Sarah Hartley

Archive for the ‘bloggers’ tag

Tameside Council’s Twitter response

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As I’ve blogged at The Guardian today, Tameside Council has started an ‘accreditation’ system for professional journalists who apply to tweet from council meetings.

In the interests of transparency, the full text of the questions I asked and the council’s reply are posted below;

Inquiry to the council first submitted March 1;

I’m looking at how journalists are using Twitter to cover council meetings and am told that you don’t allow this at present. I’d be grateful if you’d give me a little further information on this;

  • First, and most importantly, is it true that the council has banned the use of Twitter during council meetings?

If so,

  • Is this for journalists? Councillors? Members of the public?
  • Does the restriction only apply to Twitter – i.e. can other forms of instant messaging, micro-blogging still be used.
  • What’s the reason for the ban and on what grounds is it made?
  • What steps will be taken to enforce the ban?
  • The reply from the council sent on March 5:

    The Council does not have a specific policy concerning twitter at its meetings but follows the legislation governing the conduct of Council meetings and in particular the recording and transmitting of meetings which are set out in Section 100 (A)(7) of the Local Government Act 1972. Below is a link to relevant part of 1972 Act:

    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/RevisedStatutes/Acts/ukpga/1972/cukpga_19720070_en_14#v00132-pt6-l1g102

    Under the 1972 Act there is no right to attend a council meeting and make a transmission of the meeting whilst it is taking place, or to make recordings of any meeting, this applies to all Local Authorities.  Therefore the Council is obliged to consider specific requests to use media such as ‘twitter’. Following requests the Council has authorised the Manchester Evening News, Tameside Advertiser and Tameside Reporter to use twitter in each of the Council meetings they have requested to do so, as duly accredited representatives of the press, as defined in the Local Government Act 1972.  Examples of the ‘twitter’ which has taken place at Tameside Council meetings are at the following links:
    http://www.tamesideadvertiser.co.uk/news/s/1193501_council_tax_to_go_up_by_over_2_per_cent

    http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1194168_our_twitter_council_coverage_praised_by_john_prescott

    http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1186956_council_meetings__our_online_archive

    As you can see the Council allows the use of ‘twitter’ during Council meetings by duly accredited representatives of the press as part of its commitment to increasing involvement in the democratic process.  Given that the Council does allow duly accredited representatives of the press to use twitter to cover Council meetings I have not addressed your further questions which are based on the assumption that the Council has banned the use of ‘twitter’.

    I’d be interested to hear if any other bloggers have encountered similar issues with access to public meetings.

Written by sarahhartley

March 8th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Democracy Club returns this week

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Manchester bloggers, and anyone else interested in how people can use social media to get involved in the next election, are invited to another Democracy Club event on Thursday.

The people behind MySociety.org are running a second night in the city – this time at MadLab.

And there’s now a Facebook group for the event whih can be found here.

The event at MadLab (36-40 Edge Street) runs from 6-9pm on Thursday, February 4.

Written by sarahhartley

February 3rd, 2010 at 11:18 am

PCSOs recruited to newspaper hyperlocal initiative

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Brighton’s Argus is to tap into the city’s network of PCSOs to provide content for its network of hyperlocal websites – blogging their beat you could say.

Web editor Jo Wadsworth told me that the officers will be working alongside students that have also been recruited to cover stories for the 25 sites.

After training from Jo, the community police officers will be able to upload their appeals and news directly to the sites and she’s also hoping they’ll develop into forums similar to one currently running in Preston Park.

As reported in the Press Gazette this morning, the newspaper has been working with the training organisation Journalist Works, activity which has been going on for over a year with the students pitching in material to the websites for the past six months.

The contributions are unpaid and are in many ways treated as an extension of the sort of work experience commonly on offer across local newspapers, the difference being that the blogs allow those participating a greater sense of ownership of the project.

To that end, the bloggers will receive traffic stats and other analytics plus training seminars on practical skills and going offline with social events is in the pipeline for next year.

The content expected will largely be text and pictures although the students are already creating weekly video vox pops (the latest here) and moving activity into social networks including Twitter and Facebook.

See one of the hyperlocal sites in action here.

Written by sarahhartley

November 5th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Journalists? Bloggers? Citizens? Who are these people?

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Talking about local

Talking about local

This weekend’s first unconference event for those running local community websites raised some fascinating issues – not least in areas of ethics and access.

Bringing together people from across the UK to share skills, knowledge and experience meant Talk About Local 09 quickly revealed some of the issues for these self-publishers, community activists, bloggers and journalists.

And how these people are considered lies at heart of these issues – what do we call someone who’s taken it on themselves to start a website for the local community and how should they be treated?

It was clear from listening to their experiences that there’s no consensus on this.  At the one extreme, local councils had denied access and even been accused of making late-night pressuring calls to remove material, while at the other end of the scale, some more enlightened council press officers treated the new news sources in the same way as the established local newspaper.

As I pointed out in The Guardian piece on this issue, the governing body the National Association for Local Authorities is reviewing its stance, but one thing’s for sure, the authorities are not moving quickly enough to properly reflect the reality of the changed local news landscape.

One of the participants in Saturday’s event thinks the issue is one of perception of who brings ‘the truth’, as a posting on the blog Culturing Stuff says;

“Just lately it seems as though every institution we hold dear, has some kind of skeletal defect waiting to be discovered if we decide to open the cupboard door. So with this in mind let’s revert back to the point… How come blogging is blogging and the news is THE NEWS (all official and truthful) and is Bloggin seen as a lesser being, just because the format has no established rules or code of conduct?”

All this appears to lead us back to one of the debates circulating last week about transparency and it is perhaps that, in the end, which will provide the measure of whether something is regarded as credible or truthful by the authorities currently keeping the gate of information sources.

Any journalists – or council press officers – want to comment?

* See more pictures at the Flickr pool for Tal09 and dip into the day’s debates with this Tweetdoc.

Written by sarahhartley

October 5th, 2009 at 8:08 am

Is your newspaper too sexy for its council?

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For anyone following the ongoing row over council ‘newspapers’, this week has brought out issues which get to the heart of the matter.

Leaving the question of revenue aside for a while, the argument essentially goes like this;

The editors: We provide fair, accurate and, most importantly, unbiased coverage of what goes on in the local corridors of power.
Peter Barron’s column admitting to feeling a “warm glow” on reading about the Cornish county council scrapping its free monthly magazine summarises well.

The councillors: Local papers don’t provide a suitable level of coverage and are only interested in knocking stories.
Darlington councillor Nick Wallis’ broadside on the “one-eyed nature of the local press” sums this view up neatly.

But what of the readers? Are they getting the important information on decisions taken in their names in town halls across the country – from either source?

Some of the responses to Roy Greenslade’s article on the subject make for uncomfortable reading:

“I agree with Roy in theory, but in practice my local paper is unreadable and full of syndicated crap.

“And incidentally, the ‘pillar of democracy’ argument rings a tad hollow when you have five local papers and the press desk at council meetings is still sometimes empty,”

“I don’t buy my own local newspaper in this part of London because it’s very downmarket – it hasn’t responded at all to the changing demographic of the area”.

etc. etc. you get the picture and as HoldTheFrontPage has also pointed out to me, there’s more comments in the same vein on their posting here.

Which has left me wondering what the truth of the situation is. Personally I’d consider it a serious attack on democracy if the idea of ‘matter of record’ ends up becoming too unsexy to be worthwhile in the very publications we rely on to be our eyes and ears in the community.

Previously the bedrock of any local paper’s coverage, it would be interesting to know how many pages the average local paper now devotes to such reporting and what measures are in place to ensure it isn’t now put at risk by diminishing resources and office-bound reporting staff.

Maybe the power of the interwebs could be harnessed to carry out a snapshot survey of exactly what council coverage is currently being published in local papers.

A survey could work in the manner of a meme, with bloggers across the UK picking one day (or week if the enthusiasm for this is there) and looking at their local paper to quantify how many page leads, picture stories, single columns etc. deal with local authority decisions.

If you’d like to join me on something like this, let me know via the comments below.

Written by sarahhartley

August 28th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Response to call yourself a writer meme, erm, no

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Having been tagged by journalist, blogger and sometime drinking buddy Louise Bolotin, I thought I better get on with responding to this meme, Call Yourself a Writer.

Had I not been tagged, this is one meme I could have answered with one word – ‘no’. A journalist, yes, but a writer? Not really. I’ve always seen myself more as an intermediary with the writing part being a means to an end.

Which words do you use too much in your writing?
‘So’. It’s the one I have to check back and remove from just about every blog post I write. Verbally, it’s the word “actually” which pops out all the time and which I have to watch out for in audio/video interviews.

Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?
“Outrage”. Usually merely a device for the journalist to be able to report an issue and get it past dullard news editors by whipping up some frenzy where there was none. I’m sure readers see through it and are perfectly capable of understanding stories which don’t always have polar opposite viewpoints.

What’s your favourite piece of writing by you?
It’s not really a piece of writing in the conventional sense but I claim it as something of a first for its time – an ‘interview’ with Peter Mandelson the second time he resigned in 2001. He would not do any press interviews for the nationals or broadcast, but agreed to come and do a “web chat” with me because it was a way of connecting direct with readers. Due to his Northern Ireland position, my little web office at the Northern Echo had to be checked out by security spooks with ear wires first, then he came in, drank hot water with lemon and we took questions via email and published them straight away online. Not very sophisticated I grant, but it was one way of doing it without having the proper technology for live chat which is available now.

What blog post do you wish you’d written?
The Drudge Report’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. It was a game changer for blogs as places to break news and it’s amazing to think that was in 1998.

Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn’t written?
I do regret being involved in the make-your-own-cut-out-and keep Ruud Gillet wig (Dreamed up in response to his appointment at Newcastle). Trivial waste of a good broadsheet page. Apologies. ‘nuff said. Move on.

How has your writing made a difference?
What do you consider your most important piece of writing? The sort of community journalism I have a passion for probably isn’t going to change the world in Pullitzer Prize kind of way but, going back to that idea of journalist as intermediary, it can help people gain access to decision makers and connect with power. As a reporter I followed a long campaign involving a Northamptonshire man who had some very rare cancers he was convinced resulted from exposure to pollutants from the tanneries trade. Helping him push the bureaucrats and get some recognition for his case was important. I do sometimes wonder what else might have come from that investigation if we’d had had the benefit of the internet.

Name three favourite words
Sleep. Food. Drink. (I’m pleased by simple things).

And three words you’re not so keen on
Gypsies (usually precedes a thinly disguised piece of racism). Can’t. Goodbye.

Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?
Over the years, heaps of people have inspired me. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a role model as such but I’ve always admired war reporters and particularly women working in that field. Katie Adie was a household name when I was studying for my journalism exams and more recently Sue Lloyd-Roberts’ reports on human rights issues are examples of how journalism done well can bring about a better understanding of the world.

What’s your writing ambition?

To communicate effectively.

Plug alert! List any work you would like to tell your readers about:
I wish I could find the time to write that book. I probably will at some stage, plenty of notebooks with half-started attempts but in the meantime this blog will have to suffice. Thanks for reading!

Tag time. Here’s five journalists I’ve been impressed by in recent weeks who I hope will also do the meme:

Nigel Barlow

Hannah Waldram

Victoria Raimes

Jessica Best

Adam Westbrook

The rules: If you have time to do this meme, then please link to my original, then link to three to five other bloggers and pass it on, asking them to answer your questions and link to you. You can add, remove or change one question as you go. You absolutely do not have to be what you may think of as a “published” or “successful” writer to respond to this meme, I hope people can take the time to reflect on what their blogging has brought them and how it has been useful to others.

Written by sarahhartley

August 15th, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Bloggers in demand from brands

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Whatever you blog about, chances are you’ve been approached recently by a big brand looking for coverage.

And although I’ve heard about this happening across the city, it isn’t just a Manchester thing – witness the Midlands based mom blogger Linda Jones’ recent Disney-funded trip exclusively for bloggers.

Such a non-press press trip for a major holiday company would have been unthinkable just a few years ago and is a clear example of a shift in marketing strategy that I’ve a feeling we will see more of going forward – afterall what better way to engage with a well-defined target audience than through niche publications such as blogs?

(I have contacted the Disney press office to ask what made them decide to handle the trip in this way and to see how they will gauge its success. Hopefully a comment will be forthcoming.)

It’s an issue that has promoted some interesting conversations in recent weeks about the ethics of taking freebies in return for words. It’s an issue which journalists previously had to deal with – a fine line between product trial and advertorial. (Although, as I’ve posted on here previously, for some reason press trips to exotic locations often seem to skip happily under the radar!)

As there’s no guidelines on these sort of issues (and long may that remain the case), it’s a matter for each individual blogger to develop their own ‘code of conduct’ . I’m regularly asked to try out food products and have developed these rules of engagement;

1. The relationship is fully disclosed in the blog post – the company that has provided the product named plus the fact the product was supplied for free.

2. If I don’t like, think it’s poor, over-priced or whatever – I say so. Just because it’s free, doesn’t buy support or favour.

I’d be interested to hear any thoughts on these, or from any other blogger who has attempted to draw up their own personal code of conduct in these matters.

It’s a topic that’s currently under discussion within the Manchester Bloggers group – join us on Facebook here.

A PR company is hoping to sponsor a future meet up in return for being able to engage directly with bloggers who have a music based audience – isn’t that what used to happen with press briefings for entertainment journos? Changing world indeed!

But proving the tried and trusted inducmenets are still the best in the new world, free alcohol is the offer for bloggers at  what is being billed as a “blog launch”  for the Cutting Room Experiment happening on Thursday evening at 6-7:30 at the Bay Horse, Manchester. Read more about that inititiative on The Manchizzle blog here.

Written by sarahhartley

May 20th, 2009 at 10:39 am

links for 2009-04-27

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Written by sarahhartley

April 27th, 2009 at 8:04 pm

The Manchester blogger, theTelegraph and the Budget

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For a short time this afternoon, visitors to the Telegraph’s dedicated online Budget coverage were treated to a stream of expletives and plenty of less offensive general silliness of the “widdle and poo” variety.
No its publishing system hadn’t been hacked, it was all part of an initiative to enable users of the micro-blogging platform twitter to post their own thoughts on this year’s Budget using the online tool Twitterfall.
By posting short messages known as tweets with the tags #Budget09 or including words such as Alistair Darling, messages appeared uncensored in the right hand side of this page.
Journalists at the newspaper watched as streams of inappropriate messages poured into the site before the decision was taken to pull the plug on the experiment.
One of the main protagonists was the Manchester blogger known as JoeThe Dough. He captured his first naughty tweet for posterity here on his Flickr account.
He’s since been rather apologetic about it saying: ” hmmm. Sorry Daily Telegraph. I think if you’d ridden that our for another hour, it would actually have been useful.”
And maybe it would – those who complain that newspapers are aloof and non-inclusive should welcome an opportunity to participate in such a nationally important debate as the Budget.
A Telegraph insider tells me the paper may re-instate the service later as previous use of Twitterfall during the G20 debate resulted in no such problems.
In the meantime, you can read more about today’s events here at The Guardian’s tech pages.

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April 20th, 2009 at 5:02 pm

links for 2009-04-15

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April 15th, 2009 at 9:02 pm