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.
…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?