It is hard to argue with the idea that the Online Citizen (TOC) is not a political website. Any reader will appreciate the political and often controversial nature of discourse on TOC.
Of course, being a 'political' website is one thing and requiring registration under rules governing the media is quite another. Nevertheless, one must assume that TOC's principals were aware of the context in which they operate; Singapore's invisible (and visible) red lines within which they must nimbly tread.
Consequently, TOC's gazetted status should not surprise analysts. It was bound to happen sooner or later. The fact that TOC has been gazetted is reflection of the growing influence of New Media on Singapore's political scene. Specifically, TOC's loyal following amongst politically aware Singaporeans.
Now it is up to TOC to take the site's operations up a few notches. It should keep its nose clean while continuing opinionated reporting with a constructive bent; create a structure which can manage the site as a proper news media organization. A structure virtually necessary if the site is to grow and fulfil its potential.
Creating a sustainable organization is no easy task and cannot be done overnight. Most of TOC's hard work is done. TOC has a brand image it can build upon.
One has sympathies with TOC volunteers who will in future have to make considerable efforts to abide by 'corporate standards' to maintain the site. However, without a proper structure TOC will find it difficult to grow as an organization. With growth comes greater ability to influence change.
With focus, vision and some luck, TOC may compete effectively with the mainstream media as a news resource, at least within certain niche segments. In order to do so, TOC must embrace the system.
Fighting the system will most certainly be counterproductive. Joining the system does not mean compromising one's ideals, it means tempering them with a slight dose with reality.
TOC should wear its gazetted status as a badge of honour. It is TOC's bar mitzvah party. Now it is up to TOC's principals to use their new found recognition for positive change.