Kate Feld is a US citizen who launched the Manchester blog Manchizzle in 2005 and founded the Manchester Blog Awards shortly after. Her perspective on blogging is informed by her background as a journalist, she says, but with a few key differences. The full interview – part of the hyperlocal voices series – follows:
Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds before setting it up?
Me, Kate Feld. My background is in newspapers. I worked as a reporter on local and regional papers in my native USA (local beat, city hall, some investigative) then eventually worked for the AP on the national desk in New York.
I moved to the Manchester area in Dec 2003 to live with my boyfriend, who I eventually married. I intended to continue to try to do local/investigative reporting but very quickly realised there was no way for me to continue in news here. So I switched to writing about culture.
In 2004 I was the editor of a startup culture and listings magazine in the city, and when that went bust I had time on my hands and a lot about Manchester I wanted to write. So I started the blog. It was my second blog, having experimented with blogging when I was in journalism school at Columbia in NYC in 2002-03.
What made you decide to set up the blog?
There weren’t many people blogging about Manchester at the time. I had a lot of enthusiasm for exploring the city and its culture and a blog seemed like the best medium for that. It was also a platform that enabled me to experiment with my writing.
When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?
I set it up on Blogger in the summer of 2005. It was pretty straightforward.
What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?
Lots of the blogs in the NYC bloggers subway map, which I was briefly part of. That network inspired me to write about what people were blogging about in Manchester and put together my blogroll, which aims to have links to all Manchester-based blogs.
My experienced attending blogmeets run by the NYC Bloggers group led me to start organising blogmeets and eventually start up the Manchester Blog Awards which I have been running as part of the Manchester Literature Festival for the past four years.
How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?
Because I’ve been a newspaper reporter, I think my perspective on this may be different from other bloggers’. In some respects the roles aren’t that different. I run my blog like the newspapers I worked on. I don’t publish anything that isn’t confirmed, cross-checked and attributed. I correct mistakes quickly and prominently. I aim to be as transparent as possible about conflicts of interest. I meticulously spell check and aim for a high standard of writing and grammar.
Sometimes my blog posts are newsy, sometimes they are long and deliberative and wouldn’t be out of place on an opinion page, other times they are more like the what’s on calendar of a culture magazine.
I think people read it to stay informed about Manchester culture on and offline, and might share my interests in arts, media, literature and social media, so it’s kind of like a specialist publication.
Broadly my aims are much the same writing a Manchester-based blog as they were when I was editor of a Manchester-based magazine… to inform, to entertain, to develop and follow through on my own thoughts/passions/interests and provoke conversation and deliberation about interesting stuff happening in the city.
But a few key differences stick out: I am fully independent, a one-woman operation and have no advertising, not even Google ads. I publish my blog mainly for fun, not for profit, though as I am also a freelance writer my work has to come first. And unlike a news professional, as a blogger I am perceived as having little credibility, accountability and low standards (although sadly this can also be said of our local newspaper!)
What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?
Right now is an interesting one. Myself and some other bloggers are in the process of creating an aggregator site and possibly a linked newspaper featuring content from Manchester blogs. This has come directly out of the community around the Manchizzle blog, and I feel my efforts on the blog, organising blogmeets and championing local blogging through the blog awards and various other locally-oriented projects I’ve worked on or am working on (The BBC Manchester Blog, running the Creative Tourist blog etc.) have contributed significantly to the development of an exceptionally involved and active local blogosphere in Manchester.