Pondering Blogistance in Decatur

I’m not writing this post in response to any particular critique I’ve received or recently heard. In fact, all of the personal comments I’ve received about this blog thus far have been overly generous with their praise. This post is more the result of observations I’ve made over the past 4 months of blogging, spurred by recent events and subsequent posts.

At last week’s city commission meeting, multiple commissioners seemed to imply that news of the city’s recently unveiled annexation plan had gotten out of hand, in part, because of “rumors” that had spread quickly over the internet. And while I do honestly believe that each commissioner appreciated the increased participation, the comment got me thinking about how Decatur has gotten its news in the past and how blogs fit into that mix.

Up until last year, there was a noticeable lack of sources, either in print or online, where Decatur residents could get news about the city. Many have had to rely on word-of-mouth, internet message boards, official city publications, or Atlanta/DeKalb focused publications to piece together their news on a daily basis.

Of these options, the first two were pretty hit-or-miss concerning whether a certain piece of news would ever reach your ears. The city’s official publication, Decatur Focus, is a great asset, but it’s only a monthly newsletter and sometimes only gives a cleaned up “official” perspective of current events. The Oakhurst Leaflet is another great newsletter, and while its not a city pub, it also only arrives in Oakhurst mailboxes monthly.

And finally we come to local papers, either online or hard copy. Much of the time the AJC just doesn’t get it right. Take this recent story about the annexation. On hold? Not quite AJC. Nice try. Then there’s GoDeKalb, which probably provides the most up-to-date, accurate and detailed articles about Decatur. But unfortunately, Decatur isn’t big enough to justify daily complete coverage, so we have to settle for occasional drips.

This is where the little, independent blogs come in. InDecatur, Decatur-DeKalb (both authored by the same intrepid blogger) and Decatur Metro attempt to fill the void where all these other forms of media leave off.

I believe that in the 21st century, Decatur residents shouldn’t have to wait for a monthly newsletter or for a questionably factual article to be written in the AJC to find out what going in around town. We want to know about the issues as they are happening, so as many residents as possible know about the destruction of Decatur Stadium or the PATH through Mason Mill Park to be able to speak up about them before its too late. Though this more efficient spread of news and info may at times compel more folks into the commission room at city hall, hopefully they will also better informed.

At the same time I acknowledge we must be careful. While half the fun about this blog is reading and responding to the comments of others, we must take caution not to take things out of context or give undue weight to rumors that may prove untrue. I will continue to do my best to moderate these sorts of tips, and figure I can only improve with time. Right? Right?!

I also believe that it is in the city’s interest to have a voice in this new, online dialog. City government should be able to respond to issues when things on the internet get too heated or misconstrued. They should use it as a way of getting the word out about events and meetings. Opening this channel will go along way to “improving communication” between the city and its residents, which is a key concern among residents today.

So enjoy reading. Who knows what the coming months have in store? Maybe some one will build smart mixed use down the street from your house with a Trader Joe’s at the ground floor. Or maybe the Artisan will decide that a grassy, barbed wire parking lot was really much better than millions of dollars in real estate and just knock the whole thing down!

Regardless, we’ll be here, pondering it all for your amusement and information.