[Air-l] Talk-backing

Uyen T Nguyen Pham thuuyen at csufresno.edu
Tue Jul 22 12:37:45 PDT 2003

Dear Jacob, and others members,

In Vietnam, “talk-backing” is becoming more and more common among about 400,000 Internet users (quite a small number in comparison with a population of 81 million.)

Sorry that I am replying a little late. I am a newcomer to this interesting forum. I have been Director of one of the two most popular Vietnamese News sites, www.vnn.vn.  By the way, I hope you all have gotten the second annual report on cyberspace: "The Internet under Surveillance - Obstacles to the free flow of information online,” (19 June 2003, Reporters Without Borders.)  (http://www.oneworld.net/external/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rsf.fr%2Farticle.php3%3Fid_article%3D7280). In the part about Vietnam, our site has been noted as a “government information site.”  As one of the developers of this news site from a portal of an IT company, I think this is an overgeneralization. It seems typical that when we don’t have enough information, we paint situations with a broad brush. I am now studying at an American university, and I would be very happy to share what I know from my practical experience in our online journalism, if some of you are interested.

Back to the “talk-back”: the Vietnamese are used to discussing news in offices, on the streets, everywhere. But though the Internet was introduced into VN in 1997, by the end of 2001, there were only the interactive form of forums (on or off-line). Not too much about responding to news items. The first “news” discussion online could be seen in the forum “Today’s issue” of vnn.vn since the day it was established in September 2001. The September 11th tragedy made the forum come into its own. An average of 200 opinions was received each day, and they were very opposite opinions.  

Another news site, “Readers write,” then opened, and found success too. The news networks from this time on became more interactive. We know that Vietnamese users like topics such as human interest, international politics (war, peace, conflicts ), and, of course, topics concerning their own  lives (policies, prices, diseases). Human interest stories brought the audience to a new stage of interactivity. People wanted to help those in trouble. Our office even had to set up a group to receive donations and offers to volunteer. This is real interactivity! 

Another new common form of “talk-backing” is the online interview. In this, the Web sites invite people to appear as guests and interact with the public. This is done one or two times a week. An example is the interview with the president of IDG Patrick McGovern, who came to our office in Ha noi and responsed in the real time to questions of the VNN readers (http://www.vnn.vn/507/2003/7/18868/)  These online, interactive interviews elicit a good response, especially if the topic or person  is  interesting, such as about hot issues.

One thing I can see as a difference in the behavior of Vietnamese users is that they like to talk about macro issues and, most of the time, talk from an optimistic perspective. It seems like “talk-backing” is the kind of active political expression that the Vietnamese historically have been used to. 
There are about 400,000 internet users inside country and who knows how many from the2.5 million overseas. At the present time, “talk-backing” in all its forms should contribute to citizen involvement.

I hope I could help a little, Jacob. And I would like to learn much from your opinions too.


Uyen Thu Nguyen-Pham
Fulbright Fellow
California State University, Fresno
Mass Communication & Journalism Department
thuuyen at csufresno.edu

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