A big story last week was about a wonderful food blog called Never Seconds by 9 year-old schoolgirl Martha Payne. Martha sought permission from her school to create a blog to photograph and write about her school dinners. As with the subject of food, combined with the quirkiness of a child blogger who happens to be very good at it (creative slant, fresh new ideas, exciting simplicity), the blog became a huge hit, reaching 1 million visits within a month.
Martha’s blog attracted a lot of interest, such as TV chef Jamie Oliver because of his association with school dinners, and increased interaction from blog readers all over the world. She started receiving and including photographs of other school dinners from her fans in different countries into her posts, and she even started fund-raising for a local charity that builds school canteens in African schools.
But it was her transparency about her thoughts over her own school dinners that created the catalyst for the true viral nature that was to come. Adult misunderstandings of a child’s interpretation of her everyday life was construed into political embarrassment, resulting in her local Council causing image censorship in her blog. Without being able to photograph her meals any more, Martha’s reason for blogging was severely hindered.
Once word got out about this, the result was a social media explosion led by massive Twitter trending. Martha’s blog page count went through the roof, as did her fund-raising total as supporters showed their solidarity to her situation by donating in their droves. The world woke up to a little girl’s plight, naming and shaming the Council until they backed down on the BBC television and radio news and reversed their decision, humiliated by the power of social media demonstrating towards an unjust decision made by faceless bureaucrats.
It was because Martha’s blog was already doing exceptionally well that resulted in this rumpus. If she only had an audience of her parents, schoolmates and her kitten, it wouldn’t have captured the interest of the local press, which is where it all first went wrong. Her school not only loved what she was doing, so did her dinner ladies, who asked her opinion regarding their menus. Celebrity chefs and international fans aside, I’m sure Martha would have been quite happy to continue blogging about her lunches (particularly about how to eat wearing a plaster cast on her wrist), sharing her new friends’ dinners within her posts, keeping her followers updated with her daily life and urging a boost in her fund-raising activities.
As it happens Martha is well on the way towards becoming a celebrity herself. Jamie Oliver continues to declare his support for her:
— Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) June 15, 2012
and at the time of writing her blog page count and fund-raising tally continue to climb. Let’s hope this winning combination of food blogging, young authorship and social networking support will captivate the world in the months to come, and Martha will expand on her experiences to help her to excel in her chosen profession of journalist.