The fourth Ignite Cardiff, held last week in the Wales Millenium Centre, seems to have a small amount of controversy attached to it. Certainly if you’ve been following the comments on various blogs and tweets that have been flying around since. And it all started with a negative review of the event, written by a blogger for WalesOnline, which is operated by the country’s biggest newspaper.
A bit of background: I’m co-founder of Ignite Cardiff, the first Ignite event in the UK – there are now many more around the country. Along with my partner in crime, Claire Scantlebury, I was responsible for bringing this rapid-fire presentation format to our lovely city to be enjoyed by creatives, geeks, entrepreneurs and anyone else who wanted to be involved. However, due to important commitments with a hot-tub in a forest, I wasn’t able to be at this particular event, our fourth since we started in late 2008. I was following the #ignitecardiff hashtag avidly via Twitter, much to my girlfriend’s, and our waiter’s, annoyance.
It’s worth noting at this point that I know just how much hard work goes into putting these events together, and the passion and commitment with which Claire and I put into them. And as I couldn’t be at this last one, Mark Stevenson kindly stepped in to help with organisation and presentation, offering his time and effort free of charge, like Claire and I, for no personal gain, other than enjoying bringing cool, creative people together.
Anyway, during the event there were a few negative tweets from @joniayn, and then the negative blog post. Joni has been both supported and shouted down for her opinions in the intervening few days, so I’m not going to add to the dialogue on that front. People a lot smarter than me (Mark Stevenson, Dan Allsobrook, Chris Csefalvay amongst others) have already said all that needs to be said, I think. The thing that intrigues me is that of the impact of Joni’s blog. Joni is, as far as I’m aware, a relatively unknown blogger whose approach to her piece was arguably less than “journalistic”. So why should it have had such a relatively large impact? And I don’t say these things as an insult, as I don’t know her and I’m sure she’s lovely. It’s perhaps easy for me to say this as I wasn’t as integral to the event as I normally am, so I’m less likely to be hurt by her piece, but I believe she has a fundamental right to express her opinion. And I think that whenever you’re doing something attended by up to 200 people in a public venue, there’s always going to be people with opinions on what works and what doesn’t; what should be and what shouldn’t. There will always be detractors if you’re doing something successful. Besides, the world would be a dull place if we all liked the same thing, and Claire and I have received enough glowing compliments about our events over the last year or so to keep us going for a long time yet.
I personally believe that the impact of Joni’s blog came because she is a blogger for the portal of MediaWales, the home of the Western Mail etc. And so it had extra “weight”. But Joni clearly didn’t go about reporting the event with anything that could technically be classed as journalism as we tend to think of it. It was an opinion piece, which wasn’t particularly well researched. And that’s fine. That’s what 99.9% of blogs are. And long may they continue in such vein. But when distributed by such a large media outlet is the veracity, fidelity and impartiality of any such blogs given more credence than perhaps it deserves? Does WalesOnline need to be more explicit about the difference between its bloggers and its journalists?
The reason I say all this is because I believe we’re entering a hugely interesting age of “citizen journalism”, and one in which we need to carefully look at what constitutes journalism. I’m in no way qualified to do this (this is definitely a poorly researched opinion piece!) But if you are interested in this subject then I urge you to follow Glyn Mottershead, Katie Prescott and Hannah Waldram on Twitter.
If any of this sounds like I’m taking a negative stance towards Joni, I’m not. I hold her no ill will and am happy that she attended the event. And am happy for her to have expressed an opinion. I’m just highlighting what I believe to be some difficult days we face in determining the difference between “journalism” and “blogging”.
I’ll leave the last word to Carl Morris who, as usual, sums up how I feel about Ignite Cardiff more succinctly and wisely than I ever could!
p.s. To lighten the mood, and lift my battered ego, Beth at Cinch Marketing wrote some lovely stuff about me yesterday.