A year of local weblogging

by Simon St. Laurent

Related link: http://livingindryden.org/

I've learned a lot in a year of blogging about Dryden, a town of 13,000 people in upstate New York. The lessons aren't quite what I expected.

I started out after a local election that we'd lost, thinking that a more locally-focused source of information might make it easier for people to figure out what was happening in their town and make informed decisions. I think my lack of political experience was crucial at that point, since it helped me choose to do something different from the average campaign flier. My technical skills got me through the many hurdles of creating a tolerably presentable web site. Sheer orneriness has helped keep me posting to it every single day.

I wasn't sure when I started out that there would be enough information to post every day. There certainly aren't articles in the local paper about Dryden every day, though every other is a reasonable average, and limiting myself to what the Ithaca Journal finds worth printing wouldn't have been very exciting. (Covering it and linking its archives does make it easier to find in Google, at least!)

As it turns out, there is vastly more happening in Dryden than I can possibly cover. I don't have to fall into neighborhood gossip to find news. Local governments, schools, and organizations are usually up to something. People are building energy-efficient houses, repairing trails, starting businesses, and doing all kinds of fascinating things, once you learn where to look. For genuinely slow days, there are always history and photography. The stories and the people are fascinating and often complicated.

Writing about the community has also pulled me out of my house and deeper into the community. I've met many times more people locally in the last year than I'd met in my previous five years of living here. My mental rolodex is long since exploded. I've joined the Historical Society and the Town's Democratic Committee, and wound up the Chair of the Democratic Committee. Blogging always seems to end up making people participants, and that definitely has happened to me. It sure wasn't what I expected as I was setting up Movable Type!

I've written about this project before, and I'm still looking for other people doing similar things. I'm still contemplating the link between blogging and politics, and still suspect that link can be richest when we blog the things immediately around us - things we're close enough to see, feel, and do, filled with people we get to know.

Is focusing on a small community an appropriate way to blog politically?