On a mild and misty morning your friendly neighbourhood beatblogger slips a mobile phone in her pocket and sets off hoping to catch sight of the local community policeman breaking into an old railway tunnel.
It’s a good news story. Opening up the old railway tunnel is just one of PC Simon Daley’s imaginative plans to create a more stimulating environment for young people. As it happens the demolition work has been delayed but I posted an earlier story about him on the Leith Open Space community blog and hope to follow it up soon.
So I am only half joking about the beatblogger bit. A couple of months ago The Guardian was advertising for their first official Edinburgh beatblogger. “The successful candidate will be a confident blogger, know their yelps from their tweets, have a passion for local news and understand how to build relationships with the local community.”
I understood most of that sentence. And hoped a passion for local news and community relationships would count for at least as much as a yelp or a tweet. But wasn’t really clear what it meant. Since then, in idle moments Googling “Beatblogger’, I have discovered different definitions, the most confident one coming from Beatblogger.org:
A beatblogger, simply put, is a beat reporter who uses their blog as a tool to engage their readers, interact with them, use them as sources, crowdsource their ideas and invite them to contribute to the reporting process.
But just as I think I am getting the idea, and before the Guardian’s beatblogger gets a chance to hit the streets, a new kid arrives on the block. Caledonian Mercury, Scotland’s first exclusively online newspaper, went live yesterday (on Burns Night no less), and clocked up more than 30,000 hits before Newsnight Scotland interviewed the new editor – and added two more from our household at least.
It’s a big gamble but the former editor of the Scotsman website, Stewart Kirkpatrick, seems well up for it and (as the Newsnight pundits agreed) the first edition looks pretty good – with perhaps some of the self-confident quality that I remember from the better old days of Scotland’s would be national newspaper.
Where does that leave the beatblogger? It looks to me as if Caledonian Mercury is beatblogging writ large though it seeks to “return journalism to journalists”. I like the positive tone of the opening leader – makes a very welcome change from the Scotsman – but it will be interesting to see how it develops. And who will have time to read it.
It’s getting mighty crowded in cyberspace. It takes an open mind, a keen eye and a lot of time to spot the facts among the vested interests. Meanwhile, there are plenty of stories going untold. I hope the new newspaper and the beatbloggers will be able to find them in the crowd. They will need that passion – and a chance to get out and meet people face to face.
On my way back from Scotland Yard I saw my first snowdrops of the year. Sometimes it’s good just to get a walk in the park