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MSM love for the bridgebloggers

Two excellent articles in major American newspapers recognize the importance of bloggers and online authors in building bridges between people in different countries. If you want to understand what’s going on in other parts of the world, it helps to read not just stories about those countries, but the stories people in those countries are telling. It’s hard just to dive in and start reading blogs without context and without knowing who’s worth reading – two stories give excellent advice for ways to dive into current conversations in Zimbabwe and China. (This sort of guided bridging is just what we’ve tried to accomplish with Global Voices, so it’s nice to see a mention of our project in one of the pieces.)

As the political stalemate in Zimbabwe heads towards an apparent conclusion, it will be worth following Zimbabwean bloggers closely. The LA Times interviews two of my favorite Zimbabwean bloggers, Brenda Burrell and Bev Clarke, the founders of Kubatana, a civil society organization in Harare. Some of the passion and perseverence of these amazing women comes out in the interview as they talk about the frustration they feel with groups that want to change Zimbabwe… but are no longer based in Zimbabwe. Bev is very much rooted in today’s Harare, and her posts on Kubatana’s blog veer between careful political analysis to frustrated musings on how one winds down or pumps oneself up in a city that lacks power, hot water and food much of the time.

The Times piece features a few activist Zim bloggers I know and read, like Comrade Fatso as well as some I hadn’t encountered before, like Philip Barclay and Grace Mutandwa, writing from the British High Commission in Harare. It’s pretty amazing that British diplomats have this much online space to speak freely about their impressions of Zimbabwe and surrounding countries.

I wish Robyn Dixon had commented on whether there are bloggers offering different points of view – I’ve been accused (correctly) of failing to represent pro-ZANU-PF voices in my posts on Zim, in part because, with the exception of my friend Dumisani Nyoni, I don’t see many ZANU supporters blogging. (Dumi pointed me, the other day, to an interesting post from a member of parliament affiliated with the faction of MDC that supports Arthur Mutumbara, not Morgan Tsvangarai – it’s a good example of just how complex negotiations are surrounding transfer of power in Zimbabwe. The same parliamentarian, Senator David Coltart, offers a useful outline of the pending powersharing agreement posted on his personal blog – his analysis is a good deal more informative than anything I’ve seen in the media thus far.)

The Wall Street Journal’s Asian edition focuses not on a whole national blogosphere, but on perhaps China’s most remarkable blogger, the incomparable Roland Soong. Roland’s blog, EastSouthWestNorth, functions as an edited aggregator and translator of Chinese media. It’s required reading for anyone who’s interested in China, and it’s been an inspiration to a number of projects around the world. Leslie Hook notes that EastSouthWestNorth helped inspire Global Voices – that’s absolutely true, and Roland’s skill at filtering, translating and contextualizing is something I often point to when I explain the hard work neccesary to bridge between cultures online.

Great to see such inspiring bloggers getting some love from the broader media community.