink.net/iraqnews) seemed to be offline yesterday evening.
The final post from Salam Pax refers to reports that America had bombed the Iraqi satellite channel. Salam disagreed. “What was probably hirt were transmiters or something. all TV stations are still working,” he wrote. But that may no longer be true.