I’m afraid that The Nose has been much neglected of late. But I’ve not been idle.
I spent the first six months of the year blogging for the Guardian, as part of it’s pilot venture into local news. It was an great project to be a part of, combining scrutiny of the council with local grassroots community stories, and giving me the chance to do loads of multimedia reporting.
My favourite stories were those when I was on the ground in communities that journalists don’t normally get to visit (either through lack of time, or lack of interest). My report about a community outreach project in the Calders, or learning about the work of The Craigmillar Chronicle, for example. I “embedded” myself with critical mass bike protesters to see what happens on one of their regular bike rides around the city – with this one ending with the arrest of one of the bikers. And I loved working with guest bloggers and citizen journos, using people power to analyse and dissect council meetings like this one about the controversial Edinburgh trams project.
The beatblogger job also gave me a good picture of the level of digital activity across the city – which, as you might expect, is a patchwork of both intense activity and online black spots.
Some areas are digitally active – Leith, for example, has a cluster of blogs and creative activity, such as Greener Leith and blogs linked to The Leither Magazine and Leith FM. Broughton has The Spurtle, and hyper-local blogger Fay Young. But some of the communities in Edinburgh that would most benefit from blogging and online engagement, like Craigmillar, Wester Hailes and Granton don’t seem to have any bloggers.
Does it matter? Well, there’s a strong argument that good local blogs can act like good local citizens – raising the profile of their neighbourhoods, ensuring that action is taken on things like rubbish, graffiti, potholed roads and anti-social behaviour (using tools like fix-my street, which is embedded into the Guardian local websites for this very reason.) They can be used for campaigns, like opposition to the Leith biomass plant, or to organise cool community and cultural events, like the recent Portobello “Big Beach Busk.”
They also let people take some control of the perception of their communities, which can be just as important as the reality. One of the frequent (and valid) complaints I heard from people in Craigmillar and Wester Hailes was that the media only reported on crime in their areas – not the many positive things that were happening.
Of course, not everyone has access or knowledge of how to to use these tools. That’s something that I would like to be able to address in my next project, working with Greener Leith, which aims to share social media skills well beyond the city centre, working with some of the communities and people I met during my stint as the Guardian beatblogger.
More on that soon. Otherwise, I’ve been busying myself over the summer with research into eco-housing communities, including visits to various established schemes in England and Wales, to get ideas for a nascent project in Edinburgh. And now that I’m back in the city, I’ll be freelancing as a journalist, making radio and videos, and writing about my projects for The Nose – so stay tuned!