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The hyperlocal blogger’s dilemma. A reader asks you to delete a post. My response.


Do local bloggers have the skills to cover court stories?

Do local bloggers have the skills to cover court stories?

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?

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About Ben Black

I write the blog Cwmbran Life http://www.cwmbranlife.co.uk and the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CwmbranLife

Discussion

10 thoughts on “The hyperlocal blogger’s dilemma. A reader asks you to delete a post. My response.

  1. Reblogged this on Ben Black's Blog and commented:

    Another post I think has a better home on my other blog.

    Posted by Ben Black | January 6, 2013, 8:18 pm
  2. You state the blog was about the council wanting views on something that affected your neighbourhood. I know you are ex-council employee and now work for Bron Afon (ex-council housing) so I don’t know if there are any restrictions within your employment contract that prohibit comments etc on anything relating to council issues. I know when I worked for the government my hands were tied on what I could say or do. If there are such restrictions then I think you were right in removing the post as I believe in the power of contracts.

    If on the other hand none of the above apply and this is just somebody who did not like what you had posted then I would not have deleted the post. A blog is your personal interpretation of something that happens around you or things you observe. It is your private journal made public. The request to remove any post is a shameful reflection on the bigotry of the person making the request. An attempt to stop freedom of speech.

    I keep a private diary/journal and would not expect anyone to tell me what I can or can’t write in it. I also have several blog sites which are my views on things that happen around me or I observe. If anyone asked me to remove anything heaven help them. They would have a real fight on their hands unless I was up against a lawsuit (some of my blogs have been borderline and I’m lucky I haven’t had lawsuits yet)

    I have read most, if not all, of the blogs on your site and have not seen anything that I consider offensive, or that needed removing. However, only you know the full story of the situation so really only you can make the judgement call.

    Posted by newydd105 | March 5, 2012, 2:05 pm
  3. Hmmm, not sure I would have deleted it if I’m honest. It’s likely to have already been cached by most search engines anyway!

    Trouble with online publishing is it’s fast, instant but also not so easy to delete permenantly.

    If the information in the post is already in the public domain, do you not have the right to have an opinion or to post about it? Isn’t that what local blogging is. Views of the people in the local area.

    Completely different if the content effects you or your employer in a professional situation. Contracts need to tighten up on these issues or they’ll always be wooly.

    Completely understand your a reasonable chap and I’m sure the individual is thankful (for whatever reason) on you removing the post.

    Should you have done it? That’s up to you, but if it felt ok to post originally then probably not.

    You’ll never please everyone, and people will have varied opinions. That’s the great thing about community. We’re different!

    Keep it up. It’s always an interesting read.

    Posted by Richard Saunders | March 4, 2012, 11:35 pm
  4. A very difficult decision to make…..that kind of thing is a real dilemma, not sure what I’d do in the same situation

    Posted by Cath Stenson | March 4, 2012, 10:15 pm
  5. oh sorry, wrong end of the stick.

    Posted by claudia | March 4, 2012, 9:25 pm
  6. I saw that post and recognised it from outside Cwmbran stadium, it was annoying me! Inside the stadium there are posters up for really out of date stuff too.

    Whoever is worried about this has far too much time on their hands, don’t let it bother you.

    Posted by claudia | March 4, 2012, 9:24 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Cwmbran Life is shortlisted for the Wales Blog Awards 2012 « Cwmbran Life - August 29, 2012

  2. Pingback: The hyperlocal blogger’s dilemma. A reader asks you to delete a post. My response. | Cwmbran Life — Journal Local - March 6, 2012

  3. Pingback: Today’s links 03/05/2012 « Sarah Hartley - March 5, 2012

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