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Monday, July 16, 2012
FRANCINE Marañon-Uy, a dear friend and colleague in the Negrense organic agricultural movement, asked me where I get the information that I insert in my articles.
The reply is very simple: nowadays, in many cases from project reports I wrote but largely from search engines, especially Google. Online search engines beat wading and sifting through tons of hard-copy literature.
To be sure, I have access to thousands of hard copy literature on development, environmental and human rights issues. However, I simply don’t have time to go through them just to get data. Often, the information I need are also available—and easier—to find online anyway.
Since I read and review hot community news (at least, from my end), I surf through online editions of current and past editions of mainline local, national, and international newspapers. Other favorite sites include official government or corporate websites, especially on quotable quotes on policy.
I read the pros and cons on the issue, especially those who challenged my views—or prejudices, if you will. I check and double-check on controversial assertions from several websites.
If ever I visit blogs, I read mostly their arguments, and then Google their sources of information. Sometimes, I do a Yahoo search, mainly to confirm what Google has found—or failed to find.
Often, my problem is not the lack of information, but a surfeit of them. Info overload! The challenge is to choose the most relevant to support my ideas.
My greatest fear is to write arguments that I cannot back up with relevant facts. I know I’ll end up with mere assertions, badly thought out. No one likes to be caught with their pants down, looking and sounding stupid with ideas that are easy to rebut.
Then I reflect, and reflect some more. If I’m unconvinced with my arguments, I put the article on hold. If the draft article fails to get traction, either I delete it or forget about it altogether.
Readers review my opinions, often through emails. They agree or disagree, or add dimensions to the issues I raise. Whatever their views, I welcome them if only because their comments signal that I’m connecting with readers out there.
And oh, I answer all their letters. Many senders, in fact, find their way to my space as guest columnists, subject to annotations. I make editorial corrections, while keeping hold of their essential ideas.
Sometimes, it takes me days to complete a column. That is, I distance myself with the article to allow my ideas to percolate and get a sense of what I want to say.
When the Muse hits me though, I can write and finish a piece in an hour. That happens when I have to dig deep in my experiences that have yet to find their way in written form and posted online or on peer-reviewed articles for some international magazines.
Of course, I don’t write columns every time. Often I get stuck with other work commitments. So it helps that I prepare some articles ahead of time, half-cooked, so to speak. When I’m pressed for time, I could “cook” and finish the article.
My biggest problem is to be in a place with no internet access, say in a remote resort in Palawan, or even in Murcia. I have to experiment writing a column in my laptop, upload the digital file via Bluetooth to my cellphone and send the article via my cellphone’s general packet radio service (GPRS) feature.
When I’m abroad, I have to factor in different time zones. The real killer is to be somewhere in North America where nighttime there is daytime here. So I get a different dimension with deadlines and real time.
Otherwise, getting in touch with local Negros or national news is a no sweat effort. The borderless and timeless cyberspace makes me feel that I have never left the country.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 16, 2012.