A Lesson About Responsible Blogging

March 14, 2007

One reason is that I’m trying to launch a youth blogging program at the youth media development program where I work. I am working with several young people to really understand blogging as a tool for developing young writers and for learning how to analyze the world around us. So, I have been reading books, papers and articles about blogging. Along with regularly posting at this blog, I kept my own personal blog for nearly two years, and read several blogs on a daily basis. I read blogs because enjoy the diversity of news I am directed to, the multitude of voices and, yes, the sometimes snarky commentary.

But as I discovered recently, the unaccountability of blogging can be dangerous.

Last week, I wrote a post about an ethnic media forum that was held in response to the AsianWeek “Why I Hate Black People” column. In this post, I identified that one of the organizers was David Lee or the Chinese American Voters Education Committee in San Francisco’s Chinatown. I met Lee when I was working AsianWeek and he was an important source when it came to issues of Asian American voting trends and city politics. Let me be honest here, I began working at AsianWeek at a time when the Fang family’s name was often in the newspaper, mostly accompanied by stories about political insiderism and corruption. I believed that AsianWeek was an important media outlet for the Asian American community but I didn’t quite trust the publishers, and therefore was wary of people in the community that they seemed to trust. So, I made an assumption about David Lee – mostly that he was close to the Fangs and had an interest in defending them. Yes, insert that annoying saying about “When you assume you make an ….”

After I wrote about the forum and Lee, some of my comments were reposted elsewhere and emailed around the community. Lee contacted me shortly afterwards to tell me that I had it wrong. He wrote:

I never once suggested that … anyone defend AsianWeek or Kenneth Eng. I have said repeatedly that Kenneth Eng was wrong and AsianWeek was wrong to publish his hate-filled column. That is why I called for the ethnic media to take ownership of the problem and to address it publicly. When a member of the ethnic media crosses the line, its imperative that ethnic media as an association hold the violator accountable. I was at the NAM forum and I heard a lot of criticism of AsianWeek. Ethnic media leaders uniformly denounced Kenneth Eng. I don't see how any responsible journalist or member of the community could characterize the forum as a defense of AsianWeek or the Fangs.

Just to clarify, I didn’t see the forum as a defense of AsianWeek, but I was concerned that the forum would focus only on tensions between blacks and Asians and not why AsianWeek decided to publish this magazine. Like I said before, even though Ted Fang did not really tell us why the column was published, other people addressed the issue.

Anyway, after our email exchange, I spoke to Lee to try and understand more clearly the work of the Chinese American Voter Education Committee (CAVEC) and actually learned some interesting things. For example, CAVEC was founded back in 1976 and is the oldest organization dedicated to voter registration and education in the Asian American community. Lee, who grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown himself, took over in 1992.

“Our main work here is about empowering the Asian American community,” Lee told me. “It’s about getting them to vote.”

In 1996, Lee helped develop a system to do exit polls for Asian American voters. “Policy makers understand polls,” he said. “It was important to get that information out there. Because before that, there would be many instances where people would make up what the Asian community wanted. The polls were a viable way to show how the community was thinking and voting.”

Ever since Lee took over at CAVEC, he has been integral in trying to work with ethnic media in order to have them be an important tool for political education.

“Over 50 percent of ethnic media used to be dedicated to homeland news and we wanted to change that,” Lee said. “Especially since so many of their readers identify with American culture.”

One fascinating thing that Lee told me was how he helped organize another forum about Asian and Black relations back in 1997, when the Chronicle published a front-page illustration that showed “two Asian women holding up the decapitated head of a black man” in order to illustrate the tensions between the two communities. The forum was similar to the one around the AsianWeek column and Lee said it helped the two communities communicate about the issues.

“Since there have been long-standing tensions in the Bayview and Visitacion Valley, even before 97,” Lee said. “Anytime we have a large group moving into a place that has been mainly African American, there are problems.”

Lee said that in 1999 he was involved in organizing yet another forum addressing relations between blacks and Asians around the issue that Asians were feeling discriminated against in public housing.

“There was this sense that Asians were taking over public housing from the black community that had been there for a long time. Asians were complaining about racist attacks against them,” Lee said. “We tried to facilitate media discussions about this issue. We invited all kinds of different people who were residents to write columns. Columns by black residents were translated into Chinese and printed in the Sing Tao and columns by Asians were translated into English and printed in black newspapers.”

All in all, talking to Lee was enlightening. Hearing about how the tensions between blacks and Asians – especially here in San Francisco – is such a complicated issue, often fanned by the media, makes me even more upset at Eng’s simplistic tirade. I also think it is an issue that perhaps we can look at in a more complex way in Hyphen. In what other cities has there been such a problem in the public housing system? What kinds of programs and multicultural alliances have sprung out of these tensions? It seems like a situation rife with really interesting stories.

Otherwise, this whole thing made me think a lot about responsible blogging. My unfounded opinions about David Lee were unnecessary. It would have been a lot more interesting to just talk to him in the first place. As I move forward in expanding this blog and working with young people around media issues, I think I’ve learned a great lesson.




what lesson did you learn, though?if you hadn't posted your opinion of lee, you probably never would have had that conversation with him. i'm not saying that people should post nastiness about each other to get dialogue started, but many people only present themselves when their backs are against the wall.i think this is the power of blogging: it's not like a newspaper where you have to get it right the first time because no one reads the retractions. you are expected to post half-baked ideas, get smacked down for them, revise them and repost.naturally, a blog for an actual magazine like hyphen should hold itself to a higher standard, but it's not as if your opinion of lee was unfounded or ignorant. you had real reasons for it, and those reasons are still legitimate.it's also not as if your former opinion of lee was wrong. i'm just as suspicious of your sudden, complete turnaround on him as i would have been of a hysterical condemnation of him, if that was what you had originally posted (although it wasn't).what i'm saying is, now you have a more complete picture and that's good. but keep in mind that you have a more complete picture because you wrote of your suspicions of the man in a public forum where he felt he had to defend himself. naturally he's going to cast himself in the best light possible. it doesn't mean that the picture he painted of himself to you under these circumstances is a completely accurate one.
Its easy, always easy to find negative articles about blacks and Asian. Well not just Asian, but Blacks and every other ethnic group in the U. S. and how theres tension with them and Blacks. I guess you have to look at the overall source, the White media, which in my opinion is to divide and conquer. Blacks have never been a friend with mainstream mass media. The media is powerful. Media could either build bridges, or create gaps. Remember the saying no news is good news. I read this story, it was about an Asian American that was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam war. Because he looked so much like the enemy he caught hell from the white soldiers, they him called him that famous derogatory word used to describe Vietcong in the 60s, daily. In the beginning he was alone and didnt fit in with any groups, so he was tormented by the White Soldiers repeatedly until one day these group of Black Soldiers confronted the Soldiers that tormented him. He became bestfriends with one of the Black Soldiers, they were unseperable, for the first time on this tour he felt safe. Oneday their Unit was on patrol and they were under heavy fire from the Vietcong. The Asian man was shot in the leg and was immobilized. The unit retreated, His best friend did not move with the unit. He stayed behind,went againt the enemy fire and carried his friend to safety. This would be the last time they would see each other for 20 years. the Asian man had married and settled in Hawaii. He told his wife about his tour in Vietnam and the man that saved his life and protected him from his internal enemies as well. His wife hired a Private Investigator and found his friend living in Detroit, who to was married with Children. After 20 years they were re-united and the Asian man was finaly able to say thank you to a man he considered as his brother. I found a few more great stories of Asians and Blacks befriending each other The 2 UCLA sudents that became bestfriends and represented the U. S. Olympic Team in the 60s, another great documentary as you read about the things they had to endure as both Minorities of that time. I dont remember which one that won the gold, but a must see. Im sorry if I rambled, but I wanted to promote something that probably would not get displayed in main media. I would like to give Hyphen a thumbs up for not being totally biased and being impartial to some of the subjects of race. At the same time I do see a little emulation to mainstream media when it comes to certain matters. In the the opening comments I agree with some of the solutions proposed, but I would like to see something no other media has attempted. Instead of the bad media surrounding these 2 ethnic groups show some positive ones. Its there. If you do this you will see the bridge built over the gap
It's sad to see that there is a gap between blacks and asians because there is so much we have in common. Two examples that come to mind is 1 Slavery, African-Americans are decendants of slaves and Koreans were slaves to the japanese in WWII. All Asians and African-Americans are minorities. Both groups are viewed as underclass in media.Many problems faced in america are the same for both groups.Instead we let fear,sterotypes and parents thats right PARENTS dictate about how we should feel about each other. Like the person above me wrote we need to focus on the positive and bridge those gaps. I'm a African-American male and I'm going to do more research on postive things that Asian- Americans and African- Americans have done to try to bring them to light.