In the last year or so, and particularly in the run up to the local elections in May, I've been reading/using a variety of local websites, both political and non-political. One of these sites, Councillor Nick Wallis's blog, has been nominated for a New Statesman Award. In the comments of his blog, a small discussion of the way parties locally are using the web started, which I started to add to. The comment got really long, so I turned it a post here instead.
I think what people are looking for from newmeedja is honesty and interaction, which is where I think Nick has things right with his blog. If he keeps on posting as he has been, people will come and read it. Posts like those about the Springfield School site or where he posted pictures of new bike lane features and then responded to questions raised are particularly useful examples. These posts also give a good insight into what Nick's doing as my ward councillor and in his role within transport; which will help people make decisions when it comes to polling day.
I'm not sure that a ward level is the right level for the parties to aim at in Darlington as the number of residents is just too small (especially when you discount the technophobes). A town-wide site, which makes it possible for people to look at specific areas of interest or geography, would be more useful - the Darlington Lib Dems have done this to an extent, but their site lacks the interaction of Nick's blog.
The local Tory site had some interesting features, but was a little haphazard. Most of the updating took place within the Feedback section, but it wasn't possible to reference individual posts when responding and the feedback received was added infrequently, making conversations stilted. The site had some videos added, and a 'blog', but there was no way of commenting upon individual posts.
An interesting local site is HarrowgateHill.co.uk. This is set up as a community site, although it is run by new (and New?) Labour Councillor Mark Burton. The site has a fairly lively forum, and seems to be attracting a different sort of contributor from the more obviously political sites.
The discussion about new media Nick's blog was started by Graham Robb; a name I've seen on the Town Liar forum but who I didn't really know much about. From Graham's posts on Nick's blog, I've discovered he's a bona fide political PR guru, and that he has a My Space account and a slick-sounding Internet TV studio.
I'll be following the local New Media goings on with great interest, and possibly even taking part myself, centering the Bike Darlington blog. I'm interested in seeing how free online tools can be used by campaign groups like ours, making use of free and/or cheap online services and technology. I feel a summer project coming on.
Update: I forgot to mention local Conservative blog Darlington Tory. Newly-elected Lib Dem Councillor Mike Barker has also just started a blog, which I look forward to reading.