Happy 2nd birthday… and thanks a million
5 April 2012
The UK Human Rights Blog launched on 30 March 2010 with a total of 2 readers and a budget of £200. Two years later, despite the budget remaining consistent, the Blog has just surpassed 1,000,000 individual page views and has over 10,000 subscribers over email, Twitter and Facebook. I would like to take a moment to reflect on this success.
As you can probably guess, we are (and I am) thrilled at the response to UKHRB. When we launched, our aim was to provide a new voice in the always colourful but often shrill arena of human rights commentary. We felt that there was a gap in the market (as it were – the blog has been and remains free to access) for a non-ideological legal human rights update service which would be accessible to the lawyers and lay persons alike.
I would like to think we have come some way towards achieving this aim. I am particularly proud of our posts correcting poor human rights reporting and commentary; we must be doing something right given that journalists and authors concerned now regularly respond to criticisms made on UKHRB. See, for example, the comments below the highly controversial UK loses 3 out of 4 European Court of Human Rights cases post and Telegraph journalist Christopher Booker’s response to my post on whether journalists should attend court.
The UKHRB team have worked tirelessly to comment on and summarise recent case law, often within a few days, if not hours, of a judgment being published. It is particularly satisfying to be able now to comment on cases on appeal which we covered when they were originally heard at first instance.
I am extremely proud of the immense amount of work which has been put into UKHRB by barristers from 1 Crown Office Row as well as our growing band of guest authors. In particular, I should single out Rosalind English; a dream co-editor and a brilliant writer too, and Angus McCullough QC, who continues to keep the UKHRB ship steady and on a consistent course.
One of the pleasures of editing UKHRB has been receiving countless emails and comments supporting what we do, from family members of those affected by human rights issues, students, professors, NGO workers, Government employees and even judges; it is fantastic to know how many people now rely upon UKHRB for their human rights and public law updates. Thanks are also due to the Guardian Legal Network and the Legal Week Legal Village for expanding the reach of our posts significantly.
An unexpected effect of the UKHRB’s growing profile is that it has begun to have an influence on the news it reports. We were the first to publish the Special Advocates’ response to the Government’s Justice and Security Green Paper, and have been covering the issues raised by the proposals long before they became a major public controversy; incidentally, our most recent post on the topic now has two detailed comments from the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. We have kept our readers up to date with the ins and outs of the major UK human rights controversies: not least the still-ticking time bomb of prisoners’ votes, the always colourful Commission on a Bill of Rights and of course Catgate.
As the UKHRB team (and my workload) has grown I have taken on more of a commissioning role. I would love to write more, but realistically I could not continue to have two full-time jobs as it sometimes felt like in the Blog’s first year. In that regard, Twitter has been a revelation as it has allowed me (as @adamwagner1) to continue to ‘micro-blog’ about new case-law and developments without having to write a full blog post. This suits me I am constitutionally incapable of writing a short (i.e. sub-500 words) blog post on anything at all, however good my intentions are when I sit down at the keyboard in the flush of a new judgment or human rights news story. And, from this week, the Blog’s official Twitter account @ukhumanrightsb has been resurrected by other 1COR barristers.
For those who are interested in one of the legal blogosphere’s pet debates – whether blogging helps your legal career – for me, the jury is still out, but blogging and tweeting has certainly led to me meeting some fantastic co-bloggers and campaigners, and I am now regularly invited to speak about human rights to all sorts of audiences, including schools, students, those in Government and NGOs. I am not sure whether any of this brings in extra work, but it is tremendous fun and I have learned a huge amount from all of the opportunities UKHRB has presented; the most basic of all being the self-enforced discipline of reading most of the most recent human rights case-law which arises on the wonderful BAILII’s New Cases of Interest page.
Anyway, enough blowing the UKHRB trumpet. It looks like human rights will continue to play a central role in the UK justice system for at least the rest of this Parliament, so we are not going anywhere until 2015 at the earliest. Perhaps one day we will even have to change the name to the UK Rights Blog (must reserve that domain name…). A redesign is on the cards, but it will have to wait until I have a moment to breathe.
I will end with thanks to all of UKHRB’s readers and particularly the commenters, who continue to keep us on our legal feet. As always, if you have any comments or requests, please post them in the comments box below.
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