If you drive from Manchester towards Yorkshire on the M62 you will see on the left up in the hills above Rochdale the Scout Moor Wind Farm. With 26 turbines, this is one of the largest land based wind farms in the UK. The planning and building of this farm was bitterly contested. The owners, Peel Holdings, who operate the Trafford Centre, Speke Airport, Manchester Ship Canal as well as other significant enterprises, came in for a lot of flak.
I made a post on the Visit North West web site as the construction began, this time last year. My post is positive in its tone and is followed by a series of angry negative comments. As the development proceeded the number of positive posts increased and I would say that as the discussion develops the balance of opinion is just about on my side. Thanks to everyone who posted, even if you disagreed with me.
Does this tell us anything meaningful? The sample was not representative and was highly self selecting – so you may not want to select your MP this way. What is significant is that web postings allow all of us to share them with others. This kind of citizen journalism may rattle the politicians, editors and established opinion formers just enough to make them think and not just take our votes and apathy for granted.
For those of us working in PR it means we must advise our clients to listen and engage in dialogue as much as we help them broadcast their messages. The power of traditional media to influence, sometimes with bias towards the views of their owners, is diluted by the rise of citizen journalism.