Sarah Hartley

Archive for the ‘newspapers’ tag

SellThatStory.com launched by former MEN journalist

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Former MEN journalist John Jeffay has launched an online venture to help people turn their stories into cash. The Manchester-based ex-syndication editor has teamed up with columnist Angela Epstein to launch SellThatStory.com.

I caught up with John to talk about the project and have posted the interview at my journalism blog here.

Written by sarahhartley

March 24th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Online news service to launch in Manchester

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The city is shortly to have a new news provider, it was revealed at last night’s Social Media Cafe.

Inside the M60 will be soon be covering local news from across the city by linking up on the ground community reporters and bloggers in the latest hyperlocal project to move into the space left by traditional media’s retreating presence.

The journalists behind it, Nigel Barlow and Louise Bolotin, are well-known in the city’s social media scene and presented their plans at the meeting last night.

Nigel pointed to the low turn out for the last election in Manchester as a illustration of how a proportion of the city had become disenfranchised. Louise added that the move to the Deansgate HQ of the MEN Media weekly titles had led to a reduced local news service.

This morning they’ve posted a full manifesto for the site here which includes the statement:

“In Manchester, the poorest communities live almost within shouting distance of the bright lights and investment of the city centre and yet have little or nothing in common with it. At the same time, technology has become alien to them and they are in danger of being on the wrong side of an increasing digital divide.”

The pair have already signed up some people to blog about the news in their communities and would now like to hear from people in the areas below who are interested in getting involved:

Crumpsall,Harpurhay,Cheetham Hill,Lighbourne,Moston,Newton, Longsight,Central and Hulme, Heath,Failsworth, Ancoats, Beswick, Bradford, Ardwick, Gorton, Levenshulme.

The timing of this project is interesting too- it will be live in time for the expected May election – and volunteers are needed to help cover across the city’s constituencies.

The blog is being created on a WordPress platform and a business model based around local advertising and other revenue sources has been drawn up.

Until the live launch, news of the project and coverage of the city council, is being tweeted @InsidetheM60.

To join in or find out more contact nigelbarlow22ATgmail.com or louisebolotinATgmail.com.

Written by sarahhartley

March 3rd, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Council coverage in local newspapers: Update

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The project I started  in an attempt to benchmark the current state of play for the reporting of local councils has been running for a few months now, so it seemed timely to give an update.

I decided to look at this issue, using the HelpMeInvestigate tools, following the furore around this issue last year, and especially in response the vociferous comments on Roy Greenslade’s blog where readers were claiming their local papers didn’t carry out this type of bread-and-butter reporting any more.

It didn’t reflect my experience of working on regional and local papers, but I wanted to find out more by involving people from different parts of the country to widen pool of knowledge.

Sadly, the results so far don’t show a very healthy situation at those newspapers which have been analysed, with many seemingly pushing out local authority press releases or inserting the ‘usual suspect’ councillor quotes into stories which originate elsewhere.

Not all of the 31 people who’ve signed up to take part in this project have come to their conclusions yet, so perhaps it’s early days (or I’m an optimist!) but here’s the story so far with the first ten results submitted;

In alphabetical order and with a quote which I felt summed up what were often long, thoughtful posts from the participants;

  • It seemed that the investigation at The Banbury Cake found it hard to find much news of any type, never mind council news. Perhaps a worthy subject for a different kind of case study for having quite so much advertising in this climate!  “News coverage is by no means extensive, and although within the small space given to news, there are some council stories, they are either adapted from other group titles, or appear to be taken from press releases (not necessarily council press releases, but from other organisations who may have been involved with a council-run or funded scheme).
  • Birmingham Post, Mail and Sunday Mercury proved to be a mixed bag. The weekly Sunday paper didn’t prove to carry much council coverage (Just one story) although that’s perhaps not too surprising given it’s off-diary raison d’etre. In general, Paul Bradshaw’s initial impressions included; “There is actually a reasonable amount of the news ‘hole’ that refers to the council in some way,  however, almost none of the coverage is direct reportage, or clearly comes out of a council meeting or report” although this weekend he analysed a further two editions of the Mail and noted one 12 page edition with no council stories present.
  • The Cotswold Journal appeared to be suffering from the pressures of having a large geographic area and a small staff when the coverage was analysed leading to the conclusion; “Hence a reliance on press releases or short, less detailed, stories. Where there are longer stories, human interest seems to be a factor – profiles are popular. Often, the council perspective seems to be a last minute insertion or an extra quote, rather than being the nub of the story.”
  • I looked at the Darlington and Stockton Times and found it to be rude health as far as local council coverage goes. Being a regular reader, I can conclude that council coverage and council stories regularly make the big stories – often to the annoyance of the local authorities involved.
  • The Lancashire Evening Post didn’t fare quite so well with little direct council coverage found and a lack of questioning arising in the comments, leading Ed Walker to the conclusion. “Like others I’ve been finding there is little reporting of council meetings, more stories are created from council press releases and then a few quotes from councillors. It’s also not clear when these councillors were saying these quotes, although the councillors title and ward are always attached.”
  • The Oxford Times proved to do a lot of local health authority stories and provided a good service in a lot of areas but the analysis found it fell down on the local council: “We were slightly surprised by the findings, as we had been fairly confident that a newspaper of The Oxford Times’ size and status would contain a good amount of council coverage.”
  • The Stratford-upon-Avon Herald showed itself to be strong on both the quality and quantity of council reporting with the investigator concluding: “There is a distinct feeling with this edition of the Herald at least, that this local newspaper and its readers recognise the role of local councils and aren’t afraid to write about them.”
  • Sussex Express and The Argus were studied over four weeks by journalist Chie Elliot who found results in line with her expectations – about 4% of the content produced being council news (Note:the method of calculation used has provoked further debate, see full posting for more on this). She concludes; “When editors are under pressure to publish stories that sell papers (i.e. gore, crime, deaths, scandals) and move circulation figures upwards, stories about local government decisions, which are not controversial enough to stir a strong response from the reader, are likely to be given lower priority, or, might, at most, end up as a nib (news in brief) in a spare corner of the page.”
  • The Wilts and Glocs Standard didn’t impress too much and, although there were quite a few mentions of councils and councillors (press releases?), the whole package lead the journalist scrutinising it to conclude: “There is little evidence, as far as I can see, of monitoring council meetings or writing more in-depth pieces about local politics.”
  • The Whitney Gazette likewise appeared to be suffering from staff shortages as far as the journalist assessing it could tell, sadly concluding: “We did think that there might be a higher level of WODC (the local council) coverage in the paper, as the district council is based in Witney itself, and is a major employer in the town. But the Witney office is only open for fairly limited hours, and presumably there aren’t the staff in Oxford available to trek out to cover district council meetings.”

Outside of the work on HelpMeInvestigate, local democracy and access to that information continues to be under the newspaper spotlight in the north west.

And away from the mainstream media organisations, the push to open more data and democratise town halls continues apace in towns and cities up and down the UK, so it looks as if the reporting of local decision-making will continue to be a hot issue in 2010.

If you want to join this HMI project, sign up here. If you’ve any news about the reporting of local authorities please feel free to share it in the comments below or contact me direct, sarah@foodiesarah.com.

Cabinet forum on local news: Lots of Qs looking for As

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Some notes from this week’s discussion at the cabinet forum debate and dinner. It was an event with unusual format and, by way of explanation, the agreed rules around covering it are that all debates can be blogged, tweeted etc. without individual quotes being attributed to individual people.

In a variation of Chatham House rules, those present can also be identified and it was refreshing to see such a cross-section of voices represented at sessions hosted, by culture minister Sion Simon.

Newspaper reps including myself and The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger able to sit around the same table as bloggers such as Jeff Jarvis via skype, hyperlocal activists including co-chair William Perrin, industry analysts, civil servants, broadcasters, commentators, people with experience of the local news landscape both in the UK and US.

I make no apology that what I’ve noted here are things of specific interest to me, and are in no way an attempt to provide the definitive low-down of the event.

Others have broadened the experience further and there’s links here. These are my notes while on the train north with the addition of this excellent set of slides from industry analysts Enders.

• What do we call these people? I’ve blogged on this issue before and it keeps being raised at the sort of events I attend. Because someone wants to engage with a news investigation, write a blog or post about a community event doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be a ‘citizen journalist’. Some do of course, but many are simply using the wonderful tools at their disposal as a means to another end – better community, organise an event, change the world or whatever. Do they even need a specific pigeon-hole to fit into? Can they just be people? Engaged citizens? Is the publication part of their output really the most important element in what they do?

• How do large institutions, such as the government or a major broadcaster, ensure these hyperlocal voices are heard? At present there’s no association, guild, group, etc. to represent their widely differing interests. Should there be one, and if there was, how could it be constituted to be truly representative and inclusive? What a challenge that would be, but without it, some of the proposals in this area such as IFNCs risk becoming a non-inclusive consolidation of giants.

• Who should be treated as a journalist? Relates again to the first point but, for those people who do want to be treated as journalists, how do they get access to sources of information? This issue has already seen some plainly daft responses such as councils providing different tables in the same council chamber etc. I always go back to my first Penguin Book of Journalism here which carries wise words for the reporter starting out reminding them that they have all the rights and responsibilities of a citizen. No more, no less. Access is an area where any journalist with legal/public administration training could assist by helping challenge the petty bureaucracies in town halls. But that raises the point again – does training make a ‘proper’ journalist if so what’s the qualification? Or is it experience – if so which institutions count and how long does it have to be to qualify? Or is it an NUJ card?- so are we back to the closed shop? Does it require being employed by a publication registered as a newspaper? Well that’s plainly not sustainable. As journalists we’re not exactly being very transparent with this are we?

• Who will report from the council chambers and courts if local newspapers close or retract so much that staff are unable to fulfil this function? And there lies the BIG question. What will be the long-term impact on democracy? Will councils use that situation as justification for uncritical publications extolling the virtues of their services? People at the forum and generally, in my experience, seem to agree this sort of reporting is a Good Thing. But what’s it going to take to ensure that continues – just how Good a Thing is it? Subsidy? Tax-breaks? Platform agnostic service provision to all as outlined by PA at the Digital Editors’ Network later in the day? This is such a huge issue for the minister to wrestle with……any thoughts, contributions welcome.

links for 2009-07-17

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July 17th, 2009 at 8:02 pm

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July 8th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

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May 31st, 2009 at 8:01 pm

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April 27th, 2009 at 8:04 pm

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  • Given these two realities, how can Twitter leverage the fast-growing Twitter ecosystem so it can start generating enough revenue to justify the venture capital it has raised?

    To me, the obvious option is Twitter’s API. If hundreds, if not thousands, of companies are using the API to create services that people are using – and advertisers and consumers – may find appealing, why not charge for the API?

  • Most newspapers, however, are surviving the downturn and will be serving their communities for many years. They are responding to the poor advertising climate with responsibility and thrift–NOT by giving executive bonuses that should be used for strengthen their businesses.

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April 26th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

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