Wednesday, May 30, 2007

When tragedy strikes, community media steps in

If you aren't from Ottawa, you might not have heard of Dixie Landers. And if you don't read the queer press, you probably haven't heard that the popular and well-loved drag personality has been in a coma for the last three days, after being severely injured in a bar fight. The story hasn't hit the mainstream press, but Ottawa's queer community is getting up-to-the minute information on Dixie's condition from Capital Xtra, where readers are also posting comments to debate a case where there have been allegations of police inaction and possible mistreatment by emergency personnel.

Meanwhile, friends and supporters have set up a "Get Well Dixie Landers" group on Facebook, which now has almost 350 members. And people posting on Egale Canada's e-list are talking about the case, wondering aloud why more people didn't come to Dixie's defence, whether or not this was a gay-bashing, and what the community can do to prevent further violence.

Not a single word about this story has appeared in print or in any mainstream media outlet. But hundreds of people are staying updated on Dixie's condition, discussing the case, and organizing a community response to anti-queer violence.

A very sad case, but a truly inspiring moment for community media and online networking.

Get well soon, Dixie. Ottawa's pulling for you.

-- cross-posted to BlogThis!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I noticed Capital Xtra seems to have deleted the reader comments without explanation on the article you linked. Some of the comments were low-quality, but I also know of several high-quality comments containing relevant contributions which were not posted at all. There seems to be a lot of micro-management going on, with comments frequently reflecting certain 'pet issues' while ignoring some of the more salient concerns pertaining to the issue at hand or to the queer community generally.

Xtra might want to consider developing a more consistent policy on reader comments generally. 'The Tyee' has done a lot of work to update the management of their comments section, and the new practices could provide a good model to cultivate constructive dialogue on the Xtra website.

Also, it seems that almost all articles seem to go totally without comments. I don't feel this accurately reflects the actual level of reader interest in Xtra's content. Xtra might want to consider de-coupling the on-line comments from the Letters-to-the-Editor sections of the print editions. In that way, you can get conversation threads going between individuals and between gay communities, and also cultivate a pool of reader/commenters who contribute (for free) to the overall content of the website. Again, I think The Tyee has done good work here. It provides a "value added" bonus to their website. Granted, they occasionally have quality control issues too, but they seem to be managing fairly well, and very often the comments are more enlightening than the journalistic piece that prompted the discussion in the first place.

Just something to consider.