Last week the Global Voices 2012 (#GV2012) summit was held in Nairobi. All of a sudden, the city I live and work in was inundated by all manner of awesome people. I kept seeing people I greatly admire talking about lectures and presentations, it was a hell of a treat to see so many intelligent people whose content I enjoy so much all talking together. It felt like a pretty big deal, even from the outside.
As I hungrily lapped up updates I started to notice a pattern: a lot of these voices whose opinions I so respected were not media professional. They were bloggers. Citizen journalists. Activists. Whether as a result of my embrace of Twitter or some other reason, I realised that my ‘go to’ sources for most news is no longer traditional news sources.
Don’t get me wrong, I still open up The Guardian or the Washington Post most days to flick through it but that’s normally only for sport or for op-ed pieces discussing ‘news’ I’ve already digested through non-traditional means like blogs or social media. There are a notable few journalists that I do follow but most fall into the categories like ‘worth keeping an eye on’ or ‘likes to argue’ or ‘friends’ – not ‘MUST READ’. With some of these – Charles Onyango Obbo is the example that springs to mind – I actively prefer their non-official output to their columns or news pieces in newspapers and the like. This was a slightly startling discovery.
This week I fired up the interwebs to discover that Whydev – one of the best international development sites around – has rebranded (and to everyone involved with that, you did a good job). I got weirdly excited by this. Then I noticed that the excellent View From The Cave had rebranded and, once again, looked great. These are terrific sites run by experts who are both passionate about the field and communicating their experiences and challenges to a wider audience.
These sites are awesome. Now that they look better, more people are likely to get hooked on their kickass content. I take back the ‘weirdly’ from earlier – I am excited by this!
The more we encourage wider engagement with niche or technical sectors the better off we will be. Events like #GV2012 top-trended world wide. Top aid blogs are starting to get attention from mainstream sources. Other top aid blogs now look and work really well. Hopefully, this is an example of snowballing (in a good way).
Getting big name publications to assign the topic a general reporter with no in depth knowledge of the issue or personal connection to it might bring wider attention to the issue but is it the kind of attention that we want? If the development/aid blogosphere continues to grow more robust and more accessible, those mainstream publications will a) start to steal their ‘niche’ article opinions from better sources and b) start to get circumvented all together.
I’ll say it again – I am excited by this!