The Guardian’s re-purposing of online content

Generally I only buy a Guardian on Saturdays and last week’s was the first of the new design. It was nice enough, although it’ll take a while to get used to the new layout — it felt like lots of familiar faces had been spread throughout an overly-sprawling Sunday Times-like paper. But one thing I definitely liked was the appearance of quotes from weblogs and the Guardian’s own forums.

Guardian: 'From the blogs: Hunkering down'The weblog quotes are used to illustrate in-depth articles, like the one pictured from this week’s Hurricane Rita evacuation story. They provide a few snippets of real lives that readers can follow up online, an alternative to the single-point-of-view one-to-many journalism. I expect some people who think all weblogs are over-important rubbish dislike the prominence these snippets are given. But, then, most of everything is rubbish and we must somehow struggle on, finding the few pearls among the crap. Making readers more aware of the real people involved in, or thinking about, events is no replacement for journalism, but can only help in the grand conversation scheme of things.

Guardian: Family ForumThe other web stuff in the newspaper can be seen in this page from last Saturday’s ‘Family’ section: quotes on a particular topic taken from discussion on the Talk forums. Nothing earth-shattering about these reader soundbites really. The most interesting bits of the paper’s sections have often been, for me, those created by contributions from readers, such as travel tips and the frequently hilariously hand-wringing Personal Effects financial advice column.

But this week Neil McIntosh has an interesting article about the fall-out from those forum quotes. Some people quoted have felt uneasy about having things they’ve said online printed in a national newspaper. It’s worth a read to bring home how people are able to be more open online if they feel like they’re within a secure and friendly environment. Even if those words are just as Googleable in the long term as something in a newspaper. What you’d say to “friends” online, even somewhere apparently public, isn’t necessarily what you’d send to a paper for publication, no matter the objective lack of privacy.

I’m sure there’ll be more of this kind of thing in the future, as people try to balance their “private” but public conversations. It’s something that webloggers, for instance, learn gradually and despite it being easy to dismiss weblogs as “online diaries”, even the most diary-like of weblogs are often carefully edited versions of their author’s lives. As Danny put it, it’s not about being open, but “that half-way state that most people who have online public exposure built into their daily lives, that state of having the doors to their life slightly ajar.” Even if I had the time to write more on this site, it would only be a sliver of my life, and I’d rarely mention other people directly. For example, my occasional accounts of acting classes aren’t going to be full of me being rude about classmates, even anonymously, because I know it’d only take them a click to read it. This may seem less honest, assuming I have something to be rude about, and may be less interesting, but then it’s not just your own privacy you must think about when writing online, but those of everyone else too.

Comments

  • For example I don’t mind saying that Bush should be hung, drawn, and quartered, and *then* boiled in oil for crimes against humanity. But I don’t think my paper should print that in my weekly column.

    But I’m glad to get that off my chest.

  • Podcasts like Blogs started off relaxed and informal, but I’m not sure how long this will last. Even now there is an uneasy silence when someone on This Week In Technology (TWIT) launches an attack on one of the big Computer companies. As the influence of podcasts and vidcasts grows so does their need for restraint and balance.
    I spend ten hours a week listening to podcasts, these are the ten hours that I drive/commute to and from work. If I took public transport, I would read the paper instead to avoid the risk of going deaf listening to overloud podcasts on an mp3 player turned up high enough to drown out the external noise. I’ve said good bye to Andrew Marr,Melvyn Bragg, Libby Purvis, Sue Lawley and Steve Wright and hallo to Chris Porillo, Leo Laporte, Adam Curry and Dave Winer. What a freakin contrast.

24 Sep 2005 in Writing

First week over
Recounting the first week of classes. Lots of getting to know people and realising how much homework I’ll need to do.