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Usergroup Spring 2011 – Nick Booth: Citizens? Journalists?

By May 17, 2011No Comments

Nick Booth at the Public-i User Group

Nick Booth is the man behind the very successful Social Media Surgeries, which help equip community and voluntary groups with social media skills. He’s also a former BBC news and documentary journalist. He now runs the Podnosh consultancy in Birmingham, which is dedicated to changing the way ‘the public talks to the public sector’.

Nick Booth (like the rest of us) is also a resident – who feels passionately about the area he lives in and wants to make it better. As a former journalist who has worked in and with social media for several years he knows a thing or two about how the public are using the web to tell their own stories and, in many ways, report on local government.

Nick’s workshop dealt with his own take on the ‘citizen journalism’ phenomenon – which Nick roundly dismisses. He described how, as part of his work, he’s met many of those people that might be called citizen journalists, the ‘hyperlocal’ or neighbourhood bloggers that are beginning to appear across the country. They include people like the B31 bloggers, who Nick mentioned, or James and Steph, who run the WV11 blog, for Wednesfield in Wolverhampton. The point, Nick says, is that these aren’t citizen journalists, they’re citizens – plain and simple.

People, he says, use the web to talk to each other – to make connections and share information. That’s not a journalistic process, but something we all do.

It does, however, mean new skills – the skills of the social web. He says theseare changing the way that we view and interact with government, local and national. He provided his own example of what this means…

In July 2009, Nick had his own chance to use social web skills when parking wardens (probably called ‘civil enforcement officers’) suspended parking in his road in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, which is very close to Edgbaston cricket ground – that day hosting an Ashes Test match. When Nick videoed four wardens sitting in an illegally parked car in his road it took him a matter of minutes to publish the video on the web. That, he said, led to a front-page story in the local newspaper and a visit from the council.

Nick says that these skills aren’t the preserve of a few. They’re available to many – and Nick and others are helping to ensure that an ever wider number of people can employ them, through the social media surgeries that are being organised across the country and across the world.

The main points:-

  • The web has changed and is changing the way that it’s possible to establish connections.
  • Much of what we’re doing with the web is about establishing those connections – for example the way that people are using twitter to talk about very specific places – like a rock on Flickr – see here.
  • These skills – and this technology – makes it easy to create and publish your own story and your own version of events.
  • Government, including local authorities, need to understand – and welcome these changes – because they are inevitable and have profound implications for the way people want to interact with institutions.

Here are the slides:-

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