I started this blog over a year ago just after I had finished writing Devil in the Red Dress. Back then the idea was for it to help sell the book…I had read so much on author platforms and self marketing that it was coming out of my ears. I didn’t have much idea about what I was actually doing but I had read plenty of author blogs and wanted to make my own small contribution to that rather saturated area.
So I wrote away to my tiny audience. I spent most of my time talking about the trial the book was written about until I bored myself. That’s when I started writing about other trials. Freelancing down at the courts there was plenty to choose from. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I write about my day to day work and, as it interests me, I assume there must be someone out with the same interest.
A few weeks after I started the blog I signed up to Twitter. I took a while after that to realise that I could tweet my posts and reach a whole new area but eventually the penny dropped and I haven’t looked back.
I treat what I write here as another form of journalism. A more casual, intimate form granted but it’s still all for publication. Even so I’m still writing in a kind of vacuum since I don’t have the interaction with an editor that I would have with a book or an article. This gives freedom to write what I want but it’s also a little like using a trapeze without a safety net. It’s easy to forget what a vast audience you’re talking to when you write online – I still get surprised by the random people who come up to me and say they’ve been reading the blog. It can also be a little scary when you don’t know who’s reading.
I know this is the case with any form of conventional media but somehow writing online feels different to that. I know when I’m writing for a particular publication I’ve a rough idea who the audience is. With blogging you can reach anyone who types the name of a defendant into a search engine. I know that there have been quite a few instances where those directly involved in the trials I’ve covered, perhaps even people who’ve taken the stand and who I’ve written about, have visited this blog. I hope they feel it’s easier to directly respond to what I write. I can only say what I observe and always try to be as fair and balanced as I can but I’m only human.
Because I don’t have a buffer of an editorial desk behind me when I write here it feels like I’m a lot more accountable. I’m not saying that I’m not when I write for the conventional media when it comes to stuff like balance, objectivity and of course, getting the facts right, but blogging feels more personal.
It’s probably partly because court reported as a discipline is naturally rather formulaic. You have the cushion of familiarity with any trial. You’re divorced from real engagement because each trial follows the same pattern. I’m used to post mortems, victim impact statements and the inevitable scrum that follows any high profile case. That can give a veneer of something approaching callousness when I talk about things. It’s probably very similar to academic distance, a remove and cold analysis of everything you see. It probably sounds very flippant sometimes.
I apologise for the gratuitous navel gazing here. I’ve been writing about the media gaze recently and it’s made me think about what it is I do. This is probably partly the result of not having a trial to follow at the moment and being engaged in other projects – introspection can creep in. I’m not making any particular grand point here just musing on the nature of what I do. I’ll be back commenting on the courts before long…and speaking of Devil, Sharon Collins and Essam Eid will be having their appeal in a couple of weeks so I’ll be back full circle.
In other news I’m on the long list of the Irish Blog Awards in the categories of Best Blog by a Journalist and Best Specialist Blog. I’m honoured to be nominated and in such strong company as well. Although continued navel gazing probably won’t do me any favours there!