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Rivierenbuurt website most influential

31 January 2007 - Rivierenbuurt - Wat is daar aan de hand? is Amsterdam’s most influential neighbourhood website, followed by This is the outcome of a survey among over fifty district politicians, carried out by News from Amsterdam. Most neighbourhood websites do not publish hard news, but some do serve as a discussion forum.

In this article:
• Over sixty neighbourhood websites, most do not publish hard news
• Visitors discuss riots, bicycle classes and the SP affair

Local democracy needs independent media. In Amsterdam’s districts, numerous independent websites and weblogs are active, but are they being read? News from Amsterdam put this question to district aldermen and district council members. Fifty-three politicians responded, a third of whom say they never visit neighbourhood websites. Almost half of them say this is because there are no active websites in their districts or because they do not know these websites.

The study identified 62 neighbourhood websites. On average, they have been active for about three years. The politicians’ responses indicate that the Rivierenbuurt and websites are the most influential ones. was also mentioned by quite a few respondents, but this site is often visited for its photos and historical accounts.

In addition, the Amsterdam Centraal website was mentioned by a number of respondents. This is not a neighbourhood but a city website, but it does have correspondents in the districts.

Most neighbourhood websites do not publish hard news. “We echo what everybody else is saying, the website is an intermediary rather than a producer of news. So you should not expect any scoops here (yet)!” says editor Henk of the Rivierenbuurt website modestly. reproduces stories from other media as well, but in addition it publishes its own news, for example reporting on district council meetings or giving eyewitness accounts of incidents.

The new website (see poster to the left, announcing an article on a neighbourhood resident who has published collections of Bollywood music) engages in citizen journalism. For example, volunteers make video recordings of street interviews.

Of course, opinions vary as to what stories are newsworthy. For the editor of the Vrienden van het Beatrixpark (Friends of the Beatrix Park) website, important news last year was the publication of a photo of a Mustached Parakeet’s nest, perhaps the first such photo taken in the Netherlands. For the Da Costabuurt website, it was an unfinished park renovation and the lack of bicycle paths along the Bilderdijkstraat.

Sometimes, mainstream media pick up stories from neighbourhood websites. Recently, newspaper het Parool published a large article on a campaign against new construction plans, waged at the Mirandabuurt website. Earlier, journalists picked up reports from websites on trees to be cut because of the construction of the North/South metro line; on complaints about the light radiating from the World Trade Centre and on a campaign against zeppelins used for advertising purposes by the RAI congress centre.

The website of the squatted Buurtboerderij (neighbourhood farm) at the Westerpark is also visited by journalists. “Local and national media report on the Buurtboerderij on a regular basis, and often pick up some info from the website”, webmaster Frans van der Pol said.

On the other hand, neighbourhood websites sometimes serve as a forum at which residents discuss how mainstream media report on their neighbourhood. At the end of last year, de Volkskrant exposed abuses at the ZuiderAmstel Socialist Party (SP), which resulted in the SP asking all its ZuiderAmstel council members to step down. At the Rivierenbuurt website, it was said that the journalist was participating in a witch-hunt against the SP-council members and that some of the facts in his reports were inaccurate.

Last summer, reports on riots after a stabbing in the Indische buurt were discussed at the website. Critics said these reports had exaggerated the number of youth involved in the riots, and that they had incorrectly suggested that entire ethnic groups were opposing each other.

Of course, discussions at the websites not only deal with reports in the mainstream media. At, there has been an extended debate on bicycle classes for women. Council member Olav Wagenaar of the Conservative VVD said that the government should not subsidize such classes and volunteered to give bicycle lessons in his free time. In the end, the plan was not carried out though.

The availability of neighbourhood websites varies across districts. GroenLinks (Green Party) leader Coos Hoebe says that websites in de Baarsjes mainly announce activities and reproduce news from other media. “[There are] very few independent forums that contribute to a public debate. At least, I do not know them”.

In Noord, the supply is even more limited. Elisabeth Boenders (GroenLinks): “I do not use neighbourhood websites, for they do not exist in Noord, at least no sites that are regularly updated as far as I know”.

In Zuidoost, the supply of independent neighbourhood websites is limited too, but this is compensated by the lively discussions at the weblogs of politicians such as Henk de Boer (Christian-Democrat CDA), Wim Mos and Mart van de Wiel (both Leefbaar Zuidoost). Mos: “I very seldom visit neighbourhood websites, only when something is going on in that particular neighbourhood, in Zuidoost for example the Gein3dorp website on the Bal-lorig issue. On the other hand, as a matter of principle, I visit individual politicians’ weblogs every day”.

As with all discussion forums, there is sometimes irritation with visitors’ behaviour at neighbourhood websites. For example, Henk Dokters of the local Baas in eigen Buurt (Boss in own Neighbourhood) party complains at the Rivierenbuurt website about people emptying their ‘oral toilet pot’ there. The webmaster responded that he cannot read all comments 24 hours a day and that the visitors have their own responsibility.

Marije Cornelissen (GroenLinks, ZuiderAmstel): “A suggestion for a good news website is to allow discussions, but to strictly moderate these discussions. For politicians it could be very interesting to enter a discussion with neighbourhood residents on new developments in the district, but not if only tendentious, abusive and short-sighted responses are given”.

Some politicians are not interested in neighbourhood websites at all. Gerard Molewijk of a local party in Slotervaart: “Personally, I do not use any website at all. And I know nobody who does. It is very tiresome, time consuming and boring to scan endless numbers of websites for ‘news’ time and again”.

“For the real, serious neighbourhood news, almost everybody uses the neighbourhood press: Westerpost, Amsterdams Stadsblad and de Echo. There you find everything conveniently arranged. In this, the neighbourhood press is superior”, Molewijk said.

More often, politicians are unaware of neighbourhood websites in their own districts. Kees Visser of a local party in Oud Zuid: “We rarely consult the websites referred to, but we want to look into this matter. Our information comes from other sources, and they seem to provide a good supplement”.

Profiles of neighbourhood websites: who visits them and what is the most important news they have published? (in Dutch)
Neighbourhood news is hot: mainstream media also focus on neighbourhood news in Amsterdam


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