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A Thorough Examination of an Article by 阿藹; wherein the Character of Inmedia is explored, and the Question of Editorial Power re

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The present Examination, being a reply to 阿藹's "從 Version 4 到獨立媒體運動," has two parts, the first dealing with the character of Inmedia, the second the question of editorial power. I do not respond to 阿藹 pointwise, but follow the way I take the current debate. In my earlier contributions, I took editorial power as my object; here I extend my analysis to the very enterprise of Inmedia.

Part I: The Character of Inmedia, explored.

阿藹 has written an article to explicate what she (not the editorial board, because "這篇文章沒有經其他編輯審閱") takes to be the justifications for the recent changes and, more generally, the guiding principles of Inmedia. We are not told who selected this article for the front page, nor who seconded it; but that question I shall treat of on another occasion. Let us come to the merits of her arguments presently. She wrote:

"這裡不是一個論壇

"首先要講的是, inmedia 從一開始的定位是獨立媒體運動, 而並不是一個 forum. 運動是建基於對香港具體政治和媒體生態的分析, 然後定位, 再轉化為實踐. [...]

"但 inmedia 並不是純粹的 open forum. 從一開始, 我們就批評主流媒體市場化, 受政府和不同社會部門公關策略影響的問題, 強調要搞民間記者報導, 介入身邊周圍的社會事務, 發揮草根民主的力量. 言論自由不是純粹的 "吹水", 而是要發掘聽不到或被埋沒了的聲音, 帶進公共空間, 與主導的力量進行拉扯角力.

"譬如說, 當整個主流媒體, 以製造歧視的報導手法去處理國內孕婦的新聞, 獨立媒體的價值當然不是去複製這些主流回聲(網上有簽名運動要求拒收國內孕婦), 而是去進行剖析與另類的報導(可惜, 我們並沒有做到這一點). 若有讀者來這裡罵 inmedia 民間採訪失敗, 沒有回應如此重要的社會議題, 我一定自我檢討, 想方法去動員更多民間採訪等等. 但若有人轉貼網上簽名運動過來, 然後質疑編輯為什麼不把它放上焦點呼籲聯署? 我會說獨立媒體的價值不在於當主流的回聲筒. 若該聯署轉貼後, 有一個很好的回應剖析當中的問題, 又另作別論.

"獨立的意思不是沒有立場, 又或一種站於高高位置的審視. <大事件>一書裡, 雷子樂(主流記者)批評獨立媒體的民間記者立場偏向韓農, 成為政治宣傳機器, 失卻獨立性. 雷的批評, 把獨立等同於沒有立場(又或記者專業術語裡的客觀中立), 完全欠缺對媒體制度的分析. (首先 propaganda 涉及制度權力運作, 一個個人在大街上大叫打倒某政黨, 不能說是反該政黨的 propaganda [最多可以話佢痴咗]; Chomsky 對政治宣傳有很精彩的分析.) 主流記者完全可以批評民間記者, 指出其心態或方法所存在的問題, 分析層次上的 naive, 或立場根基的不紥實等等. 可是把 "有立場" 等同於 "不獨立", 正好是殖民制度下, 平庸政治的複製."

There are many interesting points in the quoted passages; concerning which, I should like to put two main questions to the author, to wit:

(1) What treatment will an article get, if it aims at pointing out that the position taken by Inmedia (or at least some other article selected by the editors) is questionable, or even wrong?

(2) Given how 阿藹 describes what "獨立媒體運動" means, why should it not rather be called Parmedia, i.e. Partisan Media?

Question (1)

I do not think that online discussion, on this "Forum" at least, has touched sufficiently on the first question (and I of course cannot know what people have discussed on other occasions, given my absence therefrom). Editors, by word and by deed, seem to be oscillating between two conceptions of Inmedia:

(a) Inmedia promotes - I deliberately use that word, to the justification of which I shall presently revert - those voices rarely heard in the mainstream media, regardless of content and political persuasion.

(b) Inmedia promotes those voices which seem to cohere with a particular vision of society, economy, politics, the arts, relations to culture, etc.

I hold that (a) and (b) are not the same thing. I can write a peculiar criticism of the vision mentioned in (b), without it being widely reported either in the mainstream media or in less visible places. I can, in other words, criticize the vision endorsed by Inmedia in (b) without, in my view, becoming mainstream myself. This is my first point.

My second point, concerning the same question, is this, that even if my position seems to be mainstream, but by writing an article expressly to criticize the vision endorsed by Inmedia, I may be doing something more than what the mainstream media are doing; namely, pointing out concretely the blind spot in the Inmedia vision, a blind spot rarely gazed at within the Inmedia circle. I can do an internal critique, starting, that is, from the Inmedia vision itself, coming to a conclusion which may sound familiarly mainstream; but this critical process, the pointing out of the Inmedia blind spot, is not by default part of the mainstream discourse.

So if Inmedia means to promote voices rarely heard, then perhaps such voices should include CRITICISMS of the Inmedia vision itself, they being indeed rarely heard within the Inmedia circle. 阿藹, and some other editors perhaps, tend to equate this undertaking with "複製[...]主流回聲"; hence, whatever differs from the Inmedia vision is mainstream, and whatever is mainstream, wrong. "Can," a voice around the corner murmurs, "Inmedia ever err?" 阿藹 owes us the first further explication here.

The double identification leads, I am afraid, to some very bad consequences. By and by, Inmedia will come to promote, not just voices rarely heard, but only those cohering with a particular vision, and, worse, voices that do NOT criticize a particular political line. If "獨立媒體的價值不在於當主流的回聲筒"; if, respecting the recent case of pregnant women from the mainland using HK hospital services, "該聯署 [which mobilizes agaisnt those women] 轉貼後, 有一個很好的回應剖析當中的問題, 又另作別論", what, we shall wonder, does this "另作別論" refer to? Will that article be selected for the front page? If selecting any such article is, in the eye of some Inmedia editors, straightway equivalent to "當主流的回聲筒," I cannot see what "另作別論" might ever amount to. 阿藹 owes us a second further explication here.

Suppose I write an article, independently of the "網上簽名運動," but still against the pregnant women, then what? The editors might decide that since the mainstream position seems to be against the pregnant women, my article should count as a regurgitation of the mainstream and be rejected for the front page. But then why do editors so frequently select articles promoting, say, democracy or direct election of the CE? There is more than enouge talk in the mainstream about that issue, and democracy, as least the notion of it, seems very much accepted as part of the public discourse. By criterion (a) above, Inmedia, if it is to promote voices rarely heard, should allow more space for the criticism of democracy rather than the endorsement of it. But patently this is not the practice. Which brings us to

Question (2)

It being: Given how 阿藹 describes what "獨立媒體運動" means, why should it not rather be called Parmedia, i.e. Partisan Media?

I cannot see what the "In" in Inmedia means, given what its practice, as I described just now, seems to be. Inmedia does not promote voices rarely heard, but only voices rarely heard and in line with a particular vision; which maybe what "有立場" refers to. But, seeing that the mainstream media also tend to promote only certain voices in line with a certain vision, how may Inmedia distinguish itself from the mainstream media, so as to make sense of the "In" in that name? There are, I think, only two ways.

First, Inmedia is "In" because it is simply in opposition to the mainstream media on almost every count; it is, in other words, the default antagonist of the mainstream. Or, second, it is "In" because it styles itself as speaking for the less powerful. The first option is not very appealing; the mainstream media, being a mirror image to Inmedia, can also say that they are independent from the latter, from these radical and un-self-critical partisans. The second option may fare better; but then, if it be adopted, I still cannot see why Inmedia should not be called Parmedia, it being indeed a partisan voice. But being a partisan voice, how may Inmedia, or Parmedia for that matter, cope with the problem of its own blind spots? Spots are blind because, in my physiologically very incorrect version, it they are said to be simply devilish (or "mainstream"); and they are even more blind, when the blind are allowed to define what is not blind; and we have a well-known name for this kind of blindness. Power.

Part II: The Question of Editorial Power, revisited.

First of all, 阿藹, in her article, tried to downplay the significance of enlarging the section for "Today's Focus," writing:

"絶大部份的人, 70,000-3,000=67,000人, 是透過 yahoo news categories, 搜尋器和文章連結而閱讀網站的文章的, 焦點不焦點對他們的閱讀習慣沒有影響. 而這個趨勢隨著 web 2.0 的發展會越來越明顯, 哪怕你的文章被網主打進 18 層地獄, 只要該網站的 infastructure 搞得好, 於搜尋器裡能找到, 並與其他網站或 blog連上, 有 track back 討論等, 就會被讀到."

If this be indeed the case, which I have no reason not to grant, it amounts to saying that keeping "Today's Focus" as small as it was should not matter at all. Reports of recent events, or posters announcing a rally, they, however and wherever put, will enjoy the same publicity and conduce to the same result. In fact, following 阿藹's thought, enlarging "Today's Focus" turns out, in terms of publicizing certain things, to be pointless. "哪怕你的文章被網主打進 18 層地獄, 只要該網站的 infastructure 搞得好, 於搜尋器裡能找到." This sounds very great; but I take it to speak as well to ordinary column articles as to them that are favored by some editors. Isn't it? 阿藹 owes us a third further explication here.

阿藹, to be fair, has offered one more argument. "所謂焦點, 其影響力不在於能見度, 而是更多涉及獨立媒體風格方向, 這個社群(眾民間記者和專欄作者)的自我想像, 以及對新人的鼓勵." "焦點的空間," she continued, "涉及組織的自我想像和未來發展的方向定位," and therefore "若有興趣就此作出討論, 無任歡迎. 但請勿以編輯權力, 壓制言論, 獨立不獨立之說來扣帽子."

Does 阿藹 mean that "這個社群(眾民間記者和專欄作者)的自我想像" really "不在於能見度"? If she means that, she must be suggesting that the imagination of this community is indeed constitued by something like entirety of its articles, favored or not; an article not favored by some pair of editors contributing as much to the imagining as one receiving a front page treatment. If so, then the old format should serve as well the same purpose, all articles being equally contributive to the collective imagination.

But of course she could not quite mean that. Otherwise she would again be intimating that the recent changes were totally pointless, as far as the purpose of collective imagining is concerned. Standing heroically on the front page is not quite the same thing as lying simmeringly in "18 層地獄." Yet, above all: Who is doing the imagining here really?  Who, in other words, belongs to "這個社群(眾民間記者和專欄作者)"? 阿藹 owes us a fourth further explication here.

We know, by rules and by practice, that editors have the POWER to select articles, but other people do not. "Today's Focus," according to 阿藹, serves to realize the collective imagination. From which we can only conclude that what gets into "Today's Focus" will, not trivially, let us hope, influence what is to be imagined. Can we then avoid the impression, that the editors, holding the power to select, are gatekeepers of the "collective" imagination, just as the ego is of the id? The Election Committee for the Chief Executive, for instance, picks and chooses for the people of HK. It puts up a picture of what the people seem to desire. In this way, it may say, it is as well but helping realize the collective imagination of this city. I cannot quite tell the difference of one sort of imagination from the other sort; unless 阿藹 is prepared to imagine--in her own mind--an Inmedia community much more homogeneous than it seems now to be. But then, following a political thought widely held in this community, however homogeneous the collective is, it shall not be allowed to "marginalize" the poor little soul lying simmeringly in "18 層地獄," at least not so be allowed in an UNACCOUNTABLE way. Is it not natural, following this thought then, to ask, Who selected a particular article, and why? Nowhere in her article has 阿藹 tried to compare Inmedia, this imagining collective, to some other collective, which has routinely been made the object of Inmedia criticism. Why so?  阿藹 owes us a fifth further explication here.

At last, we hear the call: "請勿以編輯權力, 壓制言論, 獨立不獨立之說來扣帽子." Alas, 阿藹, being an editor and, presumably, active contributor to this place, could hardly fail to recognize that "權力", "壓制言論", "扣帽子" are nothing but the common vocabulary of many Inmedia writers when writing against what they happen not to like. If, according to these writers, editors in a mainstream media hold immense power, how can we ever avoid imagining--verily, this is one kind of "imaginging," "這個社群(眾民間記者和專欄作者)的自我想像," imagining whether the community is indeed at the mercy of some power, it being now held by Inmedia editors?

Why, more fundamentally, is the power to select articles for front page treatment not a form of POWER? I think neither Chomsky, nor Foucault, nor Derrida, nor Harvey, nor Castell, all, I fancy, being good authorities for this community, would deny that Inmedia editors have power, exercise power, and can potentially abuse power. They might exercise their power wisely, as in fact the Chief Executive, even if not directly elected, mght; but, all in all, these editors hold power tout court. Why is 阿藹 so uneasy with this description, when the same description is daily applied to other critical targets? Is this not, in my way of thinking, precisely a blind spot of Inmedia? 阿藹 owes us a sixth further explication here.

"這篇文章沒有經其他編輯審閱", so we shall not say that it speaks for the editorial board entire. But so far readers do see that in the ongoing discussion on the character of Inmedia, on various dark sides of editorial power (I maintain this description), and so forth, only articles written by the editors have been selected for the front page, they being, naturally, all in defense of the editorial position. Is this part of the natural result of "collective imagination" of this community? I imagine that the marking system is thievish and conducive to grudge; that the recent changes have indeed increased editorial power, as well as the chance to abuse it, immensely; and that both are very bad for Inmedia. Why are these imaginings not part of the collective imagination? "涉及獨立媒體風格方向," and my imaginings are sufficiently critical, sufficiently unheard of; "這個社群(眾民間記者和專欄作者)的自我想像," and my imaginings are, I hope, part of the community's, I being a member thereof; "以及對新人的鼓勵," and my imaginings may encourage new members to look at Inmedia differently, even though I myself am not quite new to it. Why, then, are my imaginings, clearly "涉及組織的自我想像和未來發展的方向定位," not put up on the front page? 阿藹 owes us a seventh further explication here.

I collect these many questions in one brief, which I hope I may put, not only to 阿藹, but also to editors and readers generally. Owing us seven further explications, 阿藹 has, constructively I think, helped raise more difficulties about her position, than she has tried to confront. With these seven difficulties, I beg from her an ANSWER. But if my technical incompetence has, past and present, caused any unhappy distortion to the layout, hopefully not to my message, I am ready to apologize.

 

Appendix: The Original Article by 阿藹

十二月, 超忙. 剛趕完<大事件>一書, 又是社會論壇, 昨天剛講完一堂 Free culture, creative commons and alternative media 的課, 可幸, 有看 inmedia 的同學不少. 同學問, 媒體行業很灰, 未來有何樂觀之處? 簡單地分享了獨立媒體網讀者調查中所反影的新階級趨向(new poor), 獨立媒體運動 vs. 主流媒體/價值的堅持.

雖然常常說, 獨立媒體是要藉著新技術開展一場媒體積極主義的運動, 可是, 每一步都是一個實驗, 朱凱迪一直在打民間採訪的草鞋, 而大家對技術運作和可能性的起點, 幾乎是零. 我不是一個搞技術的人, 亦質疑技術決定論, 但因為 freelance 工作關係, 每天網上見著有很多互聯網科技的高手, 收到好幾個自己看不明白的新技術電郵, 這兩年學到的東西, 比起大學還有多, 而且都是邊學邊做.

無聊的開場白講完, 回到正題.

這裡不是一個論壇

首先要講的是, inmedia 從一開始的定位是獨立媒體運動, 而並不是一個 forum. 運動是建基於對香港具體政治和媒體生態的分析, 然後定位, 再轉化為實踐.

一直以來, 香港都有很多 forums, 若論訪客人數, 自由程度, 我們大概比不上 discuss hong kong 和高登. 而它們亦發揮著滋養互聯網公共空間討論的功能.

但 inmedia 並不是純粹的 open forum. 從一開始, 我們就批評主流媒體市場化, 受政府和不同社會部門公關策略影響的問題, 強調要搞民間記者報導, 介入身邊周圍的社會事務, 發揮草根民主的力量. 言論自由不是純粹的 "吹水", 而是要發掘聽不到或被埋沒了的聲音, 帶進公共空間, 與主導的力量進行拉扯角力.

譬如說, 當整個主流媒體, 以製造歧視的報導手法去處理國內孕婦的新聞, 獨立媒體的價值當然不是去複製這些主流回聲(網上有簽名運動要求拒收國內孕婦), 而是去進行剖析與另類的報導(可惜, 我們並沒有做到這一點). 若有讀者來這裡罵 inmedia 民間採訪失敗, 沒有回應如此重要的社會議題, 我一定自我檢討, 想方法去動員更多民間採訪等等. 但若有人轉貼網上簽名運動過來, 然後質疑編輯為什麼不把它放上焦點呼籲聯署? 我會說獨立媒體的價值不在於當主流的回聲筒. 若該聯署轉貼後, 有一個很好的回應剖析當中的問題, 又另作別論.

獨立的意思不是沒有立場, 又或一種站於高高位置的審視. <大事件>一書裡, 雷子樂(主流記者)批評獨立媒體的民間記者立場偏向韓農, 成為政治宣傳機器, 失卻獨立性. 雷的批評, 把獨立等同於沒有立場(又或記者專業術語裡的客觀中立), 完全欠缺對媒體制度的分析. (首先 propaganda 涉及制度權力運作, 一個個人在大街上大叫打倒某政黨, 不能說是反該政黨的 propaganda [最多可以話佢痴咗]; Chomsky 對政治宣傳有很精彩的分析.) 主流記者完全可以批評民間記者, 指出其心態或方法所存在的問題, 分析層次上的 naive, 或立場根基的不紥實等等. 可是把 "有立場" 等同於 "不獨立", 正好是殖民制度下, 平庸政治的複製.

從 inmedia 成立至今, 編輯和其他朋友, 斷斷續續地寫了很多有關獨立媒體運動的文章, 若真的是網站忠實讀者, 應該會有點框架輪廓, 不至於要從 ABC 講起.

Version 4

我已忘記Version 1的模樣, 大概是所有最新文章在右手邊, 所有的討論在左手邊, 中間為焦點. 文章會在網上停留49-71小時(文章會停留兩個12am), 所以晚上12時過後最多人上載文章, 以令到自己的文章可以留得更長時間. 後來因為文章和討論越來越多, 左右兩邊超長, 文章缺乏分類, 所以搞了 version 2, 八個分類, 一個焦點, 並新增了RSS. 又面對新的問題 (有好些問題在讀者問卷調查中多番提出):

1. 焦點太少, 又因為民間報導為獨立媒體提倡的實踐, 藝評影評上焦點機會很微;
2. 以專欄來分類不合適, 有很多專欄是個人專欄, 所觸及的題目時有不同, 但卻全被編在健筆, 以至健筆一欄的文章有時候停留不到一天;
3. 專欄欄日形同虛設(被分類取代了);
4. 沒有空間於主頁發展多媒體, 因為被八個分類欄的列表佔去主要空間.
5. 新文章散播在八個分類裡, 很難找.

version 3 嘗試以小焦點, 讀者評分和多媒體角落去處理以上的問題, 但無甚效果, 因為

1. 參與評分人數不多, 而位置亦不顯眼;
2. 多媒體因為位置有限沒有向外開放, 讓作者自由上載.

version 4 做了大膽的嘗試

1. 以40多個 tag 取代8個分類
2. 增加焦點數目, 並開放主頁焦點的 html, 使多媒體信息如 youtube google video, flickr 和 soundtrack 等, 可以上主頁(要經過編輯調較, 以免搞亂頁面)
3. 行動日誌自動上主頁
4. 以最新近文章取代既有分類

當然, 編輯的權力和責任增加了, 但無需放大這編輯權力, 因為它對文章能見度的影響, 於 web2.0 的網絡邏輯是微乎其微.

讀者統計分析與 web 2.0

現在, inmedia 每月的 unique ip 訪客約為 70,000人, 當中有80% add to favorite, 亦即會再訪此網站. 當中只有3,000人是 inmedia 的登記用戶(社群), 估計有近1,000人是以 RSS 閱讀器讀取網站文章(透過bloglines有200多人). 絶大部份的人, 70,000-3,000=67,000人, 是透過 yahoo news categories, 搜尋器和文章連結而閱讀網站的文章的, 焦點不焦點對他們的閱讀習慣沒有影響. 而這個趨勢隨著 web 2.0 的發展會越來越明顯, 哪怕你的文章被網主打進 18 層地獄, 只要該網站的 infastructure 搞得好, 於搜尋器裡能找到, 並與其他網站或 blog連上, 有 track back 討論等, 就會被讀到. 而 inmedia 於 infastructure 上的財政和人力上的投入, 從比例上大概是香港網站之最.

所謂焦點, 其影響力不在於能見度, 而是更多涉及獨立媒體風格方向, 這個社群(眾民間記者和專欄作者)的自我想像, 以及對新人的鼓勵.

如果要增加每一篇文章的能見度, 我下一步會建議做的是於每一篇文章後面加 add to delicious 和 digg it 的功能, 使個別文章能延伸至其他的平台. 至於焦點的空間, 涉及組織的自我想像和未來發展的方向定位, 若有興趣就此作出討論, 無任歡迎. 但請勿以編輯權力, 壓制言論, 獨立不獨立之說來扣帽子.

把這次改動叫 version 4 的意思是會有 version 5, 6, 7, 但請先嘗試了解 inmedia 的一些基本理念和運作, 與 inmedia 的技術 interface 有多一點的互動; 老實說, 看到一些連 hyperlink 都懶得搞, 亂貼水蛇春咁長的網址將網站版面搞亂的貼子, 我會很質疑他們對這個空間有沒有基本的尊重.

小小技術 tips

基本上上載文章的方法沒有兩類, 只是加 tag 時要以 ctrl right click 來作多選.

其實在關於我們的 FAQ 裡有很多技術資訊(雖然還要更新).

註: 這篇文章沒有經其他編輯審閱

(阿野按)其他相關文章

(阿藹)獨立媒體version 4
(y.t)The Quiet Metamorphosis of Inmedia, or, the Route from a Forum of diverse voices to a Promoter of a peculiar outlook
(y.t)A Modest Proposal to the Editors of Inmedia, written against a Thievish Undertaking which has long plagued this Open and supposedly Accountable Forum

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