A World in Which City Councilors Blog

"What about unbaised reporting?"

That’s what a good friend asked a few weeks ago as I was explaining the vision underlying 9Neighbors.

We’re
building 9Neighbors for a world in which city councilors blog,
community activists promote their agenda on YouTube (er, Seesmic), and
mothers publish photos from the sidelines of their kids’ soccer games.

9Neighbors will help community members find the best of all this new local media.

As
I explained our vision, my friend, a journalist, saw a catch: If the
articles, photos and videos through which a community learns about
itself come directly from that community, the information will be
biased.

That’s true, and it would be a problem if these articles, photos and
videos were traditional news reports. But they’re not. They’re
conversation, and in conversation we call bias opinion and expect it.

Conversation won’t replace thorough, unbaised reporting, but it’s a
great alternative in situations where professional reporting is not
feasible.

The planned extension of Boston’s subway to Somerville is a great
example. The Globe, The Somerville Journal and The Somerville News are
all covering the issue in helpful, broad strokes. It’s unrealistic to expect
more from them.

Those who want to understand the issue in more detail are heading to the listserve of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership.
Everybody who posts on the STEP list has an opinion, and that’s good.
Members of the community develop identities, issues surface, they’re
hashed out honestly, and the community moves forward.

Eventually, the discussion that’s happening on the STEP list will
happen openly, across the web on all the community’s issues. Smart
local leaders will weigh in on their blogs, businesses will explain
what the changes mean to them on their sites, conversations will begin, and issues
will become clearer.

None of this will replace thorough, unbiased, professional reporting. It will just
provide information on a level of detail that is not feasible for
reporters. It will be rich, honest information that was previously
unavailable, and it will be great to have.

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