Whilst doing some online browsing on the development of multimedia and it’s implications for democracy, I came across this interesting opinion:

“The multi-media race has begun and you’ll be disqualified pretty quickly if you don’t step on the gas.”

I noticed that John Burke, the author of this blog, had been writing back in 2005. This got me thinking about whether or not what he had written was as pertinent as he seemed to think it was at the time. I promptly typed the name of my local newspaper into the Google search engine: How was the East Lothian Courier keeping abreast of multimedia technology?

This was something which had never crossed my mind before. The Courier, as it is referred to by its readers, is known more for its occasional error in reporting rugby scores (much to my brother’s annoyance) than for leading the charge in modern multimedia. It is probably a good indicator if I say that it was deemed a massive progression when The Courier left the tradition of monochrome print firmly behind last year.

So what did I discover during my foray into the previously uncharted (by me) waters of the local rag online? I think it would be safe to say that I was pleasantly surprised. All of the buzz words I had been hearing in the last couple of weeks featured on the site. From Delicious and Digg to RSS, The Courier had it all and the articles seemed to be updated and changed frequently as well. Perhaps I had been a little too quick to dismiss the proliferation of technology?

But once I spent a little longer familiarising myself with the site, I soon realised that there were a grand total of zero comments to be found. I would have thought, maybe slightly naively, that the issues covered in the local paper would provoke more comment because people are more intimately involved in the situation and so have a more direct opinion. Apparently, this is not the case.

Following the trends identified in Dr. Andy Williams’ lecture last week I thought there would be at least a small amount of User Generated Content (UGC) on The Courier website; even if I was expecting an excess of posts from the notorious county busy-body and not a whole lot else. Now I cannot decide which is worse. Domination of the comments section by a few people with the time, confidence and inclination to do so, or a complete lack of comment at all.

It would seem that in keeping with what John Burke said above, my local paper has entered the multi-media race and, to pay it’s dues, is ticking all the right boxes (“social bookmarking: check, RSS: check, comments section: check.”) but something tells me that I could be waiting a while for The Courier to get it’s free t-shirt at the finish line. Whether this is the fault of the paper or of the community is hard to tell. I am inclined to sit on the fence, coward that I am, and see it as indicative of how the relationship between multimedia, UGC and democracy is not a straight forward one.

However, can I just say that there is one good thing to come out of The Courier going online. After checking with my brother, I can confirm that the rugby scores are correct for this week. Just as well, I can imagine that the comments section may find a few passionate contributors if the result of a local derby was reported incorrectly. It may be best not to take Jamie’s word as gospel though, he is probably just happy because he managed to bag a personal mention in the article.

What moral can we take from this story? It doesn’t take too much to satisfy your reader after all!