#CitizenRelay Reflective

An article I wrote intended for The Guardian’s Data Blog…

A project that got citizen reporters capturing the alternative stories of the torch relay quickly exceeded its aims and became so much more important.

When I applied for the intern role I honestly didn’t know what I was letting myself in for, and as cheesy as it sounds, how life changing the whole project would turn out to be. To only be 18 years old and have 3000 people a day reading, listening or looking at your work gives you the most incredible feeling that I cannot begin to describe.

It wasn’t anticipated how great Citizen Relay was going to be and listening back on our reflective recordings from the tour you can hear how all of our understandings changed throughout.

The tour meant we had the opportunity to find out what the mainstream media couldn’t – nobody else was as close to the torch as we were because we were the only ones following it the whole way. We didn’t have the restrictions or pressures that journalists have these days so our content could be open and unlimited.

We saw the same structured and organised procession in each place we went to and if it wasn’t for the communities round about the torch, I would have went home after Glasgow. It was the people who gave our stories that edge and made the whole project worth doing.

People want to have an opinion and the project was able to give them a voice.

At the beginning we found ourselves being pushed out of the way by the mainstream media. By day three and four they were asking us for information. Once they started to take notice, everything suddenly becomes so surreal. What we were doing mattered, it meant something and it was all captured using mobile phones.

The more people we spoke to and the more information we collected; the more questions we found ourselves asking. It became less about the actual torch and more about the meaning of the Olympics, politics and how communities work with each other in such events.

With a little help from us, people all over the country began using twitter, audioboo and youtube to share content with us using our citizen relay hashtag. The interaction we got was incredible. Once we were directly dealing with the public they realised what we were doing and wanted to get involved.

At one point, I interviewed the headteacher of Tomintoul Primary School and only two hours later it was trending on the audioboo site. Personally this was unbelievable, after all the week before I had been waitressing in a hotel and was just happy that I had passed my first year at university.

The greatest thing is knowing that what we have done can definitely be described as legendary. Now the torch relay is over, citizen relay isn’t. We have been able to leave behind the skills people need to voice their opinion and stories. For me also, this is just the beginning.

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