Boston suburban news blogger Lisa Williams at H20Town explains her motivation and methods

What's it like to have small children, and take on the responsibility of writing a community-news weblog for an aging suburb of 35,000 people -- working alone, as a volunteer? Lisa Williams has been doing that for her hometown of Watertown, Mass., a close-in Boston suburb, for more than two years (as of November 2005), and she's written about her blog, called H20Town.

Dan Kennedy, a visiting journalism professor at Northeastern University in Boston, profiled Williams in the February 2006, edition of CommonWealth magazine.

Williams' own description appears on the weblog of Jay Rosen, a New York University professor and respected new-media/journalism observer and critic. In her report, Williams describes her concern about the lack of coverage of Watertown by traditional daily or weekly papers, and her decision to start covering the city herself. She describes the "voice" she adopted.

Williams was also interviews as part of an Open Source radio segment in August -- linked from HERE. And MP3 audio download is HERE. And Williams has also penned a mini-bio of herself HERE.

Here is an excerpt from the Jay Rosen blog posting (which Williams wrote herself):

"Like most functional small cities and large towns, Watertown is a comic opera with real estate taxes. But a newspaper isn�t allowed to say so. In a small town, The Newspaper is an authority figure, and there�s a word for someone in a position of power who makes wisecracks about others: bully. Being �just a blogger� � and emphasizing my total lack of credentials or authority other than being a Watertown resident with a blog� meant that I could convey the fun and joy of where I lived without being mean.

"Aside from a bad attitude, one of my other journalistic sins is my lack of objectivity. I live in Watertown. I love it, and I�m an unapologetic booster. I�m not in bed with the subject, but as it happens, my bed is in the subject. I�m not shy about my agenda, which is to make Watertown a better place to live (and I�m also not shy about what I think �better� means).

" . . . [W]hy is this fun? Why do I do it, essentially for free? And why haven�t I gotten bored and gone away?

"A nerd is a person who can sustain attention in something long after a normal person has lapsed into a coma. Patiently, the nerd sits, until the object of its attention cracks and reveals its strange and fantastic inner life.

"Small towns are boring � but only on the outside. Inside, they are gnarled and lively as any Russian village ever to grace the pages of Dostoyevsky. I confess that I used to find Watertown boring until I started to really pay attention. But then I had children and had to put away youthful fancies of taking off for San Francisco or the emerging Silicon Valley of India.

"As others leave for work in the morning, or hop a plane to parts unknown, I must, for the moment, stay put. H2otown allows me to substitute traveling deeper for traveling farther. The effect is strangely like entering a child�s mind � like the time when my street was my entire universe, each segment of sidewalk a small and distinct republic.

"I have the pleasure of sharing this with others who can now play along; the pleasure of being able to produce something from beginning to end, rare in our modern industrialized world where most of us are a small part of a large machine; the joy of craftsmanship that comes from being allowed to stick at something long enough to get better over time.

"There aren�t any trees that can be planted where I live that can live 1,000 years, the way a giant sequoia can; if I am very, very lucky, enough people will find H2otown useful, and that might mean it is still going after I am long gone. H2otown is a ticket to the longevity lottery. You can�t win if you don�t play."

OTHER LINKS:
Williams describing her Watertown site in a post to Harvard's Berkman blog group:
http://barclay.textdrive.com/pipermail/blogtogether/2005-April/000001.html