It’s all gone fairly quiet on the News Shopper front since the row over it rewarding a homophobe with a nice pen for a nasty rant in its letters page. Since then, web editor Simon Bull, whose combative posts on Twitter defending the paper did enormous damage to its reputation, has departed the paper for a job I believe he had lined up anyway, at rival newspaper group Archant (publishers of The Peninsula and the Bexley Times). So at present, there’s a hole where the paper’s knowledge of the internet should be. And boy, with this story from its Bromley edition, does it show.
Damn bloggers! Actually, it’s a word I avoid using if I can, because it so often seems to be spat out as a term of abuse used by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. So where are these bloggers, then?
Er… they don’t exist. The report refers to the “BeckenhamTown.us blog” – but it’s not a blog. It’s a busy community website that’s well worth a look if you know that area. The story seems to be about an enormous thread on BeckenhamTown.us message board debating the merits or otherwise of Kelsey Park school. There are no “bloggers” there, just local people having a bit of a ding-dong. Commenters, maybe.
To reiterate, it is not a blog, they are not bloggers. It’s like calling the News Shopper a “book”. Perhaps this should be tied to a brick and left in the News Shopper office. But somehow, reporter David Mills seems to have bought into the mentality that “blogger” = “idiot” and any discussion that happens online is somehow worthless or has some poisonous hidden agenda. Strangely, nobody who commented on that thread has been contacted to elaborate on their thoughts, giving the school free rein to shout “damn bloggers!” when perhaps a real investigation of why the school arouses such strong feelings is needed, instead of a weirdly one-sided story which risks being mistaken for advertorial.
Yet the News Shopper, which is starved of investment by greedy parent company Newsquest should be encouraging and promoting local independent sites, not damning them. Damn bloggers!
After all, with its reporters often confined to its Petts Wood HQ (no sign of a Shopper reporter at last night’s Greenwich Council meeting, for example), it may need local websites on its side in the future. As the gaps in local newspaper coverage begin to widen, it’d help if the paper knew what it was talking about when dealing with a website that’s trying to fill that hole.