Cwmbran Life was set up in five minutes last Summer. Its aim was not to expose wrongdoing or do anything that the professional media do very well. Journalists cover court cases and council meetings to make sure readers/ viewers/ listeners know what is happening.
My posts are about the ‘characters and places’ in Cwmbran. There is no doorstepping or nailbiting last-minute legal checks on these stories.
I use a smartphone and enjoy how easy it is to take a photo, write a few words and post to the internet. When you write a local blog you have not got the backing of a news editor or the latest legal training. This naturally makes you think carefully about what you post.
But something happened today that I hope doesn’t change the kind of stuff I post on this blog. Someone asked me if a post could be deleted.
About 11 years ago, as a journalist for the South Wales Argus I covered a serious assault case in Newport crown court. One of the defendants lived 30 yards from my front door. I knew him and another of the defendants from school. That experience taught me a lot about accurate and balanced reporting.
When you drink in the same pubs and shop in the same supermarkets as the people you write about you make sure you are fair. It is what local journalism is all about and why I care about it so much. I can’t stop in a town without buying the local paper. This morning I read the Hereford Times over my Sunday breakfast.
The Cwmbran Life story in question was about the council wanting views on something. I won’t go into the specific details or the reasons for the request to delete it. But as someone who cares about Cwmbran I felt it was important that people knew what could happen. The council’s plan could affect a lot of people in and around my neighbourhood. My story was not exposing a scandal or revealing a secret.
So what did I do after I was asked to delete the post?
1. I had a cup of tea.
2. I watched the France v Ireland game.
3. I talked about the dilemma with my wife.
4. I posted a quick blog after spotting something on Twitter about Cwmbran.
5. I thought about writing this post.
6. I deleted the post in question…….
7. I wrote this post.
8. I had a beer.
I’m a fair and honest bloke who likes getting on with people so it is upsetting to think you have done something that has annoyed anyone.
This following story is not about the post that has been deleted. I’ve included it to show the thought that goes into every post on Cwmbran Life.
Click on this link to read a post from a few days ago and then come back here.
It was simply a noticeboard that had not been touched for a year. Noticeboards are a pain as someone has to go out of their way and pin new things to them. I thought ‘am I taking the mick out of someone who has forgotten about this board outside Cwmbran Stadium?’. Is that fair? I honestly thought about this for some time before it was posted. As it happens the post was read by someone from Cwmbran community council who thanked me and said he was going to check out what has happened. That is a typical story on Cwmbran Life and shows the kind of thought that goes into every post.
As a local blogger you are on your own with these sort of dilemmas. Online news can be updated, corrected or deleted in seconds. I think that made it harder to refuse today’s polite and well-reasoned request from someone I know.
I don’t feel any clearer about what I will do if I get another similar request. Have I cheated the people who read this blog? On balance probably the answer is no. The story in question, like most of the ones on Cwmbran Life, did not shine a light into dark corners so why should I worry?
But have I set a precedent?
The UK needs journalists. The Press invests time and money in journalism that exposes and challenges, something I know as a local blogger I can’t do. A Free Press is one of the best things about the UK. I wonder how many of the 1000s of local blogs in the country have had experiences like mine today?
Did I do the right thing? If you write a local blog have you had a similar experience? How did you respond?