I’m not a tw*t

Joanna Geary at the Journalism Leaders Forum from Chris Unitt on Vimeo.

Last week I got a little angry for a couple of reasons.  First, Will Perrin linked to an article on Hold The Front Page about hyperlocal news sites, which was full of some quite ignorant comments by the old school of journalism such as:

The only people who read such illiterate ?local? online rubbish are the halfwits who spend the wee small hours writing such tosh and railing against the unfairness of life, instead of going out and getting one.

and

…Rather than monkeying about behind a keyboard, wouldn’t they be more use going out and getting real stories rather than allowing matey down the road to continue his feud with Fred the Neighbour in full view of anyone with internet access?

Will rightfully just felt sorry for them but it made me kind of mad.  And then Chris Unitt posted the above video of Joanna Geary arguing against some quite astounding statements, and I got even madder.

So I’ve been thinking, Why?  Why do these people make me kind of angry?  I suppose it’s because they’re talking about me and bloggers like me.  And telling anyone who’ll listen that they should form some pretty negative preconceptions about me before so much as reading my work, checking my whereabouts online or talking to me.  And that seems sort of unfair – that people who listen to them won’t come to me with an open mind with a sensible amount of natural caution, but with quite a closed one thinking my medium means I’m not to be trusted.

I’m not mad (eccentric yes, mad no).  I’m not a liar (too much Catholic guilt for that). Most importantly, I’m Not Stupid. I actually don’t think I’m that unusual in being Not Stupid. A lot of bloggers are Not Stupid enough to realise filling a blog with personal gripes, neighbourhood wars, scurrilous rumours and conjecture makes for a miserable read and isn’t going to get them or their blog very far.

So us local bloggers don’t do that.  We tell stories about our community from our own personal perspective, admittedly – I have never made any claim that Digbeth is Good is completely impartial – but by in large we keep things real.  And as we go on telling local stories using our own, personalised voices people reading them get to know us, talk to us and hopefully, if we’re doing it right, trust us.

What was most interesting about the video was the opening gambit of, “I don’t trust what I read on a blog.  I may do if I know the person, but chances are I won’t know the person.” Er…chances are you will, either online or offline, especially with a hyperlocal blog.  People reading the Digbeth is Good blog may then find and befriend over Twitter or Facebook and get to know me that way.  Or they’ll meet me in the flesh – I don’t just sit at home ‘monkeying about behind a keyboard’. I go to stuff going on locally – be they Residents’ Association meetings, art launches, festivals or pub crawls (a girl’s gotta drink).  I know a surprising amount of my readers and have some sort of personal relationship with a lot of them.

I’m not saying journalists should come to my, or anyone’s blog, blindly trusting it.  Neither does Jo – she stresses that journalists should be cautious of all their sources.  Just that it would be better for both journalists and bloggers if they came to blogs with an open mind.  Because if they don’t , bloggers get tarnished with a rather dirty brush and journalists seriously miss out.

Imagine I went to a party full of strangers but, before entering, resolved to assume everyone within is a twat?  If I did that, I probably won’t find out the girl with the nibbles shares my passion for horror films, or that the host shares my morbid sense of humour, or that the guy by the drinks is the man of my dreams.  Because I’ll be too busy thinking they’re all twats, I’ll end up leaving early, alone and miserable.

That’s all I ask – for people not to assume I’m a twat before getting to know me or my work.  Is that so much?

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12 Comments »

  1. Dave Harte said

    I hate to confess but I don’t trust a lot of what I read on blogs either – even if I do know the person. But then I don’t trust a lot of what I read in newspapers, hear on the radio or see on television. Nor do most of us. Too often this debate treates the audience as if it’s on the receiving end of a magic bullet.

    What’s so powerful about blogging is that in using first person it invites critical engagement from the outset – it situates the reader as an active partner in creating meaning. At times like this I always find Roland Barthes useful (hey, doesn’t everyone?):
    “the writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world (the world as function) is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages. (S/Z 5)”
    Retrieved from: http://elab.eserver.org/hfl0250.html

  2. Well said.

    (But which party am I supposed to be at, by the drinks?)

  3. mike said

    I smell fear. A good hyperlocal blog fills the gap that the newspapers and journalists have decided leave, possibly because there is no money in it. A great hyperlocal blog is the newspaper for the community.

  4. Joanna Geary said

    Hi Nicky,
    Excellent points very well made.
    I’m writing this from my phone so it’s a shorter response than your post deserves, apologies.
    I come across the opinions expressed in that video more than I would like to. It worries me a lot. I understand the argument that mainstream publications may be more aware and more likely to be subject to laws and codes of practices, but this does not mean these publications never break them, nor does it necessarily make publications unaware of these rules dishonest or misleading.

  5. i very rarely see a journalist at the community and other meetings i go to

    nor do i see them writing up big complex planning applications that will affect the area for the next 100 years

    community websites provide a level of detail and coverage that papers haven’t had the resources, nor sadly the inclination to cover for decades. the press should live with the good local sites and work with them to achieve better news coverage for all

  6. […] including a fantastic metaphor describing the situation can be found on her blog. Share […]

  7. […] Full post at this link… […]

  8. mike said

    Joanna Geary said: “…mainstream publications may be more aware and more likely to be subject to laws…”

    Bloggers are subject to the same laws, as mentioned in the video clip, and may need to be more careful unless they have the financial back-up to defend a case in court.

    80% of news, in the broadest sense, I consume is from blogs because the mainstream is too slow, too shallow, too broad, and don’t cover topics I’m interested in. Furthermore as a consumer of blogs I’m not stupid or a tw*t either.

  9. admin said

    Cheers people, was very pleasantly surprised by the reaction to this. Thanks for not disagreeing with the title statement. 🙂

  10. Nick said

    I’m starting to get the giggles every time is see the phrase citizen journalist presented in quotation marks: “citizen journalist”.

    We all know that ” + ” is the journalists short hand for this probably isn’t true, (or we have no evidence) so “citizen journalist” must also be the shorthand for their belief that citizens can’t possibly do what journalists have been doing.

    Oddly though, sometimes the bit between the speech marks is true.

  11. cyberdoyle said

    I agree with Mike, I smell fear too. Also suspect a lot of suits are ignorant as well.

  12. I agree that there is fear aplenty in the journalism world, a fear brought about by a complete lack of any understanding on how journalists can engage with the web community and add value. Most are stuck in the idea that they are the sole arbiters of what is and is not valuable for us the public to consume.

    Ultimately though it matters not what they think as the way that the world is going is against them and they can have as many conferences as they like – it will not change the way things are going.

    Perhaps they should look at their own house – do I believe everything I read in the so called ‘quality’ press, of course not. Do I believe anything I read in the tabloids?

    Joanna is right and the sooner they start to engage rather than preach the happier they will be and who knows they may even find a way to add some value.

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