FEATURE: Blogosphere: The New Frontier?
This was the featured article in Pacific Ties’s The Dialogue Issue, Winter 2009.
By Evelina Giang
The journalism industry is hurting these days. The Los Angeles Times announced last month that it will be cutting 300 jobs, and many newspapers and magazines are following suit. With the recent cessation of print publication for AsianWeek, the longest-running English-language newspaper for Asian Americans, and with “America’s newspapers narrowing their reach and their ambitions” (according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism), extensive mainstream media coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is dwindling.
In a time when relevant news coverage is scarce, AAPIs have turned to another outlet.
Weblogs, more commonly known as blogs, have opened an avenue for people to create their own voice. Blogs are more than free online personal journals where writers or “bloggers” can write about their day and give the Internet their two cents. Blogs have become a forum where the voices of AAPIs can be heard, where their talents as singers, artists, film makers and actors can be showcased, and where they can raise awareness of AAPI issues. With a potential audience of over 1.5 billion Internet users, according to Internet World Stats in February, “blogs build awareness of [AAPI issues] that isn’t just limited by geography,” said Professor David K. Song, who teaches the class New Asian American Media at UCLA.
However, blogs are not replacing journalism, added Song. Instead, bloggers “eschew traditional media gatekeepers to fill in the gaps that major outlets overlook, either because these outlets might consider something a non-issue or believe that there isn’t a big enough demographic to warrant coverage,” said Song.
Unfortunately, mainstream media does not have the room to give due credit to the wide range of achievements in the AAPI community, but blogs are compensating for that.
Take Phil Yu’s blog AngryAsianMan.com. Yu jokes that editors wouldn’t know what to do with him if he wanted to publish AngryAsianMan posts in a mainstream print newspaper, but his blog has actually become the go-to for Asian American-related news and events. Attracting thousands of readers, his blog picks up on where mainstream media falls short. Yu draws attention to racism, documents anti-Asian incidents and remarks in the media, and promotes Asian American musicians, movies, actors and comic book artists.
“I’m writing for the sake of my own expression. I’m writing for people coming from the similar same place as I am— young Asian Americans who are interested in what’s going on in the world and who try to engage in that,” said Yu, whose blog comes up whenever “Asian” or “Asian man” is Googled.
LAUNCHING AAPIs IN THE SPOTLIGHT
And blogs aren’t just talking about the issues. There are numerous artists trying to hit the radio airwaves or make it in Hollywood; just check out YouTube.com. But, how many AAPI pop stars, musicians and actors have you seen break into mainstream media? Come into the online community of blogs, known as the blogosphere, and see talents get their deserved exposure.
Take Disgrasian.com, for example, a pop culture blog started by friends Jennifer Wang and Diana Nguyen. A marriage between the words ‘disgrace’ and ‘Asian,’ Disgrasian started as “hit list of disgraceful behavior,” said Wang, who co-founded the blog with her friend Nguyen in 2007. The blog grew and the bloggers realized that in order to talk about Disgrasians, they also needed to talk about “Amazians,” or amazing Asians. Among these weekly “Amazians” posts are “Rock on Asians” for noteworthy Asian music artists and “Babewatch” for good-looking Asians in pop culture. And so, a “Disgrasian Dictionary” was compiled, with their blog reports satirizing almost every person and event from pop culture to politics to sports.
“We wanted to take the air out of [disgrace] a little bit so that we can talk about it in a sort of like light-hearted pop way. Most Asian and Asian Americans can agree that Asians can be really harsh and judgmental. We expect perfection, and we expect to be the best. Say if we’re looking at Bai Ling having a ‘nipple slipple’ as we call it on the red carpet, we’re going to be rough on her because that’s what we do,” said Wang.
SlantEyefortheRoundEye.com, a blog written by “Slanty,” also highlights AAPI achievements and the community’s influence on pop culture. In his yearly reviews of “Bests,” Slanty devotes a few blog entries that spotlight Asian Americans who should be remembered for their specific achievements. There’s the band Morning Benders, who was the “Best Indie Band with an Asian American Front Man (Who’s Also Got a Foot Fetish),” and comedian Esther Ku, who was the “Most Viewed Asian American Comic of the Year Who Everyone Seemed to Hate But I Still Didn’t Mind.” Blogs highlight artists who don’t receive enough exposure in mainstream media, and whose talents would otherwise be unknown if it wasn’t for the Internet.
Slanty wanted to get his perspective out there with his blog, and when asked what keeps him blogging, he said that the “big part of the reason I blog is simply because I love seeing all the great people from our community who do their thing—no matter what it is. I just can’t help not talking about the people in [the Asian American community] because I do get excited when I see Asian American and Asian faces breaking new ground, pushing new boundaries or just simply being comfortable with who they are and saying to everyone around them, ‘This is who I am.’”
KEEPING AAPI LENS ON EVERYDAY SUBJECTS
Some AAPI bloggers have also used blogs as journals, except they’re online and accessible to millions of readers. Harvard University student Lena Chen’s blog, SexandtheIvy.com, chronicles her sexual and romantic experiences at the Ivy League during her sophomore to junior year (2006-2007). Chen’s blog has become very popular among AAPI female college students, from whom she receives the most reader responses, though she doesn’t know if it’s because she’s Asian or from an Ivy League. The reader responses are mostly positive, but Chen says whenever she does receives criticism, it’s usually racist.
“The criticism directed toward me is definitely more racist. If I were white, they’ll probably call me a ‘slut’ half the time, but instead they call me a ‘chink’ half the time and a ‘slut’ the other half. It’s definitely unexpected that I’m Asian,” said Chen, who now regularly blogs at theChicktionary.com.
Then there’s 8Asians.com, which asks the question, “If you put 8 Asians in a room, how much diversity would you get?” Breaking the often homogenous stereotype AAPIs receive in mainstream media, 8Asians’s bloggers range from liberal to conservative, activists to pop culture junkies, gay rights activists to conservative Christians. Don’t expect the same response when you ask the bloggers the same question.
“Hopefully [when readers come to 8Asians.com, they get] something to the point of, ‘why was that really angry political post sandwiched between a blog post about Tila Tequila and a discussion about boobies?’” said Ernie Hsiung, founder of 8Asians.com.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST BLOGGERS
Whether the focus is on community issues, pop culture or everyday life, all the bloggers agree that it is essential that AAPIs blog. According to a Pew Internet and American Life study of Asian Americans and the Internet, 75 percent of English-speaking Asian American adults use the Internet, which makes AAPIs the “new generation of Internet savvy users,” says Hsiung. This presence means that the AAPI voice can be heard in masses. Blogs can be used to create a dialogue that disseminates the stereotypes in the mainstream media and promote AAPI presence in entertainment and pop culture.
“I’m not really an angry guy,” says Yu, “[but] what bothers me the most is the apathy and silence from the Asian American community. It’s extremely important Asian Americans blog just because we have such little mainstream influence. We don’t have our voices there. Blogs are definitely a way for us to get our voices out.”
Written by Evelina Giang, Staff Writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org