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Old 09.12.2004, 12:27   #1
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Default Blogrel: Fan of Armenia spins a web for world wide writing

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Blogrel: Fan of Armenia spins a web for world wide writing

By Suren Musayelyan
ArmenianNow Reporter

His parents are from the United States and Ireland, he grew up in Britain and now lives in Japan. But Matt Malcomson’s fascination with Armenia has led him to devote a website to this country.

The 37-year-old web manager, who works for the Tokyo-based Nature Publishing Group, decided to start his web blog in the spring of this year.

Blogrel, standing for Blog (a contraction of Web log) and Grel (“to write” in Armenian), is the name he created for his website, which has become quite popular in the last nine months and now has about 70 page views a day.

Malcomson describes it as a place where people can comment on issues important to Armenia “without extreme emotions and vitriolic arguments typical of online forums”.

“I found lots of places on the Internet to find news about Armenia, but few places to have an intelligent discussion of cultural and political issues,” he says.

“There are lots of bloggers who pretend to be journalists, which I wanted to avoid. I wanted to encourage people who held points of view about Armenia to share their feelings in a constructive way, and hopefully learn something myself.”

Malcomson, who has never stayed in Armenia for more than three weeks, says most people reading his posts never guess that he is based in the Far East. “I take that as a compliment,” he adds.

Malcomson first encountered Armenian culture in north-east Turkey in 1997 when he visited Ani, only vaguely aware of its history. On subsequent visits to Lebanon, Syria and Iran in 1997, he met Armenians.

After that he decided to travel to Armenia and came here in 2000, traveling through from Georgia to Iran. During this trip, he says he was lucky to meet with photojournalist Onnik Krikorian, who is now the most frequent contributor on Blogrel.

The photojournalist describes Malcomson as a nice guy who has a genuine love for Armenia. He praises his Blogrel effort. “I think that Matt’s is one of the most professional among the few about Armenia in terms of its structure and contents,” Krikorian says.

Malcomson has visited Armenia four more times since then, getting to know the country and its people well. “Everything I have done in Armenia and everyone I have met has been interesting and stimulating. I feel there is such energy in Armenia amongst young people, who want to make their life and their country better,” he says.

“The most interesting thing for me in learning about Armenia has been seeing this incredible pride, passion, and fierce will to survive.”

Malcomson tried to express this feeling in his blog, which he considers a good way to supplement “a lot of good writing going on in Armenia”.

Blogging is a relatively new trend for Armenia. It originated in various countries partly as a means to overcome strict censorship in official media or defamation laws and partly as a cheap and easy way for anyone to put their thoughts out for public consumption via the Internet.

Bloggers are the people who create blogs – a selection of news picked from different publications and supplied with comments from both the blogger and readers. Operated by independent opinion writers and sometimes news organizations themselves, blogs are often criticized for their bias in setting the news agenda.

In his article “The Web: Blogs Reshaping Political News” (United Press International, June 16, 2004) UPI Science News writer Gene Koprowski describes blogs as “not quite pure news, not quite salacious rumors, but something of both”.

Malcomson defends his fellow bloggers and wants to see more blogs about Armenia becoming available on the Internet: He says: “I think it's a great trend. It would be great to see the penetration of blogs in Armenia approach what it has in Iran, where they are extremely widespread, and are a real social force.”

Malcomson allows comments on all his posts and says they attract people with a wide range of political viewpoints. “As an outsider, I try to keep my posts from having political bias, because then people would view Blogrel as ‘pro this’ or ‘anti-that’. However, I encourage commenters to state their views,” he explains.

Matt Malcomson’s Blogrel can be accessed at www.blogrel.com

He also has a lot of information about Armenia available on www.malcomson.com
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