Blogging the London riots

Summer was traditionally a quiet time for news. Not 2011, it seems. Especially if the weekend just passed is anything to go by. In the United States, it’s all been about debt ceilings and downgrades (with the odd brawl thrown in for good measure).

Meanwhile, London has seen an extraordinary outburst in rioting and looting. Some of it just a couple of hundred yards from where I used to live in Brixton. I suppose that these days it’s unsurprising that within just hours of the major story breaking, there’s an angle on the role of social media. Twitter is playing its part (not always helpfully, it seems) and there’s an interesting story on the role of Blackberry Messenger being used to organize assemblies of rioters.

But I wanted here to highlight some great ways in which blogging has also contributed to the discussion. These days, for any breaking story in the UK, my go-to source for the latest on a story will be the Guardian’s live blogs. I’ve been hooked on these ever since the UK elections (and coalition-building aftermath). The bloggers present frequent recaps on the latest headlines and bring in information and sources from all around the web, as the story breaks.

Last night The West Londoner blog (hosted on WordPress.com) provided a great series of time ticker updates. Judging by the volume of comments, this was a service that at least hundreds (probably thousands) found valuable and hadn’t found elsewhere on the internet.

This morning I found a link pointing to another fascinating perspective on the riots: Insp Winter claims to be a police officer who was working over the weekend. His account of events is fascinating:

The traditional, stereotypical, image of a public order police officer is that of some knuckle dragging man mountain who’s main skill in life is being able to knock a door down in one hit. As I survey the people around me, none of them fit that. They’re all reasonably intelligent, in the van there have been long discussions on what the cause of this is.

Lately there’s been much made of the impact that Twitter and Facebook can have in coverage of big news stories. But in an event like this, where a series of localized events together make the story so huge, micro-blogs can be chaotic and distorting. The longer form can provide the considered, aggregated and personal aspects that are ultimately so much more rewarding and informative.

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