Rivierenbuurt website most influential
31 January 2007 - Rivierenbuurt - Wat is daar
aan de hand? is Amsterdam’s most influential neighbourhood
website, followed by Zeeburg.nu. 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 Most neighbourhood websites do not publish hard news,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• Over sixty neighbourhood websites, most do not publish hard
• 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 Zeeburg.nu websites are the
most influential ones. Verbaarsjes.nl 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Most neighbourhood websites do not publish hard news.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. Zeeburg.nu 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.
new Wereldbuurt.nl 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 Zeeburg.nu 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
Of course, discussions at the websites not only deal with reports
in the mainstream media. At Zeeburg.nu, 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
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”.
of neighbourhood websites: who visits them and what is the most
important news they have published? (in Dutch)
news is hot: mainstream media also focus on neighbourhood news
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