This weekend’s first unconference event for those running local community websites raised some fascinating issues – not least in areas of ethics and access.
Bringing together people from across the UK to share skills, knowledge and experience meant Talk About Local 09 quickly revealed some of the issues for these self-publishers, community activists, bloggers and journalists.
And how these people are considered lies at heart of these issues – what do we call someone who’s taken it on themselves to start a website for the local community and how should they be treated?
It was clear from listening to their experiences that there’s no consensus on this. At the one extreme, local councils had denied access and even been accused of making late-night pressuring calls to remove material, while at the other end of the scale, some more enlightened council press officers treated the new news sources in the same way as the established local newspaper.
As I pointed out in The Guardian piece on this issue, the governing body the National Association for Local Authorities is reviewing its stance, but one thing’s for sure, the authorities are not moving quickly enough to properly reflect the reality of the changed local news landscape.
One of the participants in Saturday’s event thinks the issue is one of perception of who brings ‘the truth’, as a posting on the blog Culturing Stuff says;
“Just lately it seems as though every institution we hold dear, has some kind of skeletal defect waiting to be discovered if we decide to open the cupboard door. So with this in mind let’s revert back to the point… How come blogging is blogging and the news is THE NEWS (all official and truthful) and is Bloggin seen as a lesser being, just because the format has no established rules or code of conduct?”
All this appears to lead us back to one of the debates circulating last week about transparency and it is perhaps that, in the end, which will provide the measure of whether something is regarded as credible or truthful by the authorities currently keeping the gate of information sources.
Any journalists – or council press officers – want to comment?