The power of the written word from three thousand miles away


| rbasso@queenscourier.com |

Today, the world is truly flat.  We can read international news the instant it’s posted online, converse in real time with friends from different countries through social media, or forge new connections through something as simple as writing or reading a blog.  It always amazes me when a seemingly simple action can invoke such a powerful response that we hear about it over thousands of miles or from oceans away.

My most recent case of shall we say, mileage shock, is the 9-year-old (yes I said 9) Scottish girl who recently entered the public eye after blogging about her school lunches.  Martha Payne is a 9-year-old student at Lochgilphead Primary in Argyll, Scotland who received permission from the school to take pictures of her school meals every day and write about them on her blog, Never Seconds.  In her blogs, Martha systematically rates her meals based on taste, how many bites she had, nutrition, price (always 2 British pounds, a little over $3), number of courses, and how many “pieces of hair” she found in the meal.

This seemingly harmless blog skyrocketed to fame when British chef Jamie Oliver tweeted the link and commented, “Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going. Big love from Jamie x.”  Readers from across the globe started paying attention and the international news media also picked it up.  The blog began an intense online discussion over the quality of school meals, not just in Scotland, and her views rapidly soared to over 2 million views.

After articles appeared in Martha’s local newspapers with headlines touting “Time to Fire the School Dinner Ladies’’ among others, the local Argyll and Bute council informed her that she would no longer be allowed to take photos of her school lunch.  After posting an update on her blog notifying her readers, the resulting internet firestorm, encouraged by another tweet by Oliver, Roddy McCuish, the leader of the Council, made the decision to allow her to continue posting photos on her blog, calling the ban a form of censorship.

The end result?  Martha became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, overturned a ban from a local council, is now involved in helping choose the school’s daily lunch meals with help from celebrity chef Nick Nairn, who has raised more than $120,000 for a charity building a school in Africa, and registered more than 5 million page views on her blog.  All at the age of 9.  The moral of this story?  Don’t be afraid to try something different or to speak up.  In today’s interconnected world, you may be surprised how far your “voice” will carry.