Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Viral 'baby yoga' Vid - Has The Internet Killed Journalism?

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a video of a woman swinging babies. It is called "Baby Yoga." It went viral, of course, as any spectacle that is put on the net these days are wont to.

Then, there was this blogger who "scored" an interview with the woman. He blogged about it in detail, including the original video. To be fair to this blogger, he covers his grounds in the interview by asking the woman in the video questions from different angles. 

But it's one guy's blog about one woman's way of teaching 'baby yoga.' That is fine with me.

But then, Time carried the piece under its "Healthland" banner. There was no reporting done. This means that no one bothered to interview other kids yoga teachers, or to even google and provide background information. The Time piece just said: 1. there's this viral video of 'baby yoga' (as if that is the definitive of baby yoga) and 2. there's this guy who blogged it, read it here (linked). 

What made it worse, was that @HuffingtonPostLiving tweeted the link to the Time piece. 

Cyberspace is full of freak show videos and this-is-just-me shooting off blogs.  And unfortunately, these get more eyeballs than well considered, well researched and well reported pieces.

But when media brand names that people trust for veracity and objectivity, and responsible reporting, etc., etc., latch on to these to get eyeballs, then it is truly a sad day indeed, and I'll finally have to conceed that yes, maybe the internet has killed journalism.

What do I have against Lena Fokina (i.e. baby swinging baby yoga teacher)? Nothing. But I do need to point out that she doesn't own the 'baby yoga' label. There are many other baby and kids yoga teachers, myself included, who don't swing babies around when we teach. 

Of course she is free to teach in her own way, and there are parents who found her lessons beneficial. One of the key learnings in yoga is that there are many paths to one truth. So we are always respectful of that.

What do I have against the blogger? Nothing. He wanted to find out more about this woman after watching her video, so he interviewed her and wrote it up. I do wish though that he had done some research and put that in his piece. But again, that's his choice and I'm respectful of that. 

But, and this is where I get a little upset. At the very least, the person at Time who wrote up its piece linking to the blog post should have done that. All one has to do is google kids or baby yoga and one will find a host of other information and resources such as the highly acclaimed YogaKids program and another well known program, Itsy, Bitsy Yoga. These would have provided a more complete picture to "the deal with baby yoga" as the Time headline proclaimed the piece to be about.

Just as there are more dynamic forms of yoga for adults, such as ashtanga and vinyasa flow practices, as well as gentle forms, there are different ways of teaching baby yoga. I teach it as bonding exercises for parents or caregivers and child.  

Yoga teachers, like professional journalists, train hard and for years in their vocation. Both are committed to seeking truth, albeit in different ways. I know, because I am both, and I'm passionately committed to both journalism and yoga. 

Ms Fokina has her way of teaching baby yoga; I have mine. But there are some principles and common beliefs that those in the news profession hold. In the day and age of Twitter, blogs, self-publishing and a barrage of information being posted on social networks all the time, it is even more critical that media organizations hold true and hold on tightly to these principles.

What is the difference between something posted by a media/news organization and someone on a blog? Readers expect 1. context 2. fact checking 3. accuracy 4. timeliness of information 5. objectivity (although that is questionable these days) and so on and so forth from the former.  Otherwise, seriously, why should anyone continue to pay for news and information. It's all free on Twitter and the blogosphere, and Facebook and YouTube and so on.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a profession called journalism. I hope it doesn't go away. Is there a way to make sound journalistic principles go viral?

By the way, when this video first went viral, there were many people who thought it was a hoax. And 'the blogger' is also a journalist, who writes on Russia for Time, and he says that he practices yoga as well. And if you HAVE to watch the video, be it is:  


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