A writer who happens to use a blog as one medium amongst others

“Blogging” describes the medium rather than the activity. When one is blogging, they are writing with the intent to publish on a website that displays content in a reverse chronological feed.

But it also has certain connotations. A blogger will be young; will have a focus on the instantaneous and immediate; will be innovative, looking for page views, and untrained as a writer; and usually favours quantity over quality.

We can see the real confusion over the term when we look at how many large news organisations now publish their articles in a reverse chronological feed. Are journalists then bloggers? By definition, yes, by connotation, no.

Many great writers of the twentieth century started off as junior journalists, covering issues that fit most of my descriptions of a blogger above. But they were always writers—there wasn’t a term that was applied to them to diminish their work.

The great writers of the twenty-first century might never publish in print; their medium might always be the blog.

And make no mistake. They are still writers.

They are writers who happen to use a blog as one medium amongst others.

Studying Abroad in the Asia Pacific Century

If New Zealand is to gain from its proximity to new global economic power, we cannot simply expect the rewards to come to us.

New Zealand is fortunate both to be located in the Asia Pacific, and to have deep and long-standing ties with other countries in this region. As global economic power is increasingly focussed on our part of the world, our relative proximity to Asia rather than Europe has made it easier for more people to visit New Zealand, and has reduced costs for businesses exporting goods and services. Economically, we are reaping the rewards.

But one area in which we seem to neglect the importance of our location is in education. When government thinks about education in terms of the Asia Pacific century, it is thought about primarily as an “export”. In other words, education is a service that we can sell to other countries. Through thinking of education only in this way, we are missing out on the real educational opportunities that the Asia Pacific century presents us with.

The government has even established a new agency to develop our education exports to Asia. Education New Zealand (separate from the Ministry of Education) states explicitly that its two near-term outcomes are both to increase the economic value of international students studying in New Zealand, and to increase the economic value of education products and services delivered offshore. These are both worthy goals that will help to achieve the government’s goal of growing export markets, and to ensure that New Zealand has a competitive and productive economy.

However, in economic terms, we are neglecting the benefits to be had from the other side of the education equation. This side deals with sending young New Zealanders overseas to develop deep personal connections, to learn languages and skills, and to come to understand in a meaningful way the other countries in the Asia Pacific that will be so important to New Zealand’s future.

One reason we shy away from thinking about this side of the equation is that in the immediate term, it is thought about as an “import”. In other words, sending young New Zealanders overseas is an economic cost to New Zealand, because the money they spend on education is spent overseas and not domestically. The other reason we neglect this part of education in the Asia Pacific century is that we have a deep-rooted fear that sending young New Zealanders overseas will be to lose them forever to the brain drain.

But what I’ve learned from the past few years studying at a university in Singapore, in the heart of the Asia Pacific, is that two-way educational links are one of the most fundamental components necessary for New Zealand to take advantage of what this century will offer. And they must be two-way linkages. Just as we bring bright students from around the Asia Pacific to study at our schools and universities, so too must we send young Kiwis to spend extended periods of time at schools and universities throughout the region.

These young Kiwis will make deep friendships, will learn languages, and will move beyond the crass stereotypes we hold of other countries in the region. In the longer-term, these connections and understandings will come to bear on New Zealand’s economy in a meaningful way. They will ensure New Zealanders have the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to participate actively, even centrally, in the Asia Pacific. We would be, in this sense, “importing” critical connections in the region, and an accurate understanding of countries throughout it.

What I’ve also seen is that fears of a brain drain from New Zealanders studying overseas are overblown. In fact, they may be made up. What I’ve observed in myself and in the many other young Kiwis I know who study overseas is that time away from home in these formative years heightens our sense of our own national identities. At home, being a New Zealander is not something to be considered daily. Yet abroad, our national identity is always a sense of our own personal identity, and this can manifest as a strong desire to return home and to contribute to the life of this country.

One laudable government effort is the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia, awarded twice annually to encourage young Kiwis to study in Asia. However, a sizeable portion of these scholarships is spent on brief study tours of just a few weeks, where there is little time for deep connections and understandings to be formed. The length and depth of the connections we form are vitally important.

If we are to gain from the Asia Pacific century we cannot simply expect the rewards to come to us. Just as international students from around Asia make long journeys to come here to understand us, we must think carefully about the decisions we can make, both personally and nationally, to participate actively in this region, to come to understand properly its diversity and its opportunities. We should think about the individual life experiences and opportunities that will come to young New Zealanders from choosing to study overseas, as well as the longer-term benefits to New Zealand from those individual decisions to do so. The higher cost of studying overseas is an important consideration, but it can be thought about as an investment—an intelligent one at that, with critical and long-standing value to New Zealand.

You Are What You Read

Over longer periods of time we come to subconsciously take on the qualities and attitudes of the information we consume.

It pays, therefore, to give some thought to the incentives facing the producers of that information.

News sources funded by advertising face very different incentives to those that directly charge their consumers. The former are incentivised to maximise clicks, as their bottom lines come directly from what advertisers pay per CPM—the cost per thousand impressions of an advert. More thousands of views, more dollars.

We know what that incentivises. Rumourmongering, since making up something fantastical is sure to drive traffic. Listicles, since of course everyone does want to know 29 ways to get cheap airfares that airlines don’t want you to know about. And, more generally, shoddy content, since incisive writing wins only Pulitzers rather than page views.

By paying for news, you are aligning your interests with those of the news source. You want quality journalism that cares about the world and cares about what you consume. The news organisation only makes a profit by providing that.

If you are one of those people who complain about the quality of journalism but consume it for free online, you are part of the problem. Your actions drive producers’ decisions about what to produce—yes, even that click on your trackpad.


Note: The print news business is capital intensive (printing presses, delivery vans etc) so it is not a competitive market. It doesn’t therefore fully fit what I’m describing above—you can pay for your daily newspaper and still get shoddy writing.